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The Ottomans

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Member Reviews

Mr. Baer has produced in my opinion the best one-volume general history of the Ottoman Empire since Lord Kinross wrote "The Ottoman Centuries" in 1977.  This really good history traces the rise of a small semi-nomadic people from the Anatolian plateau to the Empire that controlled parts of Asia, Africa as well as Europe.  From Osman the Great to the Mad Sultan Murad IVth.  This is a very good general history that is accessible to the curious as well as a refreshingly stylistically written book for the historian.
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A superb history of an oft-overlooked historical power. The book is highly readable, written in an easy to digest style, yet well-grounded in research. Highly recommend 
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A thorough history of the Ottoman Empire from its origin in Anatolia in the 13th century until its collapse in the early 20th century.

The author correctly recognizes how the Ottoman Empire is generally only tangentially studied and appreciated: it is known for finally capturing Constantinople and eliminating the Byzantine Empire; it was romanticized as the land of sultans and his harem; it represented a continual threat to central Europe; they were part of the Central Powers.  Yet the Ottomans are seen as wholly Other, Eastern; not part of the European world.

The author thus tells the history of the Ottomans to try to refute that view.  He speaks of their alliances with the Byzantines at times, the multinational, multiethnic, and multireligious nature of the Empire, its frequent tolerance, and how it saw itself as the next iteration of the Roman Empire, its leaders as Caesars, and the people of southeastern Europe as Rumis, or Romans.  

The lives of the various leaders are told as well as their successes and failures; much is said about the nature of the harem and the institutional bureaucracy.  Much is made of the sexuality of the age and how it privileged the love of young boys over that of women, but also how that view was attempted to be fully reformed in the 19th century.  The author tries to suggest that the Ottomans were about discovery also, but the evidence for such a view is spotty.  He is on much firmer ground regarding how Ottoman influence was profoundly felt throughout Europe, and how European influence profoundly influenced the Ottoman Empire.  

It is somewhat anachronistic to glorify the empire as a multicultural haven; yes, many groups found greater tolerance under the Ottomans than they did under other regimes, but even as this story goes, it becomes clear that in times of crisis it reasserted itself as a fundamentally Muslim enterprise.  Its undoing is well described by the nationalism that fueled the 19th and early 20th centuries: both the nationalism of the peoples who separated from the empire, and the Turkish nationalism that overtook the empire's leadership.  

A good corrective to neglect of the Ottoman Empire, even if its arguments are often a bit overstated.
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Very interesting profiles and events under the leaders of the Ottoman empire up until its end in the 1920s. A look at politics, religion and other topics under their rule.
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I wanted a book about the Ottoman history and boy did I get one. A reference tome which reads like a story, but then they do say the best stories come from fact.  This book is a powerhouse. Fact written in a way so compelling that I had trouble putting this book down when my breaks from work finished,  It took me a few weeks but I did it, I was sad to finish it but I learnt so much from reading it and that’s all I ask for from books.

Definitely one for the history buffs out there.
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The Ottomans was an exquisite study of of one of history’s most grand empires. Baer takes the reader through the history of the Ottomans from their early nomadic conquests for Anatolia to their fall after World War One which gives a complete picture of this empire. In this picture he manages to show the many different inhabitants of the Ottomans and not just those of Turkic descent. This will definitely be a great work for scholars in the field of Ottoman studies in the years to come.
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This was a timely acquisition. I had been looking for a good book on the Ottomans and the author covers this significant period in history in good enough details to keep a casual history reader like me engaged.
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I have taught world history for 20 years. I already had learned new things and gotten new perspectives before I had completed reading the introduction. That pretty much says it all. There is a lot of material in this book and even those who have delved into the world of the Ottomans before seem likely to gain new insights and learn new details. Some arguments were more conclusively proven than others (inevitable in any book tackling a topic this broad), but I am glad to have read this and consider it time well spent.
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I had a hard time rating this. The author’s knowledge and scholarship are apparent and the thesis is sound. Baer posits that the Ottoman Empire was an important member of the European community and contributed significantly to the history of the continent. There were sections of insightful analysis, especially in the chapters covering the Renaissance and the Armenian genocide. However, these illuminating moments were not sufficient to overcome the lack of explanatory detail and storytelling ability in the rest of the book. 

The introduction began with a beautiful description of Baer’s experience in the Topkapi Palace Library; the space came alive, and I felt the author’s enthusiasm for poring over ancient maps and manuscripts. This section made me so excited to work through the next 500 pages. But nothing in the rest of the book rose to this level of interest. Instead, the book overwhelmed with facts and details without explanations, requiring a lot of Googling to understand the author’s references. If the book was meant for laypeople, it could have used a gentler hand, with more explanation and storytelling instead of dry facts. If the audience was academic, the book probably would have benefited from more limited scope. 

The Ottoman Empire contained extremes of human experience in piety, ruthlessness, sumptuousness, and beyond. I really wanted to walk away from this book understanding the Ottomans in all their diversity. I think 3 stars reflects how well this book helped me understand them and internalize what I read. Nonetheless, if you already have a decent working knowledge of the Ottomans and are interested in a reexamination of the dynasty’s relationship with Europe, this book is for you!
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Marc David Baer’s offers a new history of the Ottomans that provides complete coverage from their beginnings as a nomadic tribe on the Anatolian plains to their collapse of a tottering empire at the conclusion of WWII.  But not only is it sweeping and detailed in its scope, but this is also an eye-opening historical read as well. Much of the narrative is constructed around the intent of dismantling outdated perspectives of the dynasty and their eventual empire - primarily that of the Ottomans being an exotic, Islamic, and Oriental entity that existed and operated in total opposite to Europe and the west, as opposed to their actual nature as rulers of a diverse land that was just as European as much as it was Asian. It makes for an engrossingly informative experience in this regard, one made all the more enjoyable by the author’s ability to hit the sweet spot of detailed comprehensiveness and readability. 

Also impressive is how despite Baer’s clear passion for the subject matter, he does lionize or idolize. Instead, his book ends up striking a quite balanced tone thanks to the author’s willingness to embrace the Ottomans’ story with all of its complexities and contradictions. "The Ottomans" is just as happy to highlight the diverse empire’s strengths, like its multiethnic makeup and policies of religious toleration, as much as it is to detail weaknesses and also the atrocities that occurred at Ottoman hands. 

For anyone who has been wishing to learn more about the dynasty that held sway in southeastern Europe and Asian Minor for several hundred years, this is definitely the place to start. And for history lovers simply looking for a quality work to curl up with, this is definitely a title for the to-read list.
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A rollicking and often truculent tapestry of the Ottoman Empire from its birth to its demise at the end of WWI, especially through the lives, deeds and misdeeds of its rulers & their accomplishments throughout the long history of their infamous and higly resilient dynasty. A worthy addition to the historiography of that uniquely exceptional Empire and its incredible influence in the Balkans & around the Mediterranean World, Mr.Baer as gifted us with a solidly researched and very comprehensive study that is not only easily accessible to anyone interested to discover the Ottomans and their historical legacies but is also a very entertaining journey from start to finish. 

Many thanks to Netgalley and Perseus Books for giving me the opportunity to read this wonderful book prior to its release date
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