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Thursday, June 3, 2021

[Kinda Book Review] Fall of the Ottomans by Eugene Rogan

Christmas 2019, Santa brought me "Fall of the Ottomans" by Eugene Rogan. I had been wanting to read more about the Great War. World War I (WWI) was the event that - even more than its sequel - defined the world we know today. But that is a rant for another day.

Fall of the Ottomans covers the war, from the events starting around 1900 with the two Balkan Wars that first gave the empire a bloody eye, then gave it some prestige to the aftermath of the war.

When I started this book, I thought I knew about the Ottoman Empire, but really, I did not. At the beginning of WWI, the empire spaned from Macedonia to Georgia, to Iran, to Saudi Arabia and the whole of the Peninsula. Massive! Then add to this the many ethnic groups: Slavs, Turks, Armenians, Arabs, Kurds, and Palestinians. Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

You can find the details of the war elsewhere: Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Egypt/Palestine. The Ottomans had an army that mixed regular "European"-style troops and irregular tribal troops with German assistance and support.

After reading this book, I grew to have greater appreciation and revulsion for the Ottomans. Admiration as they ground the British down in many campaigns: Gallipoli, Mesopotamia. Revulsion for their actions against non-muslim populations: the Armenians. Very much a mixed bag overall.

One of the thing that got me into this book more is the prose. Yes, it is a history book, but the writing is dynamic and ties together the narrative into something resembling a plot. I could not wait to move on to the next chapter, as if I was going to discover something (okay, many times I got surprised by what happened).

What is this book lacking or that I wanted more of... I would love to read more of the fallout of the war... what happened after? Now, there is a satisfying conclusion that describes what happens in broad lines. Short, too short.

So you ask me for a rating... I thought "4" but then got to think: why? What I wanted was not the focus of this book. The subtitle says what this book is: The Great War in the Middle East. So my wanting to know more about the early history of the nations created by the partition. Since those things are "out of scope" and "future reading," I must say that brings this book up to a 5/5.

Must Eugene Rogan books may find themselves on my future wish lists.

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