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The Sultan and the Sultan

November 8, 2017

I’ve written a long-ish article for History Today on historical revisionism in Turkey around the figure of hard-line late Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II – who many are keen to imagine as a precursor of President Erdoğan.

Abdülhamid has long been venerated as ‘Ulu Hakan’ (the Supreme Sultan) by conservative ideologues within Turkey, but the reverence has reached fever pitch under Erdoğan. An idealised memory of Abdülhamid, which casts him as the last proudly Islamic Ottoman leader standing up to the West, has become part of the government’s narrative of civilisational ‘restoration’, in which Turkey is once again a great power that shapes history. Abdülhamid is often glorified as a symbolic precursor of Erdoğan – proof that historic forces are at play today. …

When he first became sultan in 1876, Abdülhamid appeared to be an enlightened reformer. He supported the Ottoman constitution, giving the empire its first experience of constitutional democracy. The next year he opened the first session of an elected Ottoman parliament … But the experience of ruling a vast, decaying empire hardened him into an absolutist, and he became convinced that he needed to rule with a stronger hand to protect it from further dismemberment. …

The parallels with Turkey’s current president are obvious. Erdoğan was once lauded in the West as a moderate Muslim reformer, raising the country’s democratic standards and advancing its economy. But his international reputation has since deteriorated badly. Authoritarianism, rent-seeking and demagoguery mark his era. The state administration is subject to the whims of capricious one-man rule. A cult of personality is in full swing, with Erdoğan embodying the frustrations, hopes and grievances of Turkey’s conservative masses, bound by a powerful sense of shared identity. …

Erdoğan’s supporters see the decline in his reputation abroad as part of a dark international plot to halt this forward march. Conspiratorial thinking runs rampant. Orhan Osmanoğlu, a fourth-generation descendent of Abdülhamid, claims that Turkey is today witnessing a ‘repetition of history’: ‘Meddling foreigners now call our president a dictator, just as they used to call Abdülhamid the “Red Sultan.”’ Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman compared last year’s coup attempt to the dethroning of Abdülhamid in 1909: ‘They wanted to do the same as they did when they overthrew Abdülhamid, but this time they couldn’t succeed.’

I’ve been meaning to write this article for ages so do go and read the whole thing (there are also some nice visuals).

Abdul_Hamid_II_BNF_Gallica

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Turkey Book Talk episode #45 – DOUGLAS HOWARD, professor of history at Calvin College in Michigan, discusses “A HISTORY OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE” (Cambridge University Press).

The book is the first single-volume history of the Ottomans to appear in a while, covering more than 600 years of history – from the empire’s 13th century origins in the Balkans and western Anatolia to its protracted, violent dissolution at the start of the 20th century.

Download the episode or listen below.

Here’s my review of the book.

Subscribe to Turkey Book Talk :  iTunes / PodBean / Stitcher / Acast / RSS

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history of the ottoman empire

* SPECIAL OFFER *

You can support Turkey Book Talk by taking advantage of a 33% discount plus free delivery (cheaper than Amazon) on five different titles, courtesy of Hurst Publishers:

  • ‘Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State’ by Olivier Roy
  • ‘The Circassian: A Life of Eşref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special Agent’ by Benjamin Fortna
  • ‘The New Turkey and its Discontents’ by Simon Waldman and Emre Çalışkan
  • ‘The Poisoned Well: Empire and its Legacy in the Middle East’ by Roger Hardy
  • ‘Out of Nowhere: The Syrian Kurds in Peace and War’ by Michael Gunter

Follow this link to get that discount from Hurst Publishers.

Another way to support the podcast, if you enjoy or benefit from it: Make a donation to Turkey Book Talk via Patreon. Many thanks to current supporters Michelle Zimmer, Steve Bryant, Jan-Markus Vömel, Celia Jocelyn Kerslake, Aaron Ataman, Max Hoffman and Andrew MacDowall.

Turkey Book Talk episode #43 – SONER ÇAĞAPTAY on his book “THE NEW SULTAN: ERDOĞAN AND THE CRISIS OF MODERN TURKEY” (IB Tauris).

Download the episode or listen below:

My review of this book is forthcoming in the Times Literary Supplement. Not sure of the publication date so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Subscribe to Turkey Book Talk :  iTunes / PodBean / Stitcher / Acast / RSS

Follow on Facebook or Twitter

New Sultan

*SPECIAL OFFER*

You can support Turkey Book Talk by taking advantage of a 33% discount plus free delivery (cheaper than Amazon) on five different titles, courtesy of Hurst Publishers:

  • ‘Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State’ by Olivier Roy
  • ‘The Circassian: A Life of Eşref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special Agent’ by Benjamin Fortna
  • ‘The New Turkey and its Discontents’ by Simon Waldman and Emre Çalışkan
  • ‘The Poisoned Well: Empire and its Legacy in the Middle East’ by Roger Hardy
  • ‘Out of Nowhere: The Syrian Kurds in Peace and War’ by Michael Gunter

Follow this link to get that discount from Hurst Publishers.

Another way to support the podcast, if you enjoy or benefit from it: Make a donation to Turkey Book Talk via Patreon. Many thanks to current supporters Michelle Zimmer, Steve Bryant, Jan-Markus Vömel, Celia Jocelyn Kerslake, Aaron Ataman and Andrew MacDowall.

Brand new Turkey Book Talk episode.

KAPKA KASSABOVA joins the pod to discuss her book “BORDER: A JOURNEY TO THE EDGE OF EUROPE” (Granta), on the troubled past and present of the border between Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria.

Download the episode or listen below.

Listen out for a cameo appearance by my cat at around the 23:09 mark.

Here’s my review of the book at HDN.

Subscribe to Turkey Book Talk :  iTunes / PodBean / Stitcher / Acast / RSS

Follow on Facebook or Twitter.

Border

*SPECIAL OFFER*

You can support Turkey Book Talk by taking advantage of a 33% discount plus free delivery (cheaper than Amazon) on five different titles, courtesy of Hurst Publishers:

  • ‘Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State’ by Olivier Roy
  • ‘The Circassian: A Life of Eşref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special Agent’ by Benjamin Fortna
  • ‘The New Turkey and its Discontents’ by Simon Waldman and Emre Çalışkan
  • ‘The Poisoned Well: Empire and its Legacy in the Middle East’ by Roger Hardy
  • ‘Out of Nowhere: The Syrian Kurds in Peace and War’ by Michael Gunter

Follow this link to get that discount from Hurst Publishers.

Another way you can support is by making a donation to Turkey Book Talk via Patreon. Many thanks to current supporters Özlem Beyarslan, Steve Bryant, Celia Jocelyn Kerslake and Aaron Ataman.

University of Arizona Professor Benjamin Fortna discusses “The Circassian: A Life of Eşref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special Agent” (Hurst).

Eşref Kuşçubaşı was a secret service operative in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, who later turned his back on the resistance forces of Mustafa Kemal during the War of Independence and ended up in exile for almost 30 years. Fortna’s biography is the most detailed account of Eşref’s contentious life, based on exclusive access to previously unexamined papers.

Download the episode or listen below.

Subscribe to Turkey Book Talk :  iTunes / PodBean / Stitcher / Acast / RSS

Follow on Facebook or Twitter.

the-circassian

As mentioned in the episode, Turkey Book Talk listeners can get a 33% discount plus free delivery on this and three other titles published by Hurst – “The New Turkey and its Discontents” by Simon Waldman and Emre Çalışkan, “The Poisoned Well: Empire and its Legacy in the Middle East” by Roger Hardy, and “Out of Nowhere: The Syrian Kurds in Peace and War” by Michael Gunter. Follow this link to get that discount.

If you enjoy or benefit from the podcast and want to support it, click here to make a donation to Turkey Book Talk via Patreon!

Many thanks to my current supporters Özlem Beyarslan, Steve Bryant, Celia Jocelyn Kerslake and Aaron Ataman.

In this new Turkey Book Talk episode Southern Illinois University associate professor of history Hale Yılmaz speaks about her book “Becoming Turkish: Nationalist Reforms and Cultural Negotiations in Early Republican Turkey, 1923-1945” (Syracuse University Press).

Download the episode or listen below.

Subscribe to Turkey Book Talk :  iTunes / PodBean / Stitcher / Acast / RSS

Follow on Facebook or Twitter.

becoming-240

Background reading:

  1. Alexandros Lamprou discusses his book on the People’s Houses: “Nation-Building in Modern Turkey: The People’s Houses, the State and the Citizen”.
  2. A visit to Mahmut Makal on the 60th anniversary of his autobiographical book “Bizim Köy” (Our Village), describing the tough life of a village teacher in early republican Turkey.

If you enjoy or benefit from the podcast and want to support it, click here to make a small or large donation to Turkey Book Talk via Patreon.

Many thanks to my current supporters Özlem Beyarslan, Steve Bryant, Celia Jocelyn Kerslake and Aaron Ataman.

Kaya Genç returns to the Turkey Book Talk podcast. This time he joins to discuss his new book “Under the Shadow: Rage and Revolution in Modern Turkey,” which profiles young Turks from across the political spectrum.

Download the episode or listen below:

Subscribe to Turkey Book Talk :  iTunes / PodBean / Stitcher / Facebook / RSS

My review of the book will be appearing in the next couple of weeks in the Times Literary Supplement so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Here’s the episode from earlier this year with Kaya discussing “An Istanbul Anthology”, which he edited:

under-the-shadow

NB: If you like this podcast and want to support independent podcasting, click here to make a small or large monetary donation to Turkey Book Talk via Patreon.

Many thanks to current supporters Özlem Beyarslan, Steve Bryant, Celia Jocelyn Kerslake and Aaron Ataman.

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