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The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars and Caliphs

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A more painful legacy, because of its actuality, is the misreading by the Turks of their history. They are not taught to appreciate the cosmopolitan aspect of their ancestors’ empire, when high positions were open to talented Jews and Armenians. Many Turks, especially members of the nationalist MHP party, like to recall the Empire as it never was, a homogenous Turkish and Sunni-Muslim state. Baer’s book, with its emphasis on the role of minorities and deviant Sufi groups, will not be to their liking. A compellingly readable account of one of the great world empires from its origins in thirteenth century to modern times.Drawing on contemporary Turkish and European sources, Marc David Baer situates the Ottomans squarely at the overlap of European and Middle Eastern history. Blending the sacred and the profane, the social and the political, the sublime and the absurd, Baer brings his subject to life in rich vignettes.An outstanding book.”— Eugene Rogan, author of The Fall of the Ottomans

The Ottomans Khans Caesars and Caliphs - Academia.edu The Ottomans Khans Caesars and Caliphs - Academia.edu

The Ottoman Empire has long been depicted as the Islamic, Asian antithesis of the Christian, European West. But the reality was starkly different: the Ottomans’ multiethnic, multilingual, and multireligious domain reached deep into Europe’s heart. Indeed, the Ottoman rulers saw themselves as the new Romans. Recounting the Ottomans’ remarkable rise from a frontier principality to a world empire, historian Marc David Baer traces their debts to their Turkish, Mongolian, Islamic, and Byzantine heritage. The Ottomans pioneered religious toleration even as they used religious conversion to integrate conquered peoples. But in the nineteenth century, they embraced exclusivity, leading to ethnic cleansing, genocide, and the empire’s demise after the First World War. The prominence of all these personalities, so busy bustling about killing their fathers, their uncles, their younger brothers, and all their young brothers’ male children, represents a canny narrative choice; it keeps Baer’s book running along in an entirely enjoyable reading experience and gives readers a series of faces to put on all the social and economic eras that unfurl in the course of the story. Europeans like to say the peace of Westphalia in 1648 ushers in European religious tolerance. This ignores Ottoman history (as well as Andalusian where/when Muslims, Jews and Christians created a culture of tolerance, see Menocal). Mehmed II institutionalized religious toleration for practical reasons; to control a diverse population you need a carrot they all want. Ottomans saw Sunni as the way, Christianity and Judaism as meh, and Shi’a, Paganism, and Atheism, were completely banned. Tycho Brahe was a Hapsburg emperor; I’ll bet that’s where the rare and mega expensive Tychobrahe Guitar pedal gets its name from.Richard Antaramian, «Marc David Baer, The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars, and Caliphs», Études arméniennes contemporaines, 14|2022, 221-225. Référence électronique

The Ottomans by Marc David Baer review – when east met west

Marc David Baer's work on the history of the Ottomans is quite good. It offers up a great picture of the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire. While his central thesis of the Ottomans being "European" is a bit of a stretch, it might be better to say "They were a large part of European history". Simply because the Ottomans invaded Europe and then established a multi-ethnic,multi-linguistic, and multi-religious state (at least in the beginning) does not make them "European", any more than the Mongol Empire that was similarly an invading force that also established a similar Empire. The Ottoman Empire was founded by, and named after, Osman I, a tribal leader of one of many Anatolian beyliks which emerged in the second half of the thirteenth century. His grandson Murad I, who ruled 1362 to 1389, was the first head of the Ottoman dynasty to style himself as sultan, secular civil and military leader, rather than the title of 'bey' (chief) taken by his predecessors Osman and Orhan. The new title represented the transition to a more settled and organised empire, which was expanded by Murad I's conquests of Adrianople (which he renamed Edirne) and much of the Balkans during his reign.

Marc David Baer’s core argument in this highly readable book is that more than 600 years of the Ottoman empire should be seen as an inseparable part of the history of Europe, and not as something detached from it, as with false narratives that paint the east and west, and Christianity and Islam, as antithetical. The Ottoman dynasty's practice of succession-by-fratricide mostly ended in the 1500's, being replaced by a general weakening of the Sultan and simply keeping princes imprisoned in the royal harem until they were needed to reign. The book is structured really well: Baer divides the historical periods loosely depending on the character of that period in Ottoman history and gives you an introduction to that, explaining the main themes of the period, before delving deeper into every monarch in that particular time. I loved Christophe de Bellaigue’s book on SUleyman the Magnificent, but I wanted more detail on how exactly he Empire was administered, given the diversity of ethnicities, and languages, and this book gave me that, and more. The Ottomans more or less followed the model of the Roman Empire, with provinces governed by Ottoman administrators, and the option of advancing your fortunes if you converted to Islam ( exactly the model followed by Constantine and his successors, that led to the spread of Christianity in Europe). The Ottoman Emperors made success and belonging as a citizen of the Empire contingent on Islam, which that meant that anyone, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, language, could rise through the ranks in the court, diplomacy, business or the military. Analogously, in Europe at the time, it would be much more rare to have several courtiers, or army leaders, or businessmen, whose language and ethnicity were completely different-there was an odd Eugene of Savoy , of course, in the Hapsburg Court, but this was a lot more commonplace in the Ottoman Empire.He also explains the quite unique Janissary guard, formed entirely of children taken from conquered provinces, trained in IStranbul to be the Emperor’s elite fighting force. Apart from the life of the Emperors, Baer shows you how daily life and trade were conducted, and evolved, and rebellions quelled-the story of Sabbatai Zvi was one of the most interesting historical episodes I’ve read.

The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars, and Caliphs by Marc David Baer The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars, and Caliphs by Marc David Baer

Memory matters: in 1918, the French general who entered Istanbul after the Allied victory was riding a white horse in a deliberately humiliating imitation of Mehmed II more than 450 years earlier. Baer’s fine book gives a panoramic and thought-provoking account of over half a millennium of Ottoman and – it now goes without saying – European history. For the author, his book is partly about 'the question is what to do with the memories' of Turkey's Ottoman past. That makes this book thought provoking and important not only for those interested in the history of the Ottomans, but also those interested in modern day Turkey, South-East Europe and the other lands once controlled by the heirs of Osman I.This book was quite interesting to me, as someone who knew embarrassingly little about the Ottoman Empire, and I definitely learned a decent amount from it. That said, it did feel like Marc David Baer sometimes had a bit of a pro-Ottoman bias, which was mostly noticeable to me in two ways. First, that he seemed to downplay the horror of the Ottoman practice of enslaving, forcibly converting, and mutilating the genitals of their subjects, often by taking children away from their parents. Second, and more specifically, in his attempt to show that the Ottomans were part of Renaissance Europe—something he did generally succeed at—he tried to argue that the expansion of Ottoman sea power in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, as well as the fact that Ottoman merchants were trading on the well-established Indian Ocean seaways was an "age of discovery" comparable to the simultaneous European expansion of blue-water sailing to build a world-wide trade network and collection of empires.

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