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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping account of a forgotten but tragic chapter: oh that we would learn the lessons of geopolitical meddling...
Every war has its unintended consequences, and the First World War was no exception. Perhaps its greatest aftershock was the collapse of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire, a fact that perfectly illustrates the complexities of a war that had been sparked by a political assassination in Bosnia and the aggression of Germany's Kaiser Bill. After years of the relatively quiet...
Published on 4 Dec. 2009 by Mark Meynell

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12 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the first 20th century "ethnic cleansing"?
Fans of Giles Milton's previous work will be pleased to see that he has lost nothing of his narrative drive and descriptive flair. However,here the subject matter is darker, and you need a strong stomach to read the second half of the book. Also, Milton (presumably no relation) needed to do a bit more research for this than previous works because the issue is still...
Published on 22 Oct. 2009 by James-philip Harries


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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping account of a forgotten but tragic chapter: oh that we would learn the lessons of geopolitical meddling..., 4 Dec. 2009
By 
Mark Meynell "quaesitor" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Every war has its unintended consequences, and the First World War was no exception. Perhaps its greatest aftershock was the collapse of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire, a fact that perfectly illustrates the complexities of a war that had been sparked by a political assassination in Bosnia and the aggression of Germany's Kaiser Bill. After years of the relatively quiet co-existence of different ethnic and religious groups, the new Turkish republic was carved out in the flames of terrible ethnic tension and indeed cleansing. No city represented the agony of this process more than Smyrna (modern Izmir). Smyrna had been the grandest of cities - huge, ancient, fabulously wealthy with department stores and opera houses, idyllic landscapes and above all, great diversity.

Giles Milton has written a well-crafted, multi-layered account of its fall in 1922. This involved painstaking research on the day-to-day events surrounding its destruction that terrible September - but without the wider national and international perspective, this would have remained simply a remote if chilling episode in increasingly distant history.

But Smyrna's fall was a crucial moment for so many reasons:

- it explains or illustrates so many of the geopolitical tensions that exist today: between Greeks and Turks (especially in Cyprus); within former Yugoslavia; the debates about Turkey joining the EU. Atrocities and follies were not isolated to one side or another - Greeks invaded Asia Minor in vain pursuit of the "Megali Idea" (the big idea). They sought to avenge the centuries of Ottoman suppression of Greek culture in the region by uniting the 1000s of ethnic Greeks with Athens. The new Turkish nationalists were incensed by the occupation of Constantinople by the 1WW allies and the invasion by Greece. Roused by Ataturk, Smyrna was their greatest prize after Constantinople, being the richest trading city of the old empire. Milton convincingly explains that the city was certainly destroyed by Turkish soldiers, despite historical spin to the contrary - and the image of 1000s trapped in the small space between the burning buildings the harbour waters is truly pitiful. The fate of the hundreds of Armenians and Greeks sent on forced marches into the Turkish interior is too grim to imagine.

- it depicts the now lost but charmed existence of colonial life - the so-called Levantines (British, Americans, French, Italians etc) of Asia Minor lived in luxury and extraordinary wealth, strategically placed to capitalise on the European trade with the East. This was epitomised by the fact that there was even a district of the city inhabited by Americans actually called 'Paradise' (hence the book's title). Drawing on diaries and other first-hand accounts, Milton captures the atmosphere of denial and invincibility before Smyrna's inevitable fall.

- most significantly, to my mind however, is Milton's account of how the decisions of a precious few, secluded behind locked doors hundreds of miles away, can affect the fate of millions. Political compromises, prejudices and whims can have the equivalent of the Butterfly Effect. In particular, Lloyd-George bears much of the blame, easily swayed by the charm and rhetoric of Greek Prime Minister Venizelos and his romanticised notions of what Greece had been and should be - and he refused to listen to those who knew better. It took a simple telephone call from one prime minister to another to spark a 3-year conflict in Asia Minor, resulting in the deaths of 1000s, the enforced migration of 100,000s and the misery of millions. L-G is by no means the only one of course. But 'twas ever thus.

None of the principle actors comes out of this smelling of roses - the usual cocktail of pride, folly and passion is at play. But Milton highlights the heroics and nobility of some individuals: like the Ottoman governor of Smyrna, Rahmi Bey - an old Anglophile socially at ease with all the different cultures and groups of Smyrna, he actually resisted the orders to round up Armenians that came from the Sultanate in Constantinople. He even sought to negotiate with the British during the First World War in order to protect Smyrna's diverse population (despite this being treasonable once the Ottoman Empire had allied with the Kaiser). Or there was the decidedly unprepossessing American Methodist minister and YMCA employee, Asa Jennings. He found himself blagging his way into a temporary appointment as a Greek admiral in order to oversee the evacuation of hundreds of desperate refugees - an extraordinary story.

This is a brilliant and gripping book about a terrible time. Milton manages to glide between macro and micro levels with ease, and to my outsider's view (at least) seems sufficiently balanced and objective. But he also intersperses the grim realities with accounts of extraordinary coincidences, moments of absurdity and above all a very human story. Oh that we would learn of the dangers of ignorant war-mongering in distant realms... The story of Smyrna will not be known or remembered by many now (though it should be) - I certainly knew far too little about it. But what its destruction represents is all too contemporary... Iraq and Afghanistan anyone?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Histroy comes alive, 1 Nov. 2008
By 
L. Hogan (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Milton is the author of several engaging histories covering periods as diverse as the Crusades to the Age of Exploration. Ive read most of his other books and found them to be lively and engaging. Milton's style brings his diverse characters to life and his extensive use of personal accounts ensures his stories have the human element that is so often missing from history books. Paradise Lost is no different. Milton has interviewed people who were atcually present at the events he writes about. This gives his narrative a very personal feel.
Even though we know what will happen in the end, Milton manages to build suspense and kept me turning the pages. It is a tragic and heroic story about a part of the world that, I confess, I know only a little. I couldnt help but draw parallels between what happend in Smyrna in 1922 and the more recent human tradgedies in Rwanda, Bosnia and so on. It seems the international community still has a lesson to learn. That said, its not all tradegy, there are some great stories of herosim in there too.
This is not just a book for history buffs. Its for anyone who enjoys a human story, well told. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the period and the area. Its definetly going on my Christmas list for my dad and brother in law!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Now I can say I've read Milton's Paradise Lost, 24 April 2009
By 
SAP "Steba" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This book represents a bit of a change in direction for this author's histories. His other books have been biographies, too, of plucky Brits who are usually in foreign climes making a nuisance of themselves and getting away with it. This is the story of an EVENT. Further, it doesn't directly involve Britain or Brits other than tangentially in the form of Britain's meddlesome imperial ambitions and some princely 'Brits' who, actually, are third- or fourth-generation, the "Levantines".

The book is split into three parts: (1) Paradise, (2) Serpents in Paradise and (3) Paradise Lost. Part one sets the scene, part two goes into the background of the troubles that would later arise, and part three is the great event itself. I thought part one was a little boring -- Westerners lording it over and patronising the natives -- standard fare for these types of books, part two was a little disjointed and strangely unfulfilling and part three was gripping, really excellent. To elaborate on my verdict on part two, there is a missing year between the end of part two and the beginning of part three! We go from September 1921 to September 1922 in a blink! The Greeks are being defeated in Anatolia one minute and the next they're embarking on ships at Smyrna quay! If you are going to tell a story at all, then at least finish it more artfully than an abrupt severance.

Another slight problem I found with this book is that in the first two parts (where the background is explained and the scene is set) Milton concentrates far too much on the rich merchant families in their large Palladian villas. Other than a couple of exceptions (which prove the rule) his researches didn't manage to uncover any stories from an average Greek, Turk, Jew or Armenian (the Jews are hardly mentioned). I think their views would have been fascinating and enlightening. They would have offered a different perspective on the events that unfolded. But I can understand why the author quoted the Levantines the most. Their riches-to-rags tale was a sensational journey full of pathos, material loss and an overnight demotion in status.

I have to say that part three is just gripping. I think I've said that before, but it's worth saying again because it's so impossible to put the book down! I had never heard about this catastrophe before reading this book. I don't think I'd ever noticed Izmir (formerly Smyrna) on the map before. But Milton has made me interested in Turkish, Greek and Armenian history. He tells the story with great empathy and humanity. I also liked the ending very much. I really didn't see it coming as I fully expected that after all this time not a single building would be left standing let alone be inhabited by a direct descendent of one of those caught up in the great tragedy.

Giles Milton really is a fine writer and I look forward to reading his next book. Only docked a star because the first two parts were interesting but a little extraneous in places. I hate to admit it, but the build up was a little boring. But finally I've read Milton's Paradise Lost!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another story from the century of conflict, 2 Nov. 2010
By 
Manly Reading (Brisbane, QLD, AUST) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Smyrna 1922 is upsetting to read: there is always a disaster lurking in the background, and when it happens it is horrible indeed. The consequences of war are all too often visited on innocent civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time, and this, the closing chapter of the Ottoman Empire, is no exception.

Giles Milton once again has picked out a little bit of history and expanded a complete story out of it (Nathaniel's Nutmeg is an example of a tiny hinge of fate, for instance). This time around, the focus is on Smyrna (Izmir), once a thriving trade port on the coast of Asia Minor. The Levantines - European expats - ran a mercantile community, employing a large chunk of the local populace. Smyrna was a mixed city, with Greeks, Armenians and Turks, as well as the Europeans, and a thriving American expat community.

All this was lost with the disastrous expedition into Anatolia by the Greek army in 1922. There is an early wrinkle in with the revocation of the concessions - trade relaxations - on which this foreign fortune was built, with this being a source of apparent pride among local Turks, but this merely silent foreshadowing of the disaster to come.

In between, we see Smyrna during WWI under Rahmi Bey, and under Greek annexation in 1919. Through all this there is a "ancien regime" feeling in the air: old power and wealth about to be lost in a sea of blood. As it turns out, the blood was largely shed by the servants of the Levantines - a point deftly made by Milton - and Smyrna stands a proxy for the genocide of the period, by Greek and Turk alike.

Others have covered the facts of the book neatly; I won't all over again in any greater detail than I have above. What is horrifying (and occasionally uplifting) is the reactions of various civilised men and women to the fall of Smyrna, and how much easier it is to do evil to others than to do good in such a time.

This is an excellent study of little-known history, told like a novel. This is the horror of war, from the point of view of the civilians who suffered rather than the soldiers that fought and died.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Utterly compelling but needed a decent editor!, 20 Nov. 2010
I finished this book in the early hours of this morning, having found it impossible to put down. The fact that I am currently visiting Izmir made the story all the more meaningful to me, but I think the catastrophe in Smyrna in 1922 is something that everyone should know about and I commend Giles Milton for his extensive research and his story-telling ability. Sadly though, I can only give it four stars because I found the book to be poorly edited and in some (small) parts, I would even call it badly written. It's not just the spelling or grammar mistakes that are dotted here and there. I am not a total pedant. It's more the occasions where snippets of information are needlessly repeated, not to mention certain adjectives and phrases, which can sometimes appear three times in the space of two paragraphs. I'm not blaming the author, but I think he's been let down by his editor, and this spoilt my enjoyment of his otherwise excellent book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of a terrible tragedy, 2 Feb. 2009
By 
Bibliophile (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Milton has written an authoritative account of the destruction of one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities. He skilfully sets the political backdrop against the many personal contemporary accounts of the events, thus making it very real and immediate.

The story unfolds with all the tension of a thriller.

It dispels once and for all the lie, still maintainted by some Turkish historians, that there was no systemic order at the highest level to murder, rape and pillage the city's non-Turkish inhabitants and highlights only too well that ordinary people were abandoned to their inevitable fate by the cynical politicians of the US,Britain, France and Italy when Smyrna no longer served any political interest.

A gripping and important book with lessons for today.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A balanced account of a dreadful episode, 12 Oct. 2009
By 
Mike Todd (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Milton is to be congratulated on producing a well-written book, using a wide variety of sources. His narrative is gripping, yet he does not allow his story to become sloppy or sensational. He calmly reports eye-witness accounts and allows the reader to come to his/her own conclusions. All of this set within a wider context which allows the general reader to make sense of the tortuous politics of this part of the world in the years during and shortly after the First World War. A splendid achievement.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smyrna...never again, 1 July 2009
By 
G. P. Nicolaidis "gpn" (Athens, Greece) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A fascinating eye-opener at the history, peoples and events that led to the Smyrna catastrophy.

An exccedingly interesting and impartial tale of what may well have been the most cosmopolitan mutliethnic cities in the early 1900's . The vivid descriptions of the ilfe and the customs of all the people of Smyrna - the jewel of the Aegean - make you an involved obesrver, with a better understanding of the geopolitical interests, the miscalculations and the incompetence that led to the uprooting of hellenism in Asia Minor and the extinction of cosmopolitan Smyrna.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book with universal value, 11 Oct. 2009
By 
Aristotelis Gavriliadis (Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If you want to understand Turkish-Greek relations you should read "Paradise lost" along with "Twice a stranger" of Clark and "Echoes frome the green zone" from Papadakis. Paradise lost shows how crazy political choices can lead to destruction of millions of lives. The book concerns the destruction of the Greek and Levantine presence in Anatolia and Smyrna. But its value is universal: nationalism (Greek and Turkish), fanatism, religious rivalries, can lead to tragedies. Who started and who is responsible? The book does not give any answer but the conclusion I drew is universal: human stupidity and criminal political leaders, crowds ready to become barbaric,the yesterday victims becoming the monsters of today.

A big bravo to Milton who, after L. Smith's "Ionian vision" wrote "The Book" on 1922. Every Greek and Turk should read it and try to think on peace and friendship for the future.

Aristotelis Gavriliadis
Brussels
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journey into horror - vilains and heroes, 9 Sept. 2013
By 
Gs-trentham - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 - The Destruction of Islam's City of Tolerance (Kindle Edition)
In the battle for supremacy in Asia Minor between Greece and Turkey, the city of Smyrna (now Izmirs suffered horrendous collateral damage. Until the outbreak of the first World War, Smyrna was a predominantly happy multinational community. Largely thanks to benevolent Levantine employers, the inhabitants prospered; thanks to that prosperity, the Levantine families led an existence reminiscent of the palmy days of the Raj. On the outbreak of war, Britain and her allies backed Greece while Turkey chose the German side. What ensued was a campaign of ethnic cleansing from which no nation emerged with credit,despite the heroic endeavours of several unsung individuals.

This seems to have been a small corner of British history that had not been chronicled until Giles Morton's detailed account in Paradise Lost. Drawing on official papers, newspaper reports, contemporary letters and diaries, and personal interviews, Milton paints a vivid picture of the descent from serene coexistence into the inferno. There are times when the book in somewhat artless style piles atrocity upon atrocity, but it is this very repetition which hammers home the true extent of the tragedy.

Kemal Ataturk's bloodthirsty role as the founder of modern Turkey is a morality talein itself. Lloyd George's seat-of-the-pants direction of Britain's involvement was far from this nation's finest hour.

Those who deserve credit, do so for personal courage. They include Rahmit Bey, the Ottoman Governor of Smyrna; George Horton, the American consul whose diaries illuminate the narrative; and above all two other 'ordinary' Americans - Asa Jennings, a YMCA employee, and Esther Lovejoy - who masterminded an astonishing evacuation that saved the lives of literally thousands of innocent refugees.

Paradise Lost is a story that needed to be told. We must be grateful that is has been told so well.
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