Thursday, April 16, 2015

How the Ottomans Ruined the 20th Century

World War I was only a global conflict when the Ottoman Empire joined the fray. Those consequences—from genocide to new borders—are still felt today.

After reading the fascinating initial chapter of Eugene Rogan’s new history of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, I was struck with a recurring thought: The wonder is not so much that this sprawling 600-year-old Muslim empire fell victim to the convulsions of world conflict in 1918, but that it somehow managed to survive at all as a world power up to the war’s opening salvos. Founded by Central Asian Muslim tribes in 1299, at its height in the late 17th century the empire spanned three continents, taking in the Balkans in southern Europe, Arab lands from Mesopotamia to Morocco, and much of Asia Minor. Since the beginning of the 18th century Istanbul found itself almost continually at war with Europe’s imperial powers.