With Turkey so much

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March 7, 2003 11:03 a.m.

With Turkey so much in the news, let me make a few quick book recommendations for those who might be interested in reading more about the subject. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Ottoman Empire and what came before the modern Turkish Republic, here are two good reads. First, there’s The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross. It’s currently published in a big pulpy volume clearly intended to be a mainstay on bookstore shelves for decades to come. I will say that it is the best of the single volume narrative histories on the subject that I’ve read. I just thought it was a bit heavy on political doings, recitations of Sultans (the achilles heel of Ottoman history writing), and just generally grade B history writing.

If you’re not up for reading a tome like Kinross’s book, there is the exquisite Ottoman Empire and the Islamic Tradition by Norman Itzkowitz. At a bit more than one hundred pages, you can easily dash it off in one sitting. But it’s elegantly written, marvelously concise, and provides an excellent overview of a whole epoch of Islamic history, as well as some crucial history of Turkey.

Finally, for the background of the origins of the modern Turkish state I don’t think you can do much better than Andrew Mango’s Ataturk, the most recent biography of the founder of the secular, westward-looking Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal.

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