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Islamic Gunpowder Empires: Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals (Essays in World History) 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0813313597
ISBN-10: 0813313597
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Editorial Reviews


"With Islamic Gunpowder Empires, Douglas Streusand has contributed a masterful comparative analysis and an up-to-date reinterpretation of the significance of the early modern Islamic empires. This book makes profound scholarly insights readily accessible to undergraduate students and will be useful in world history surveys as well as more advanced courses.”
Hope Benne, Salem State College

“Streusand creatively reexamines the military and political history and structures of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires. He breaks down the process of transformation and makes their divergent outcomes comprehensible, not only to an audience of specialists, but also to undergraduates and general readers. Appropriate for courses in world, early modern, or Middle Eastern history as well as the political sociology of empires.”
Linda T. Darling, University of Arizona

“Streusand does a very good job of narrating and describing these three empires, despite their unique sets of conditions and characteristics. He is to be commended for navigating these hearty and substantial historiographies to pull together an analytical textbook which will be both informative and thought provoking for the undergraduate university audience.”
Colin Mitchell, Dalhousie University

“Douglas Streusand has brilliantly complemented, filled out, and updated Marshall Hodgson's pioneering study of the Islamic gunpowder empires of the early modern era. This is an absolute ‘must’ for students of early modern world history, especially those who focus on political and military structures.”
Alfred J. Andrea, Professor Emeritus of Medieval History, University of Vermont; Past-President, World History Association

Islamic Gunpowder Empires is a significant contribution. We now have a scholarly, but concise, history filling what is usually a gap in World, Eurasian, and Middle-Eastern texts for middle and upper level undergraduate courses … [Douglas E. Streusand] restores action and reaction to the imperial and provincial leaders, who emerge as anything but the doctrinaire, ‘lock-step’ authorities presiding over inevitably expanding states, which many histories portray… I recommend the book highly.”
Ray Zirblis, Norwich University

“In each chapter Streusand sensitively handles the loaded question of decline and … brings historiography into the discussion, providing the reader with notice of where scholars disagree, why previously prevailing views have in some cases been discarded, and the reasons for the persistent disparity of research on the three empires … An eminently usable, logically organized book.”
Comparative Studies in Society and History

“Douglas Streusand has produced a work that is carefully researched and well-written. The determined general reader and the advanced student will find this thoughtful account very rewarding.”
Technology and Culture

“This book is the best account of the Islamic gunpowder empires yet produced, and will probably retain this accolade for a long time. It is by far the most successful of the attempts to survey the Islamic empires of the post-Mongol era, providing outlines of political and military history in a manner that is comprehensible and readable. There is no question that Streusand’s book is worth the twenty years he spent on it.”
Journal of Central Eurasian Studies

From the Inside Flap

Islamic Gunpowder Empires provides readers with a history of Islamic civilization in the early modern world through a comparative examination of Islam’s three greatest empires—the Ottomans (centered in what is now Turkey), the Safavids (in modern Iran), and the Mughals (ruling the Indian subcontinent). Author Douglas Streusand explains the origins of the three empires; compares the ideological, institutional, military, and economic contributors to their success; and analyzes the causes of their decline. Streusand depicts the three empires as a part of an integrated international system extending from the Atlantic to the Straits of Malacca and emphasizes both the connections and the conflicts within that system. He presents the empires as complex polities in which Islam is one political and cultural component among many. The treatment of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires incorporates contemporary scholarship, dispels common misconceptions, and provides an excellent platform for further study.

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Product Details

  • Series: Essays in World History
  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press; 1 edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813313597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813313597
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By greg taylor VINE VOICE on June 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I know of one other book, The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals that covers the same territory. I mention that only to state that I am not familiar with that book by Stephen Dale and you may want to look at it before you decide which to buy.
I used the Kindle version of Streusand's book. It is pretty well Kindlized. The footnotes work as they should; taking you effortlessly back and forth to the text. The publisher has not taken the time to paginate the electronic version so you have to find your way around with the Kindle numbers.
There are several useful scholarly apparatus some of which need to be better Kindlized. There is a very useful glossary indicated by the use of italics in the text but you have to jump back and forth from the glossary via the Kindle numbers.
There is a good chronology and a dynastic table for each empire which was helpful to refer to now and then. Streusand includes a bibliographic essay which is an excellent guide to further books to read/study.
The work itself is straight forward. Each empire is introduced with a brief narrative of the main political and military events. Then each empire is examined for ideology, for military strategy and organization, for economy, for religion and for the ways that all these facets of each empire responded to the stresses of their competition among themselves or with various European powers.
I am currently reading a narrative history of the Ottomans by Finkel. She is a wonderful, lucid writer but I found that I understood her much better having come to her book fresh from Streusand's.
I knew very little about any of these empires. I now feel like I can begin to study all three. All-in-all, a quick and very useful read.
I would be curious to hear from someone who has read both this books and Dale's as to their relative merits.
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Format: Paperback
The term "gunpowder empires" to describe the three Islamic empires of early modernity is rather frequently used, even in High School textbooks. However, there are few books that actually give meaning to this term, and this is one of them. There are also not that many books that deal with the three empires, in comparison with each other, viewing them- as they were- as part of an integrated system and civilization. It highlights their similarities- Turkic elite, Irano-Islamic bureaucratic practices, a founding elite that was universal and almost messianic in nature, etc. while also highlighting their differences- the Mughal and Ottoman empires were much more agrarian and much less tribal than the Safavids, while the Ottoman administration was the most developed and most able to collect revenue in contrast to the Safavids and Mughals while often had to rely on intermediaries. These and numerous other details are why this is a book worth reading.

As the author points out, the historiography of the three empires is different in detail and focus. The Ottoman Empire is the best documented owing to a variety of factors such as survival of records, and proximity to Europe. Fortunately, there are many works on the Ottoman Empire and this book is essentially a review of much of it. Readers familiar with its history might not find much new material here although there is more focus on its internal developments. One advantage this book has is this focus on the Ottoman Empire as a Muslim state with attention to its legal, religious, and provincial aspects. Many histories on the Ottoman Empire focus on its foreign policy, its relation to Europe, and the Balkans, and sometimes one feels as though Egypt and Iraq vanish from history for 300 years when reading about the Ottomans.
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Format: Paperback
Islamic Gunpowder Empires: Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals is a recommended pick primarily for college-level Middle East history collections but also for any library strong in Islamic history and culture. Chapters exploring the history of three empires emphasize that they were connected within a world system and were not isolated entities, with chapters offering important overviews of social, military and political ideas and practices common to all three. From society and culture to expansion practices, this covers all aspects of these Islamic empires and is a 'must' for any serious about the foundations of the modern Middle East.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Douglas Streusand's Islamic Gunpowder Empires is a very nice book, an interesting read, especially about a topic that many western and American readers are unfamiliar with.

The concept of 'gunpowder empires' comes from William McNeil's The Pursuit of Power. The introduction of gunpowder, artillery and muskets gave the armies of early adopters a great advantage over their less-developed rivals. This was particularly important in the swath of Islamic territories from Turkey to Northern India, where the dynastic regimes of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals were attempting to establish their authority against the nomadic and tribal groups that had traditionally contested power in the region.

Streusand's task is much greater than just to explain the military dominance for these dynasties. They were relatively long-lived empires, and their military dominance explains only part of their longevity and authority. Their early adoption of firearms was a foundation of their regimes, but not the foundation. Governing structures, ideology, the character of the ruler, social, political and economic adaptation to complex environments, all played a role in establishing and maintaining the empires. He looks for the similarities between the empires, but isn't afraid to point out where their are dissimilarities and discontinuities. Indeed, one of his cases, the Safavid regime in what is now Iran, really failed to carry out completely the changes that the Ottomans and Mughals succeeded with, and in the end collapsed after a relatively short regime.

Don't read this book expecting it to be full of battle descriptions and purple prose. This is a scholarly work and written in a scholarly style.
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