Because you know you have always wanted one. Ok maybe not but if you are into either European, African or Middle Eastern history you should really check them out. They started out as a tribe of Turkish horsemen wandering around in Anatolia. While still basically a nomadic horde (although they were early adopters of artillery) they captured the city of Constantinople (only the second time that happened) and made it their capital. Over the course of several hundred years they morphed into an empire that stretched from Morocco to the borders of modern day Iran and from the Arabian peninsula north into Balkans. Even in their long decline they still proved remarkable resilient largely because no other European power would willing let another power conquer them. It took World War I to finally bring about their collapse and create what we think of as the modern Middle East.
Over the course of the 14th century the Ottomans pushed the Byzantine empire back and back until the only land they controlled was the city of Constantinople. Roger Crowley’s book details the rise of the Ottomans and the final last ditch battle of the Byzantines to hold them back.
Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923 by Caroline Finkel.
If there’s going to be an Ottoman reading list there has to be at least one “all encompassing” history. There are a lot to choose from but I think this is probably the most complete but at the same time very approachable. Plus I love the cover.
The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe by Andrew Wheatcroft.
There was a time when the expansion of the Ottoman empire looked all but unstoppable. They had conquered all of the Balkan Peninsula and in the 1600s where making a beeline for Vienna the capital of the Habsburg empire.
Ottomania: The Romantics and the Myth of the Islamic Orient by Roderick Cavaliero.
Throughout the 18th and 19th century and the threat of Ottoman conquest receded some Europeans became fans of Ottoman culture and style. In some cases where the culture and style didn’t fit European imagination they would simply create their own.
Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950 by Mark Mazower.
Ok I’ll admit I read this book because I read Alan Furst’s Spies of the Balkans. It’s still a very interesting book about a city that for many years was part of the Ottoman empire. It was a major destination for Sephardic Jews after they were expelled from Spain in the 1500s.
Everyone knows that World War I was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. What most don’t realize is the sociopolitical situation in the Balkans that led to that assassination was heavily affected by a series of wars between various ethic groups in the Balkans and their Ottoman overlords.
On the eve of World War I a group calling themselves the Young Turks (who had taken over the government of the Ottoman Empire) allied themselves loosely with the Germans. Through the efforts of the Germans and missteps of the English the Ottomans entered World War I on the side of the Germans and Austrians.
The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History by Raymond Kévorkian.
As the war went increasingly badly for the Ottomans the government looked for scapegoats and found them in the form of their own Christian Armenian citizens. Throughout the war and beyond Armenians and other Christian minorities were massacred, deported or put into labor camps.
Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul by Charles King
The end of World War I was the official end of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the modern Republic of Turkey. This book is particularly fun to read because of it’s descriptions of Istanbul in the 1920s.