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  • The Ottomans

  • Khans, Caesars and Caliphs
  • By: Marc David Baer
  • Narrated by: Jamie Parker
  • Length: 17 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (150 ratings)

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The Ottomans

By: Marc David Baer
Narrated by: Jamie Parker
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Summary

A major new history of the 600-year dynasty that connected East to West as never before.

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. In their breadth and versatility, the Ottoman rulers saw themselves as the new Romans. 

Recounting the Ottomans' remarkable rise from a frontier principality to a world empire, Marc David Baer traces their debts to their Turkish, Mongolian, Islamic and Byzantine heritage, how they used both religious toleration and conversion to integrate conquered peoples, and how, in the 19th century, they embraced exclusivity, leading to ethnic cleansing, genocide and the dynasty's demise after the First World War. Upending Western concepts of the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, the Reformation, this account challenges our understandings of sexuality, orientalism and genocide. 

Radically retelling their remarkable story, The Ottomans is a magisterial portrait of a dynastic power and the first to truly capture its cross-fertilisation between East and West.

©2021 Marc David Baer (P)2021 Hodder & Stoughton Limited
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"A book as sweeping, colorful, and rich in extraordinary characters as the empire which it describes." (Tom Holland)

What listeners say about The Ottomans

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A fresh take on a canonical story

First and foremost I'd recommend not limiting your scope of ottoman history to just this book. It's good and has some interesting points but cannot really aspire to be a comprehensive guide or a canonical introduction.
I've read this book in sync (syncing the scope of historical eras) with Balfour's The Ottoman Centuries and this method proved itself quite useful in my opinion.
On the one hand, Baer skipped a lot of quite important events or played them down to a miniscule role compared to Balfour; on the other hand, he gave way for several themes unfitting Balfour's drier narrative. And vice versa, where one lagged or stumbled, the other elaborated on much more details and themes.

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6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

one way or another it will shock you

I really enjoyed the book as it was much revealing and very well structured. You can tell mr Baer knows alot about the matter. I must say as a Turk myself i found it somewhat confronting on several occasions, which I very much liked. It is refreshing to have an alternative view on old rusted conventional thinking.

However I could not really get over the last few chapters of the book. When it comes to modern history I sense some orientalism at play. This is quite ironic as mr Bear manages to stay objective throughout the majority of the book, i think. But at the end he takes the liberty to use the term genocide when it comes to the Armenian question. Without downplaying the severity of the suffering of the Armenian people in the great war, we must not forget that genocide is a juridical therm. Turkey has never been convicted by international law for genocide because the highly complex and obscure nature of it all. So calling it a genocide is historically incorrect.

Also the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk has a one sided view, predominantly negative. For the Turkish people he is like a Washington or Churchill figure, someone of great significance. Besides being a reformer that enters Turkey into the modern age, he has been a genius as a military commander from his early days in Gallipoli untill the ragtag army he led into rebelion against the allied forces carving out modern day Turkey. Ataturk is a whole nother chapter in turkish history that deserves a book on its own. The way mr Baer ends the book is like Mustafa Kemal pasha is a continuation of the young turks. But he is a whole new phenomenon.
I have traveled Europe to quite an extent and almost all western countries commemorate only their own fallen soldiers whilst Mustafa Kemal who was a commander in the Gallipoli front losing tens of thousends of men every day, raised a monument after the war for the turks and allied forces. with this written on it;

Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country to of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
Atatürk, 1934

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5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting but not serious

This unabridged book reading has a lot of information. Its strength lies in its width of information, with good chronological accounts of the Armenian Genocide and some details of the harem system. However, it cannot be counted as serious history. It constantly distracts itself from explaining the key motivations of the actions of the Ottomans. Perhaps most irritating, the author keep trying to shoehorn the ‘European-ness’ of Ottoman history without making a case of what is means to be part of European history, or why does the definition even matter! (I don’t think it does) Contradicting concepts are presented in the role of the Ottoman sultans. They are initially concluded to be almost constitutional monarchs after a series of palace coups in the 16-17th century, yet in the book they are shown to have great agency in latter periods up to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. This leads to another weakness of not explaining how actually the Ottoman bureaucracy works in managing such a vast empire, therefore obscuring causes and motivations in Ottoman actions. Great reading, popular history with a collection of facts at best, but muddled in thought.

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4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Mixed Quality

The last third of the book is detailed with a clear narrative focus.
Much of the rest is muddled without a focus on how institutions work, how the economy functions and develops and how the legal code is applied.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

muddled and tangential

the potential of this book is swallowed by the authors repeatedly wandering off into fields which are not really ottoman history but may more accurately be described as a history of the Jewish people in the ottoman empire. interesting but not what I was looking for.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

mediocre

the history of the ottoman empire is rich and complex. critical to understanding the formation of the modern middle east.

but the narrators flat monotonous delivery is a perfect cure for insomnia.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The level of details and how those details are linked!

Great book, listened twice in one month. How it keeps on reminding the reader of past events, already mentioned, whenever a later event is linked/caused.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • J
  • 23-01-24

Brilliant, very insightful and informative

The way it was written kept me extremely engaged. If you have interest in the Ottoman Empire this is a must read / listen

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating history

Comprehensive yet always enjoyable. This a book to be enjoyed over and over again to ensure that you don’t miss anything.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

very detailed

while narrating history, writer tried to justify few things through today's lense. he could have left it as is and allowed readers to make a judgement.

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