Quataert, Donald. The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922. Cambridge University Press, New York. 2005.

The Donald Quataert (late) was Middle East/ Ottoman historian and Distinguished Professor at Binghamton University with a particular interest in economic/labor and social history. The book under review provides a general overview of the Ottoman Empire. Around 200 pages in length, this book is one of the Cambridge’s New Approaches to European History series publications which tend to provide concise and authentic knowledge on diverse topics in post-renaissance history to an international audience – mainly high school and undergraduate level students as well as general readers. The author has also served as the chairman of Institute of Turkish Studies; a post that testifies for his scholarship and credibility.

The book is vaguely divided into two parts, each consisting of 4 and 6 chapters respectively. The first part discusses the Ottoman (political) history since 1700 in brief while other part is dispersed onto diverse topics ranging from statecraft, international relations, economy, culture, society and legacy of Ottoman Empire. The content is simple but informative – possibly due to the target audience – and chapters are very well structured. Each chapter follows a descent bibliography. These sources are mainly in English for the sake of international readership. Author’s main reliance is the official Ottoman historical accounts but he also utilizes a vast range of research based sources which makes the text quite authentic. The book also includes maps, illustrations, Genealogy of the Ottoman dynasty, Chronology of Ottoman history and other reference material that would help in better comprehension of the content. As the book is an overview, the author doesn’t indulge in questionable or extra details. Additionally the book was printed in 2005 and the sources used are also fresh so the book can be seen as up-to-date. In a nutshell, the content is fine and first on academic standards.

A number of topics are discussed and plenty of issues ranging from the palace to bazar and bazar to coffee house are raised – as has already been stated. The first and very intriguing chapter Why study Ottoman History? is something exclusive to this book. As a Pakistani student of Political Science, Ottoman relations with India and the controversial Armenian Genocide, caught my attention. The author has highlighted the common emphases on Muslim identity in Moghul and Ottoman Empire as well as commerce and military relationships. He also states, “…they (Ottoman Empire) aided local rulers on the India coast who were fighting the Portuguese.” and “…Sultans Abd ¨ulhamit I and Selim III both concluded frequent political and commercial agreements with the Mysore sultanate in southern India.” (Quataert, 2005, p. 24,88). Yet, Donald Quataert provides an optimistic scenario here and skip essential details. In his book, Kingdom of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, Anwar Haroon provides details of an agreement of mutual cooperation proposed by Tipu Sultan – King of Maysore – to Sultan Selim III. But this agreement was ridiculed and Tipu Sultan was told to align with his enemies – the Englishmen. (Haroon, 2013, p.274-278). So, author’s outlook on Ottoman-Indian relationships especially on the agreements concluded between them, needs to be revised and refined. Apart from that economic, cultural and religious relations with India are well defined.

Another significant fact discussed in his book is the Armenian Genocide. It is important to mention that the author was dismissed from Institute of Turkish Studies as he claimed that the Armenian massacre was a state sponsored genocide carried out by Turks.[1] He quotes, “… the patterns of the killings were chillingly similar in the various areas, powerfully suggesting the presence of a coordinated program.” (Quataert, 2005, p. 187). Though he again tries to exonerate Ottoman Empire by declaring Teskilat-ı Mahsusa as the main culprit, “… This parallel Special Organization organized and coordinated the killings, often using government officials and troops who were its members.” (Quataert, 2005, p. 188).  For a Turkish audience, this is a hard fact to digest. It must be remembered here that Armenian Genocide is denied by Turkish Republic since it happened yet the courage of the author to speak out, shows his commitment to the truth.

The book is well written and the author has tried to cover almost all aspects of Ottoman history in this small book yet the issues of subject equality in the empire, modernization of military and society, development of nationalism and secularism (within Ottoman Empire) need further extension. Overall, it is an excellent book with a nice chronology of events and extensive research. In fact, I would recommend it to every student and general reader.

Sources:

Haroon, A. (2013). Kingdom of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Xlibris Corporation.

Quataert, D. (2005). The Ottoman Empire, 1700–1922. Cambridge University Press. New York.

 


[1] Board Members Resign to Protest Chair’s Ousting by Susan Kinzie: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/04/AR2008070402408.html