Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire by Caroline Finkel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Covers the entire Ottoman dynasty from the original Osman (14th century) to the last sultan (exiled in 1922). Focus is narrowly on the reigns of all of them, some brilliant (Mehmet the Conqueror, Suleyman the Magnificent), others bumbling and at least one of them mad. Probably because a full accounting of all the intrigues involving the sultans requires so much space, Finkel offers only scant contextual information, for example on how the society and the many cultures gathered into the Ottoman empire were evolving (Anatolian Muslims, Balkan Christians and Muslims, Greek and Armenian Christians, Kurdish Muslims, Arabs and others in Syria, Egypt, etc.). This makes the book dense with data that seem disconnected and hard to follow — for example we read that a certain Sheikislam (highest religious authority) or upstart Janissary officer conspired in a certain way, but what drove that action and what did it mean to others (besides the sultan) in that time? Reading it straight through is probably not the best approach; it will be an invaluable reference source for anyone investigating particular aspects or episodes in this very long history.
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