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Shadow of the Sultan's Realm: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East Format Kindle
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I found it to be very superficial. For example, Chapter 1, 24 pages long, covers six centuries of the Ottoman Empire, from 1300 to 1900. Most of the rest of the book is a military history of the campaigns in Palestine and Mesopotamia during World War I. There is a bit on the Young Turks and especially the Three Pashas (Ismail Enver, Ahmed Djemal and Mehmed Talaat) who governed during World War I. They are painted in the deepest shades of black. But then caricature is a continuing problem in this book -- people are either good or bad, and the author makes his opinion known very clearly.
Twenty pages are devoted to Lawrence of Arabia. The final thirty pages discuss the political and social consequences of the Ottoman defeat and the reshaping of the Middle East. Unfortunately, the treatment is necessarily very superficial. Doubly unfortunately, this was the part I was interested in.
There are some odd aspects to the book. For example a map of the Ottoman Empire in 1900 includes Bulgaria and Egypt as part of the empire. But whatever the legal formalities, Bulgaria had been effectively independent for twenty years by then, and Egypt was run by the British.
Finally, there is a chapter of 15 pages on the "Armenian Agony". While the author agrees that the Armenians were very badly treated and deplores their fate, he denies that there was a genocide (page 160). This is sure to be a controversial conclusion and merits some serious analysis. Unfortunately, again, the treatment is very superficial
While the book is only slightly more than 200 pages, it is by no means an opuscular study. In reading this book, you will have an excellent background concerning the Ottoman Empire, how it once was spread over three continents until it became known, prior to World War I, as the "sick man of Europe."
Complete background is provided of the history building up the Ottoman Empire, as well as their vast accomplishments and their decline, which lasted over centuries.
Just prior to the Great War, their possessions in the Balkans were slipping away and the power of the sultan was nothing like it had been in the days of Suleiman the Magnificent.
The Ottomans were victims of European power plays in the Balkans and by 1908, the "Young Turks" had overthrown the sultan. While their possessions were spread into the Middle East, Arabs were dissatisfied with their ideas of a secular instead of cleric government, and their lack of support meant that over the years, the Ottoman Empire could barely lay claim to the area, as their ability to govern and regulate was minimal.
Kaiser Wilhelm looked to make the Ottomans a vassal state dependent on Germany and provided military assistance during the war. The three pashas governing at that time were in over their heads, and even though they were successful in beating off the Allied invasion at Gallipoli, the rulers stayed in the war to the detriment of themselves and their nation.
The book also presents a thorough accounting of the war in the Middle East, which was ultimatly an Allied victory, even though one British army surrendered (for more detail on this, read Desert Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia
Butler lays out the geography of the area and the reader can begin to understand how the area was cut up and divided and quickly became a boiling pot of frustrations for many of the native people.
The massacre in Armenia is covered and the author rightly shows how horrible it was and how very controversial it still is today, with disputes raging as to the number of victims and whether or not it could be or should be classified as genocide, as well as information on the prominent figures of that time, including Churchill, T.E. Lawrence, General Edmund Allenby, Mustafa Kemel, and a host of others. In addition, please read A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948
This book will provide the reader a good base of knowledge not only of the Ottoman Empire but the developments in the world map after the collapse at the end of the war.
I would highly recommend.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire more than lived up to its name as "The sick man of Europe". The Great Powers were waiting and almost salivating at the prospect of being able to carve up the Empire's territory when it finally expired. The author makes a good case that this fall didn't have to happen, but was precipitated by the Young Turk government (and particularly the Three Pashas) getting involved in the war when there was absolutely no reason to do so. Neutrality would have served that country much better, and history could have been profoundly changed, possibly for the better (but that's debatable).
The book takes the reader through the major campaigns in the Middle East, and also in the border area with Imperial Russia, which led to the wholesale massacre of Armenians by the Turkish government (a charge they still deny to this day). There has been quite a bit written on the Armenian situation, and I've read a few of these books, which are pretty gruesome and graphic.
The focus of the book is the clash between Britain and the Ottoman troops, and it shows that, though the average Turkish soldier was as brave fighter, he was done in by lack of materiel to prosecute any sustained action. There were some good Turkish leaders, particularly Mustafa Kemal, who later united a shattered country, and earned the name "Ataturk", meaning `father of the Turks".
It's a book that brings to light many things about a small part of that Great War that most people are ignorant of, and it fills that niche quite well.
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