Turkey: A Short History Hardcover – 14 Mar 2011
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'Impressive, and suggests a contemporary Herodotus at work ... Stone does justice to the enormous complexity of Turkish history'
'Arresting ... authoritative and measured ... Stone's Turkey breaks the popular mould and introduces its readers to a place beyond their presumptions' --The Sunday Times
'Brilliant and readable ... pithy, straightforward, superbly argued and very funny ... This is a book you could easily read on a plane ride to Istanbul, and you should, too'
`Norman Stone is one of the great historians of our time ... a refreshing and sometimes surprising view of Turkish history' --Military Illustrated
'Stone's irreverent narrative is a spur to read more about a forgotten power that is central to Europe's history' --The Financial Times
'Lively, forceful and fast-moving'
--The Catholic Herald
'An enjoyable gallop through the history of Turks' --The Literary Review
'However many histories of Turkey you have read, you will never have read one as incisive, combative and sure-footed as this one, which is also delightfully brisk and extremely funny' --Cornucopia
'An authoritative but clear guide to an extremely complex subject in a lavishly illustrated, easy-to-follow format'
--Good Book Guide
`A fanfare for modern Turkey and a vivid, provocative, often funny, always insightful account of how it came about ... If you really don't know why a portrait of Ataturk hangs in almost every shop in Turkey, read this book' --The Guardian
'Races from the 11th century to the present with irreverent economy'
Top customer reviews
The examples from the author who is a professor of history in Ankara Turkey are numerous:
NS: The Janissaries were young men from the occupied parts of the Ottoman empire who were lifted up through a great education.
Normal consensus: The Janissaries, were small christian (maninly Greek, but also Serbian etc) boys of the age of 6 who were taken away from their mothers by force, and sent to Istanbul to become elite-soldiers. Their families never saw them again. The mere human grief in this fact is never mentioned.
NS: The massacre of Chios was a mistake done by the Turks who mistook the Island for another Island who had in fact deserved to be punished.
Consensus: The massacre of Chios comprised the entire Greek population which was killed, and thousand of women and children were sold as slaves (and never got their freedom back). The massacre was ordered as a reprisal to the uprising in mainland Greece (Morea).
The author also has a divided and inconsistent view on many things. E.g. the Persians (today Iranians). In some pages they are described almost as fools not understanding the Turkish culture, in other pages they are great, because of the fact that thay are muslims and culturally linked to the Turkish. The great history of the Persian culture is being unprofessionally belittled, that is unbecoming.
The author is clearly not fond of the Greeks and the history of the Greeks diminished, and the Greeks and Byzantines are mixed together so as to give an impression of the positive deeds of the Greeks being Byzantine and the negative deeds being Greek. History is, however, not so simple.
The killing of a very large number of Armenians (in the hundreds of thousands) in the beginning of the 20th century is diminished to a degree which is simply inexcusable to a historian, the same goes for the killing (consensus) of between 250000 and 370000 Greeks in Asia minor, which are nowadays normally viewed as historical facts, just as Hitler's killing of 10 million jews and 6 million others. When historians attempt to belittle Hitlers negative deeds they are called revisionists.
In short, the book is lacking craftsmanship. A history-book written by a historian should be scientific i.e. what do we know as scientific facts. The speculative discussions should be clearly marked as a discussion and not intermingled with historical facts, as is the case in this book. Also the book has no footnotes so checking the sources of the numerous postulates is impossible.
Finally the author is writing in a very humoristic tone, which I at least soon became very tired of. The author undoubtedly has a vast knowledge of Turkey. However, he is not faithful to science and his history-book is far too biased to be trustworthy, unfortunately. There are a number of history books on Turkey which are far better and far superior as to telling the historical facts. I cannot recommend the book.
It's pretty easy to see why Stone's style would offend some modern historians. This is a relatively short book, and it covers a lot of ground. Stone gets his points across elegantly: like Gibbon, he knows how to get complex ideas across with arresting metaphors and similes. Not for him are the tedious 'objective' analyses that so many professional historians use to advance their own prejudices.
Altogether, a fascinating book. Stone is very good on the problems that the Ottomans had in coming to terms with the advances of European civilisation. As the Turkish intelligensia came to terms with the enlightenment, they realised that Turkey could never keep up unless it abandoned the Caliphate and became a secular nation.
He makes it clear that the tensions that now exist in Turkey rest upon the paradox that EU membership depends upon the development of genuinely democratic political institutions--which would in turn almost guarantee an Islamic state that would rapidly repudiate everything that Europe stands for. Yet for all this, the Turkish economy is thriving--and the way things are now, they can count their rejection by the EU elite as an unmitigated blessing.
I particularly like the comments on the Turkish language, which to the casual visitor can seem so baffling.Throughout the text there is a real sense of the author's involvement in and passion for this perplexing and enchanting country. When a reflection on a relevant situation in the modern world would illuminate a historical point, the author doesn't flinch from making it.
The illustrations are beguiling and very evocative. My only caveat about the book is that only one map has been included: that for 1683, when the Ottoman empire was at its greatest extent. I would have liked more maps from different eras and I think they would have helped to illustrate the seismic movements of peoples and armies in this region.
Read and enjoy it and then visit the appendix on further reading. This volume opens the gate.
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