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Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire Eighth Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 171 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312420666
ISBN-10: 0312420668
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jason Goodwin, a young English journalist, writes history as if it were today's breaking news, and with Lords of the Horizon, he delivers an anecdote-filled and breezy account of the long, troubled career of the Ottoman Empire. That empire endured for nearly 600 years and embraced not only a large territory--stretching, at one point, from the border of Iran to the gates of Vienna--but also hundreds of ethnic groups and three dozen nations. United under the banner of a tolerant form of Islam, the Ottoman Turks forged a culture that, Goodwin writes, "was such a prodigy of pep, such a miracle of human ingenuity, that contemporaries felt it was helped into being by powers not quite human--diabolical or divine, depending on their point of view."

Drawing on memoirs by European visitors as well as standard histories of the era, Goodwin traces the Ottoman Empire from its origins in the 14th-century collapse of the Byzantine state to its centuries-long decline and final collapse at the end of World War I. Along the way, he writes of the Ottomans' addiction to wealth (and to hiding their gold in fabulous hoards), the pleasure they took in holding picnics in their lush cemeteries, and the prowess of their elite military both in battle and in organized crime. ("The janissaries were magnificent extortionists," Goodwin notes. "People paid them not to burn their homes and business, then they paid them to come and put the fires out.") Full of vivid detail, Goodwin's narrative makes for an enjoyable introduction to this historically influential, but little understood, culture. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this elegant work, British author Goodwin (On Foot to the Golden Horn) combines deft historical summary with the buoyant prose and idiosyncratic focus of the best travel writing. The combination enables him to take the full measure of a realm riddled with paradox. The Ottoman Empire was a Turkish empire most of whose shock troops were Balkan Slavs; a bellicose state that expanded by war, it often governed its conquests with a light handAa necessary approach given the many cultures and nationalities that fell under Ottoman rule. Ottoman society at its best was civilized and tolerant, observes Goodwin. The Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 were warmly received in Salonika, Constantinople, Belgrade and Sofia. While war and superstition ruled Christian Europe, the Islamic Ottoman Empire thrived and glittered with mathematical, architectural and artistic accomplishment. Goodwin is marvelous at describing how, for three hundred years before its final collapse after WWI, the empire survived even though it was perpetually on the verge of collapse. He attributes the calcified empire's decline not only to corruption and the rise of France and Russia but to the Turks' prideful ignorance of the West, a vanity that eventually deprived the empire of the fruits of modernity. As good as Goodwin is at blending political, cultural and military affairs, his work is distinguished by stylish writing and a sharp eye for just the right anecdote. His epilogue, which is built around the fate of the empire's famous stray dogs, is at once amusing and strangely, beautifully moving. Illustrations.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Eighth edition (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312420668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420666
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
While I don't regret buying or reading this book, potential buyers should be aware of its limitations. Though subtitled "A History of the Ottoman Empire" it is not really a history, and is about only a small part of the Empire. The Ottoman Empire stretched across Egypt and North Africa, included all of Near Asia stretching into Persia, and Greece and the Balkans in Europe. In 326 pages, however, this book contains not thirty paragraphs dealing with Africa or Asia. It's essentially about Ottoman rule of Constantinople and Europe. (The chapter on "Cities" mentions only Constantinople, Sarajevo and Belgrade.) Rather than a history, this book is really an allusion to the history of the Ottomans. There is no narrative thread, except here and there. Essential dates are omitted, or available only in the Chronology in the back. Historical characters are mentioned, but not introduced. Many interesting references are made without specifying the names of parties involved, or the dates. The battle of Manzikert, for instance, which set the stage for the decline of Byzantium and the ultimate rise of the Ottomans, is mentioned once, its location not given, and the two sides not specified. The overwhelming impression given by the style is vagueness. It abounds with pretty paragraphs, but lacks specifics. Assertions are made so ambiguously that one would not feel confident citing facts from this book without checking another reference first. There is a tendency to cite examples or give quotes separated by centuries, as though everything stayed the same throughout. Sometimes this is true, but we would object strongly if a paragraph on the women of London had but three examples given; one from the 1st century, one from the 12th century, and one from 1787.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It was a delight to read this book even though the topic was so familiar. One had to contend mostly with very narrow and stuffy academic treatments or blatant propaganda until recently if one wanted to just learn, as an ordinary interested person, about one of the last great empires, Ottomans. Even as a student of recent Ottoman history, much new perspective was gained. It is easy to read and enjoyable. It captures the colors, sounds, smells and tastes of this fascinating empire, its times and its adventures, effecting so much of what happens around us even today. How the Ottomans managed such a huge, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society for such a long time is also a very timely and relevant topic given the global political developments following the end of the Cold War. There are some quirks of style such as notes that lead to no interesting or related facts but seem to go tangential and comments that seem to just hang in the air, but it did not distract from the flow of the story at all. Readers without any background in the topic or region may feel lost a little at times as some of the reviews suggest. Historical accuracy and references are excellent, especially for a self-proclaimed travel-writer. It was especially appreciated by this reader that a strict chronological story line was not followed, which distinguishes it from other "history" books. Mr. Goodwin puts real people and events and motives behind the story, which has understandably frustrated those readers who would like to see Turks or Ottomans as pure evil and cause of everything ever done wrong. Mr. Goodwin does not give them much satisfaction. The Ottomans represented for a long while an alternate path to civilzation, if only world did not have boundries.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
As has already been mentioned, "Lords of the Horizons" is not a true-blue history book. The history is confined mostly to its beginning and end; the core of the book is a lengthy, wide-ranging meditation on Ottoman culture at its peak, based largely on travel accounts and primary sources. I'm not surprised that Goodwin's other work includes travel literature; a travelogue is exactly what most of the book reads like.

Most of the book has no real chronological order; one can either see this as disorganized, or as intending to provide a kind of snapshot of Ottoman society. I prefer the latter; its jumpy nature is more than made up for by the author's superb language use: elegant and evocative, without being florid. I do agree however that the Armenian genocide, if not excused is indeed appallingly absent, and one wonders if he was just trying to speed things along by glossing over it.

All told though, I found this book to be a pleasure to read; I think it's something you're going to want to take some real time with, like a long country walk.
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Format: Paperback
Goodwin writes "An Ottoman is made, not born ..." and much of the Lords of the Horizon explores just what made one an Ottoman. Interesting tidbits of Ottoman culture and society form the bulk of the text along with numerous anecdotes of "east meets west" through Ottoman eyes. The book is loosly organized along themes: warfare, cities, conquest - these themes following a general chronology of the rise, expansion and eventual collapse of the empire. Its primary strength is Goodwin's success in explaining the complex nature of Ottman rule - how major differences in language, race and religion were overcome and fused together for over 500 years, making the Ottoman empire a force to be reckoned with for most of its history. The book reads like fiction with its numerous personalized tales of Ottoman rulers and pivotal events, which is both a strength and a weakness. For those interested in a serious, scholarly history, I would look elsewhere. However, if you are interested in a light but informative and well written synopsis on the Ottoman empire, this is the book for you.
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