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Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire

3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  747 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
Since the Turks first shattered the glory of the French crusaders in 1396, the Ottoman Empire has exerted a long, strong pull on Western minds. For six hundred years, the Empire swelled and declined. Islamic, martial, civilized, and tolerant, in three centuries it advanced from the dusty foothills of Anatolia to rule on the Danube and the Nile; at the Empire's height, Indi ...more
Published April 12th 1999 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 1998)
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There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things . Machiavelli

Of course Niccolo also said that conquering the Ottomans would be most difficult, but afterwards rather easy to hold or occupy. It is good being glib. I violated my latest reading plan over the holiday weekend.

Ottomans did not, on the whole, engage in trade; they worked in administration; their minorities, Gr
Jan 23, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, middle-east
Perhaps one of the reasons we are having so many problems relating to the Middle East and the Muslim world is that we choose to avert our gaze from it. Practically no one of my acquaintance knows anything about the Ottoman Empire, which lasted some 600 years. Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire by Jason Goodwin is an excellent place to start. It ranks with the classic The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross, which takes a more traditional chronologically structured approach to t ...more
Dec 06, 2014 Angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east, history
This book is sort of like a curiosity cabinet of travelogue and ethno-history, which is both its strength and weakness. You'll learn about obsessive clock-collecting, tulip madness, Istanbul's stray dogs, the sultan's silver slippers, madness and drownings and strangulation. Old-fashioned generalizations of ethnic character border on political incorrectness in a fun-but-wrong 19th century way. It's a theatrical, moody, stage-setting book. It's a zeitgeist book, more a diorama than a dissertation ...more
May 18, 2013 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
There's a lot of interesting detail here. Unfortunately, it's incredibly confusing. The author seems to believe that his readers are already intimately familiar with many of the people, battles, titles, etc of the Ottomans (in which case, why read a survey history book on the topic?). Since many of the sultans have the same name, this becomes extra confusing. Worse, there's only a vague nod towards linearity. Often, the century being discussed will jump from something in the 1500s in one paragra ...more
Never caught fire for me - the meandering style made it too difficult to see the connections between people and places that make history interesting to me. I really wanted to like this one more, as I enjoy Goodwin's fiction tremendously.
Pete daPixie
Jun 25, 2013 Pete daPixie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-ottoman
Almost seven hundred years of history here, and most of it completely new to me. 'Lords of the Horizons', published in 1998, chronicles the astonishing rise and fall of the Ottoman empire, from the late thirteenth century to the end of World War One.
From the birth of Osman Bey in 1281, which set a spark around the Sea of Marmara to engulf Byzantium in a Muslim fire that roared across the Dardanelles to the Adriatic, and in less than a century was consuming the Balkans. After Constantinople fell
Nov 13, 2013 GoldGato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, spring
From its beginnings as a nondescript tribe dwelling in the foothills of Anatolia to the dazzling victory over the Byzantines at Constantinople, the Empire of Osman (Ottoman) was the powerhouse of its day. It was an empire that adapted to the countries it overran, so that a day in the marketplace at Istanbul would find Turks, Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Jews, Serbs, Moors and others mingling together, regardless of race or language.

"There is a great difference between our loss and yours. You
David Berry
Jul 04, 2011 David Berry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jason Goodwin, previously a travel writer and later a novelist, turned in a very successful history. Don't expect footnotes, historiography, or debates about what really happened. This isn't the history you read in college. It belongs to that nearly lost genre, literary history. Its purpose is to impress on the reader with the splendor, magnificence, and difference of bygone societies and personalities. This Goodwin does spectacularly.

I was lucky enough to read this book in Istanbul. These stra
Zachary Schulz

Jason Goodwin's argues in Lords of the Horizons: A history of the Ottoman Empire that the Ottoman empire grew through militarism and strong central organization but declined into a failed state through the devices of ineptitude and greed. The monograph is divided into three parts: the first discusses origins of the Ottomans and their ascendancy through military campaigns, the second overviews a period of stagnation and change as policies shifted from military to political endeavors, and the thi

Aug 29, 2012 Tanya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, i-own-it
I read this book as an introduction to the Ottoman Empire, and as such I found it disappointing. Goodwin's approach is journalistic rather than historical, and jumps from theme to theme without giving any sort of chronological framework in which to mentally organize the information. Because I felt somewhat muddled as I was reading, I know I won't retain as much, although what was presented was quite interesting.
Lauren Albert
One of the best written histories I 've read. Very writerly. I sometimes got lost in the names but that's not the fault of the book. It probably would have helped if I knew more about the subject though I wouldn't discourage someone from reading it because they didn't. 9/09
Dec 06, 2012 Tahazen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Writing something that is as expansive as the history of the Ottoman Empire in 300 pages is a difficult task. Goodwin attempts this by thematic chapters that give bite-size information in a digestible form -- but even this format is difficult to master. The themes are not necessarily chronological and there is a lot of bouncing around between different time periods that at times is difficult to organize. The prose the author conducts is sometimes poetic, but other times plodding.

I finished the
Barksdale Penick
Jan 03, 2015 Barksdale Penick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this 350 page history of the Ottoman Empire while I spent my honeymoon in Istanbul. Our author has a little problem with try to write history in memorable and precious turns of phrase: "Just the facts, Sir". But he has a lot of good facts and I learned a lot about this empire which burst out of the East to overlord most all of the middle east and Mediterranean. My favorite fact is the Sultan only received foreign dignitaries in profile. It is a pretty fascinating tale that could be c ...more
Beaux Cooper
Apr 17, 2016 Beaux Cooper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll start this by saying I'm going off the path by reviewing this book. I don't read non-fiction recreationally. In fact, I was required to read this book for a class I am currently taking. That being said I easily give Lords of the Horizons five stars because of all the non-fiction and textbook related literature I have ever read, THIS one keeps the attention, even plays with some humor, and doesn't stop informing the reader until the final word and the book has ended.

The subject matter doesn'
Oct 21, 2015 Antenna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Apart from the obvious fact of being Islamic, the former Ottoman Empire is fascinating in its method of operating on very different lines from the rest of Europe. Instead of a power structure based on feudalism and inheritance, it developed the “boy tribute” system which took “the finest Christian youths” into the Sultan’s service, up to the level of the Grand Vizier. The problem of jockeying for the one position which did involve succession was solved by legal fratricide: the Sultan’s heir, the ...more
Oct 31, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best short overview of the Ottomans I have read. Very lively and full of fascinating bits of information, it makes the rise and decline of the empire seem like an exciting romp, and is not without humour. The army had a regiment of madmen, for example, who were used as cannon fodder in the front line, ‘because they didn’t mind’. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent fell in love with a blonde slave girl from the Caucasus called Roxana, and slept only with her until the day she died. Highly recomme ...more
Mar 28, 2016 Ehsan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The worst part of the book is that although the author has an understanding of Ottoman history but is totally oblivious of even the most basic concepts of islam wich makes the reading difficult as the ottoman history is interwoven with religion. for e.g the book states that shias follow the progeny of Hazrat Ali (RA), and sunnis follow the progeny of Hazrat Fatimah (RA). The author doesnt even seem to know that the progeny of both is the same.

Most of the incidents and events are qouted in bare
Jul 24, 2011 Dеnnis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Flow of conscience....I got very blurred memories from the nearly one thousand long history. Obviously you need to make some stresses or spikes in narration at the most focal points.

John Julius Norwich's 3-volume epic on Byzantium perfectly is a striking difference in its part dealing with Ottomans.

And I heard there's a better book on Ottoman Empire out there...
Nayef Ahmad
As a newcomer to Ottoman history, this book taught me a lot, and left me with the impression that the story of the Ottoman Empire is fascinating. Unfortunately, though, I was not impressed by the author's style or approach to organizing the content. The attempt to arrange chapters under themes ("War", "Cities", etc.) rather than chronological time creates a fragmented and confusing narrative. The author also has an incredibly bad habit of populating his descriptions of events and places with quo ...more
Oct 03, 2012 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I made a leisurely trip through this fascinating anthology on the most interesting empire in world history. Scholarly it certainly is, but with a such a relaxed tone it becomes accessible to the average Joe. and inspires me to sail to Istanbul and explore further.
Compilation of interesting anecdotes, with lost themes, dizzying timeline, based on mostly demeaning oservations of western travelers, and NO MAPS!!!! (although geography is essential to the tale). To be read only if necessary. (I was taking a class....)
Oct 13, 2008 Dergrossest rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very readable story of the Ottoman Empire which effectively covers approximately a millennium of history in a slim volume. Drags a little in the 3rd quarter, but the best final chapter of a book which I have ever read. Definitely worth a read.
I would not recommend reading this book unless you are moving to Turkey or you enjoy drab history books. I found out a lot of interesting facts and I am sure I will be glad I read it when I tour all of the ancient ruins and know what happened.
May 18, 2009 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Goodwin seems enthralled with his own style, at the expense of readership. The style at times captures the cosmopolitanism of the Ottoman Empire, but I would recommend that readers work through more straightforward histories first before this one.
Ernest Spoon
I won't go so far as to say this book sucked...Yeah, it sucked.

This is a general, introductory type history to a subject I personally know little about, and hoped to learn more, except I did not find it all that informative.

For starters the author, Jason Goodwin, throws out names of Renaissance European visitors to the court of the Ottoman sultan(?) like I'm supposed to be familiar with them. Perhaps if I went to school in the United Kingdom I might be aware to who is whom but, I did not.

Aug 06, 2012 Bella rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My friends really rated this but I found it rather confusing to follow as a history of the Ottomans, but the writer is a very accomplished storyteller,so much so that the abandoned dogs ending left me sobbing!
Aug 30, 2012 Fritz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The style is hard to follow -- Goodwin wanders from century to century. However, the story of the empire is fascinating. And it is a HUGE part of European history that is often overlooked in survey courses.
Mar 04, 2015 Pam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
oh dear oh dear. I truly LOVE Jason Goodwin's writing and, having just read Midnight at the Pera Palace, was very happy to go back even further...but, although the information is interesting to me - and enormously thorough vacillated between flip and JJNorwich deadening in the telling. And it did take me an ENORMOUS effort to 'get off' it' when I discovered that JG seemed to be - gasp - anti VENETIAN. That would not do for me who is passionately in love w/ Venice (while still being able to ...more
This is a remarkable and lively book that traces the full arc of the Ottoman Empire's history. It can be read as a prose poem and as a chronicle. Despite the story's labyrinthine quality, Goodwin is able to conjure the key driving forces behind the sultanate's rise and fall. But as the empire unravels, so does the animus that propels the narrative forward. The final centuries strain under Goodwin's florid style (mimicking the ornate patterns so typical for levantine handcraft) and the opaqueness ...more
A. Sacit
Oct 09, 2013 A. Sacit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A delightful read from cover to cover. Brilliant writing.
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Jason Goodwin studied Byzantine history at Cambridge University - and returned to an old obsession to write The Gunpowder Gardens or, A Time For Tea: Travels in China and India in Search of Tea, which was shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Award. When the Berlin Wall fell, he walked from Poland to Istanbul to encounter the new European neighbours. His account of the journey, On Foot to the Golden Hor ...more
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