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The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power Paperback – April 9, 2012
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Sean McMeekin has written a classic of First World War history... superb and original. (Norman Stone, author of World War One: A Short History)
A seminal work that demonstrates for the first time that Imperial Germany's jihad strategy in World War I-- exploiting pan-Islamism in the Middle East to stoke the fire of native Muslim revolts against the British and against Russia-- played a crucial role in German plans to win the war. Now students of the 'Great War' will no longer be able to dismiss the German 'holy war' strategy as merely peripheral. There is much to be learned in this superb work about the recent past and today in the Middle East. (Donald M. McKale, author of War By Revolution: Germany and Great Britain in the Middle East in the Era of World War I)
A riveting account. (Brendan Simms The Independent)
In this excellent, well-researched, and fascinating book, Sean McMeekin has given us a welcome and stimulating perspective on a highly important but neglected aspect of the First World War... A tale of high adventure, ambition and political chicanery with a cast of colourful, brave and sometimes ruthless characters. (Lawrence James Literary Review)
An exciting new book by a talented young historian, Sean McMeekin, who is one of the few to have penetrated the notoriously difficult Ottoman archives, despite the crucial importance of Turkey in the first world war. (Niall Ferguson The Observer)
A terrific book...McMeekin's learned story of death-defying secret agents, intrepid archeologists, and double-dealing sheikhs makes for wonderful entertainment. (The Sunday Times)
McMeekin has written a powerful, overdue book that for many will open up a whole new side to the first world war, while forcing us to be less reticent in confronting indelicate matters, such as the origins of Nazi-Islamist links. (George Walden The Guardian 2010-07-18)
In addition to bringing to life a fascinating episode in early 20th-century history, The Berlin-Baghdad Express contains several timely lessons and cautionary tales. Purchased loyalty is worthless. Western countries may possess superior military force, but they are outwitted time and again by diplomacy as practiced by Muslim leaders. Lastly, there is no such thing as global Islamic solidarity―jihad is an expedient, not a belief system. (David Pryce-Jones Wall Street Journal 2010-08-23)
Germany saw the ambitious Berlin-to-Baghdad railway as a powerful tool to win World War I. But the doomed project wasn't completed until 1940. The railway debacle provides a colorful backdrop for historian McMeekin's look at the Great War from the German-Turk perspective; as a cast of ruthless characters illustrate Germany's attempt to topple what was then the largest Middle East power: the British Empire. (Billy Heller New York Post 2010-09-11)
Sean McMeekin shows how the ambitious plan to build a railroad from Central Europe to Mesopotamia was the key to some of the most crucial episodes in the First World War, including the Armenian genocide and the Arab Revolt. (Adam Kirsch Barnes and Noble Review 2010-09-20)
About the Author
Sean McMeekin is Assistant Professor of History at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey.
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Very few people realize that the German Empire was interested in enticing the Ottoman Empire into the war on the side of the Central Powers, and to that end used bribes, and the building of a railroad, as incentives to that end. We read about the attempts to have the bedouins and other Arabic tribes join in the fight, by having the Sultan, who was also considered the Caliph of the Moslem religion, to urge warfare, and also to have influential mullahs and imams issue calls for jihad against the Entente. The book explains, in great detail, why these efforts failed in the end, even though the Ottoman victory at Gallipoli showed that the Entente could be defeated in some areas.
This is a book that covers the time period when Lawrence "of Arabia" was active in the region, but it really does not include his actions, except peripherally. This is more a recital of the various German expeditions into the heartland of Arabia to get the tribes involved. A lot of money (bribes) changes hands, and both the Germans and the British showered the sheiks and other leaders in the area with gold, only to have very little result. It seems that those men were more interested in the money than in getting involved in a war that, to them, did not seem to be in their interest.
One of the chief players in this drama was Enver Pasha, who was very much in favor of the Germans, and detested the British. His story is quite unique, but this book does not give the whole tale, as it is not germane to the main topic. For anyone interested in learning about Enver, and his ultimate fate, I encourage them to read the books by Peter Hopkirk, where you will also learn many things about which you probably knew little or nothing.