Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good (though not a 'history'), 30 Aug. 2009
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This review is from: Lords of the Horizons : A History of the Ottoman Empire (Paperback)
I actually read this book twice, and after the first reading was disappointed. I had expected to get a traditional (for lack of a better word) 'history': a chronological overview of (major) people and events shaping a kingdom, an empire or an era, giving one an insight also into causes and effects. This is definitely not what you'll get in 'Lords of the Horizons'. It's more a sort of loosely organized thematic overview of the Ottoman empire (with chapter headings such as 'The Centre', 'Order', 'Cities', 'Rhythms' and 'Shamming'), and presupposing at least a basic knowledge of the history of the Ottoman empire.

But, although I had to struggle through the book at times during this first reading, it did awaken a desire to know more, and I subsequently read more 'classical' history books dealing with (parts of) the same subject matter:
- 'Constantinople, the last great siege 1453' by Roger Crowley
- 'Empires of the Sea, the final battle for the Mediterranean 1521-1580' by the same author
- 'The Ottomans' by Andrew Wheatcroft

Having done that, I re-read 'Lords of the Horizons' and found that it immensely pleased me. In my view, Goodwin knows in all probability a lot about the Ottoman history, but definitely knows ('is attuned to' is perhaps a better description) the Ottoman spirit very very well. If the book has a fault, it is largely this: Goodwin doesn't bother to list events as they happened over time, he appears (wrongly, in my case) to suppose we all know those basic facts by rote.

I'll readily grant that the subtitle 'A history of the Ottoman empire' is deceptive, but - once you know the basic facts about Ottoman history - I've not come across a better book to get to understand the Ottoman mind and spirit. It's been years since I last visited Istanbul, but reading this book all the sounds and smells of that unique city came flooding back, as if I was there.
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