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A Traveller's History of Turkey
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2012
This is a book for travelers who would like to know about what they are going to see and how to put it into context. As a result, they condense a ton of material into a fairly short and readable book. When I go to Turkey I will be mostly interested in the ancient (Hittite, Lydian), Byzantine and Ottoman empires, but can certainly appreciate the info on modern Turkey and how it came to occupy the position it has in the middle east and world in general. Overall, a quick read that provides mostly decent information. The author tries (does he succeed?- who knows) to "tell it like it is" and is both condemning of the Turks at times and admires them at others. The book gets 4 stars because at times they will bring up a name or city from 5 pages ago that was only mentioned once, so a bit hard to track. A few times, they made references to things I don't think were previously explained. To a certain extent they could rectify this, but it would also make the book longer and didn't detract from the bulk of information. I have no wish to be an expert on the history of Turkey but feel much better prepared for my trip.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2013
Terrific concise history for people traveling to that part of the world. Considering there is 5000 years of history to tell - Stoneman does a wonderful job giving you enough detail to feel knowledgeable without being burdened. Highly recommend it to anyone interested in a quick history lesson.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2013
This book is an outstanding, in depth, summary of the internal and external religious, political and cultural factors that have shaped Turkey into its present government.
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on May 29, 2015
This “traveler’s history” is more focused on history than on travel, which suits me just fine because I am a history buff and partial to UNESCO sites. The land Turkey covers now not only has a long history but it’s at the center of western history. This 200 plus pages book is only a summary of major events from the Neolithic period to the modern time. But it did provide an excellent “Historical Gazetteer” that gives a brief description of favorite tourist stops. And the maps are very helpful. I am giving this book 4 stars because I wish it had gone into more cultural details about the famous sites.

Ancient civilizations all seem to start around rivers such as the Nile, the Yellow River, the Indus River, and the Tigris and Euphrates. Rivers in Anatolia flow in all directions, west towards the Aegean Sea, north towards the Black Sea, and south towards the Mediterranean Sea. No wonder people settled there early and stayed. Wave after wave of immigrants and conquerors left their marks. The triumphs and heartbreaks of each wave combined to create a rich culture. And the many layers of history made this region so fascinating. It’s of interest to those who seek prehistory, who prefer antiquities, who favor medieval ruins, and who thinks the world begins after WWII. It’s also part familiar Europeans and part exotic Orient because it is part Greek and part Roman, part pagan and part Christian, part Hittite and part 20th century, and part secular and part Islam. The history of the Anatolia was so rich and so many great men impacted the region, from Hattusili to Supiluliuma, from Priam to Darius, from Julius Caesar to Constantine, only Alexander the Great and Suleyman the Magnificent earned more than a mere mention and a few pages in this review.

When Europe was building the megalithic culture, the Hittites were creating high civilization in Anatolia. As Celts fanned out in Europe, Asia Minor was taken over by the Greeks. For a few hundred years, the Roman Empire united the fate of Europe and western Asia. But then, as Europe descended into the Dark Age, the Byzantine Empire glowed. As the rapacious Crusaders devastated the Byzantine Empire, the knowledge they brought back revitalized Europe. As Europe engaged in religious persecutions killing heretics by the tens of thousands, the Ottoman Empire practiced tolerance albeit non-Muslims had to pay extra taxes. As Europe embarked on intellectual re-awakening, the Ottoman Empire was shrouded in oriental fables. As Europe emerged from the Industrial Revolution, the Ottoman Empire calcified under the weight of tradition. Thus fortune’s favor was reversed. As Europe triumphed in the 20th century, Anatolia felled into chaos.

The Turkic people spread throughout Asia much the same way the Vikings spread throughout Europe. It is interesting that different Turkic governments have now formed a “Turkic Council” to explore their common interest in the modern world. However, part of modern Turkey’s problems is the name “Turkey”. It implies it is the land of the Turks. But it is not. It’s the land of many people. In the very long history of Anatolia, the Turks have only been there for about 1000 years and as the mainstay for only about 500 years. In the whole scheme of things, the Turks are the new comers. Until they accept this fact, they will continue to have problems with those who have been there longer. They will have the same problems the Jews have with the Palestinians within “Israel”.

About “devsirme” – Actually this was a common ancient Turkic tradition practiced all across Asia. They demanded a certain number of children from the conquered people each year as slaves. In medieval northern China, it’s known as the “blood tax”. The Turkic soldiers would ride through the villages every spring to collect the children. As the people that the Ottoman Turks conquered were mostly Christians, Europeans thought they only rounded up children from Christian villages. Some of these slaves served the rich and powerful and became rich and powerful themselves. As it became the best and quickest way for advancement, some Muslims in the Ottoman Empire would pay Christians to adopt their children so they too would be scooped up by the devsirme system. For several hundreds of years, Muslims had used some of these devsirme slaves to form a special fighting force called the Mamluks. Orhan Gazi called his the Janissaries. What the Ottoman Turks failed to take note from the Mamluk history was that it only worked as a fighting machine as long as they were disenfranchised slaves. Once they established themselves as a privileged class, they would turn on their masters. Of course the Janissaries did the same. They became so formidable that they were the power behind the throne for most of Ottoman’s reigns. So, for the first 150 years, the Janissaries helped build the Ottoman Empire by terrifying its enemies, and for the next 250 years, they helped destroy the empire by terrifying its sultans and citizens.

About “genocide” – Americans did a great job wiping out the natives and called it “manifest destiny”. The few remaining souls were rounded up and forced to march through the “trail of tears” to miserable “reservations” in desolate places to live in poverty. The result is that there was no fear of them rising up in rebellion to demand independence or to collaborate with the enemies. Clearly, the Turks didn’t do such a great job when they created their empire because they left plenty of Greeks and Armenians alive in their homeland to cause trouble later. The Greek and Armenian leaders were counting on help from Europe and Russia when they staged violent protests to provoke violent reactions from the Turks. What did the Americans do when the Confederate south rose up in violence and demanded independence? While no natives were accepted in the US government, many Greeks and Armenians rose to prominence in the Ottoman Empire. And the Turks rounded up the Armenians during WWI the same way Americans rounded up the Japanese and sent them to detention camps during WWII. The difference is that the poor and embattled Turks could not keep the millions of displaced Armenians alive the same way the rich and powerful Americans could for the Japanese.
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on January 5, 2015
Just as the title implies, this is a short brief Traveller's History of Turkey. It's a quick and easy read. One could probably read the whole book in one sitting from America to Turkey. It is what it is. Kinda the cliff notes of Turkish History. Although, I must say after reading several books on the subject, there were many things I read here that I didn't know before. You won't get three units of graduate credit for reading this, but, if you know nothing this is worth the read.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2008
Like a previous reviewer, I was put off by the concentration on ancient history with almost no modern history.

Having said that, the ancient history IS fascinating and I am very hald I read the book.

To the two turkish reviewers: when your country finally admits that it massacred the Greeks at Smyrna and the Armenians at every opportunity, then people will begin to forget, but as long as you insist that these things didn't happen people will assume that that is still the way it is in Turkey.
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on December 5, 2014
A very concise and well presented history of Turkey. Great background for those interested in Turkey or traveling to Turkey.
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on October 24, 2014
Very useful.
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