The history of the Ottoman Empire spanned more than seven centuries. At the height of its power, it stretched over three continents and produced marvels of architecture, literature, science, and warfare. When it fell, its collapse redrew the map of the world and changed the course of history. Shadow of the Sultan’s Realm is the story of the empire’s dissolution during a tuThe history of the Ottoman Empire spanned more than seven centuries. At the height of its power, it stretched over three continents and produced marvels of architecture, literature, science, and warfare. When it fell, its collapse redrew the map of the world and changed the course of history. Shadow of the Sultan’s Realm is the story of the empire’s dissolution during a tumultuous period that climaxed in the First World War. In its telling are battles and campaigns that have become the stuff of legend—Gallipoli, Kut, Beersheeba—waged by men who have become larger than life: Enver Bey, the would-be patriot who was driven more by ambition than by wisdom; T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), the enigmatic leader of an irregular war against the Turks; Aaron Aaronsohn, the Jewish botanist-turned-spy who deceived his Turkish and British allies with equal facility; David Lloyd George, the prime minister for whom power meant everything, integrity nothing; Mehmet Talaat, who gave the orders that began the Armenian massacres; Winston Churchill, who created a detailed plan for the Gallipoli campaign, which should have been the masterstroke of the Great War; Mustafa Kemal, a gifted soldier who would become a revolutionary politician and earn the name Atatürk; Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary who would promise anything to anyone; and Edmund Allenby, the general who failed in the trench warfare of the western front but fought brilliantly in Palestine. Daniel Allen Butler weaves the stories of the men and the events that propelled them into a compelling narrative of the death of an empire. Its legacy is the cauldron of the modern Middle East....more
Hardcover, 302 pages
September 1st 2011
by Potomac Books
(first published December 31st 2010)
In its 600 year history, the Ottoman Turkish Empire defeated some of the foremost powers of its day, and ruled a vast territory and bewildering array of peoples, from Algerians to Armenians and from Hungarians to Sudanese. By the eve of World War I, though, the tired and corrupt sultanate was snidely called "the sick man of Europe" by diplomats from newer empires--Britain, France, Germany, and Russia--who were waiting gleefully to carve up the corpse of the empire when it finally collapsed.
And tIn its 600 year history, the Ottoman Turkish Empire defeated some of the foremost powers of its day, and ruled a vast territory and bewildering array of peoples, from Algerians to Armenians and from Hungarians to Sudanese. By the eve of World War I, though, the tired and corrupt sultanate was snidely called "the sick man of Europe" by diplomats from newer empires--Britain, France, Germany, and Russia--who were waiting gleefully to carve up the corpse of the empire when it finally collapsed.
And that is what eventually happened, but it didn't happen exactly like the Europeans thought it would. Weakened as it was by the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 and by endemic corruption in the bureaucracy, the only smart move for the Ottomans at the outbreak of World War I was to stay neutral; instead, seduced by Imperial Germany (who made no secret of its intention to turn Turkey into a vassal state), the Three Pashas who were the de facto rulers of the Sultanate entered the war on the side of the Axis Powers. As unready as the Ottoman military was--as demonstrated by its failure to protect Turkish territory from the puny Greeks and Hungarians during the Balkan Wars--getting into combat with the powerful armies of Britain and France was apparently the last thing a rational government would undertake. This appeared to have been borne out by the poor performance of the Ottoman army against the British in Egypt and (initially, at least) in Mesopotamia; but to the surprise of the world, the Turks fought the Allies to a standstill at Gallipoli and managed to surround and capture a large British/Indian force at Kut in Iraq. The Turks, it seemed, had redeemed themselves and become a force to be reckoned with in the highest councils of Allied war planners.
Butler points out, and I had never considered, that this would have been the perfect moment for Turkey to exit the war from a position of strength. The Sultanate's prestige hadn't been higher in centuries, and the Allies would probably have made major concessions--perhaps even of territory--in order to close down the far-flung theaters in the Middle East and bring those troops to the hard-pressed Western Front in France. Instead, the Three Pashas got greedy and decided to press for even greater gains, and this proved to be their empire's undoing. Their military fortunes were all downhill in the last half of the war, and by the time Germany and Austria-Hungary capitulated in late 1918, the Turkish Army was devastated, the economy was in tatters, and subject peoples all across the Empire were in revolt. The final fall of the House of Osman was inevitable, and swift.
The book's title promises to explain how the fall of the Ottoman Empire shaped today's Middle East. To the degree that the Ottomans always treated all non-Turks as second class citizens, one can understand the desire of its subject peoples for self-determination. But the real root of today's problems lies more in the actions of the Allies, either by breaking promises to groups like the Arabs to establish various homelands, or by drawing arbitrary national boundaries that did not take actual ethnic boundaries into consideration (Iraq is a perfect example).
This book is very well written, well organized and with embraceable prose. I kind of thought that Butler went into a little too much detail of some of the battles and campaigns, but as a military historian myself I can understand succumbing to that temptation. The maps are adequate, but a book written in 2009 has no excuse for not having better ones, especially given the availability of talented and affordable cartographers these days....more
The title of this book is something of a misnomer, as little attention is paid to the Sultan or exactly 'his' realm. Rather it is very much focused on the malefic (as Butler portrays them) triumvirate of the ungainly, ill-favoured and awkward in bearing Young Turk government of 1908-1918 under Ismail Enver, Mehmed Talaat and Ahmed Djemal. All three would all be tried as war criminals in absentia, the first dying within years in a futile Turkmen revolt against the Soviet Union, the latter assassiThe title of this book is something of a misnomer, as little attention is paid to the Sultan or exactly 'his' realm. Rather it is very much focused on the malefic (as Butler portrays them) triumvirate of the ungainly, ill-favoured and awkward in bearing Young Turk government of 1908-1918 under Ismail Enver, Mehmed Talaat and Ahmed Djemal. All three would all be tried as war criminals in absentia, the first dying within years in a futile Turkmen revolt against the Soviet Union, the latter assassinated by Armenian assasins.
Butler's book is a rather short introduction to the subject of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and suitable for a person with no background knowledge. A rather simple, overall view will be gleaned from reading the book, but for a person with any more than a cursory knowledge of 19th-20th century history it will hardly shed new light on what is already known. What is interesting is Butler's closing remarks that this rather medieval anachronism bordering Europe may have prevented the most noisome developments of the 20th century. Butler argues that had the Ottomans remained neutral, or joined the allies, then Germany may have been defeated sooner, preventing a Bolshevik revolution and a Hitler to start World War Two. America would not have entered the war, rendering the world's political and economic system different to today's, particularly as there would have been no Cold War. Interesting musings.
Remarkable is how even on the wrong side of history, Turkey emerged profulgent five years of its 1918 capitulation. By the time the Turks abjured their Arab provinces, colonialism was on a steady declension to bring more pain than profit. This unwittingly relieved the Turks of a burden covetously purloined by English and French colonialists. The Arab provinces would themselves be lost by the allies within decades.
Turkey even retained more than it ought not to have, by a fusillade of of military victories against the Armenians, Greeks, Italians, thereby denying the Greeks of their ancestral lands of western Anatolia; preventing the existence of an Armenian state on Turkish soil; or even any Kurdish state at all. This from the Great War's hapless loser and Sick Man of Europe. The detrusion of the territorial rights of the non-Turkish peoples within Turkey rightly is a source of friction to this day. Butler recounts briefly the Armenian-Turkish war and the Greek-Turkish war following the Great War to explain how and why this came to be.
By almost inexorable strokes of luck, the Turks gained from these wars starting from a hopeless situation of a demilitarised, demoralized washout of the Great War. Turkey ended with a European territory larger than some European countries; 1.5 million Greeks were deported after the war with only half a million Turks deported from Greece; Kurdish independence will only remain a fantasy; and Armenia is rather insignificant dot on the world map. European indifference to the rights and expectations of Turkey's neighbors and minorities, incompetence, and exhaustion following a war that maimed a third of adult males in a previous war meant Ataturk was able to outmaneuver the shuffling victors of the Great war.
The verecund Sultans Mehmed V and VI (and Caliphs- political head- of every Muslims) seem to have little more purpose than a barren queen bee. The sultans are dolts, pensive only over matters of their multiple concubines and occupying a throne. Whether this is a truncation of a truth or just simplicity is something one has to research elsewhere. An image of impotence of the putative spiritual leader of the world's muslims is unelectable though. Arab populations resisted, even robbed, Ottoman armies in all the Arab provinces; the Egyptians did nothing to revolt against the British in favor of the Ottomans; and the Sherrif of Mecca, the co-spiritual head of Islam, invalidated the Mehmed V's invidious fatwa against Britain, France and Russia. The last sultan even acquiested to the most invidious terms of the treaty of Sevres imposed on the Turks. Butlers brief portrayal of supine Ottoman monarchs seems pellucid and credible.
An ongoing irritant in this book is a dearth of maps to illustrate the events are taking place. The Gallipoli peninsula, whose events encompass an entire chapter, is delineated on one map but with no pictorial reference to where it lies in the country. References are made to other geographical waterways but with no image of where the Aegean sea lies. That half of Armenian territory was consumed by the Kemal's forces would be more forcefully illustrated with a map.
The book commences a brief history of the Anatolian Turks from a millennia up to 19th century, when it unwillingly carried the appellation The Sick Man of Europe. Every civilization seem to have a Gold Age, and the Ottoman Golden Age began and ended with Suleyman the Magnificient in the 16th century. Butler recounts how with the Turks' first defeat at the Gates of Vienna, a steady declension in power, prestige and influence would mire the empire into one of defensiveness and a retrogressive overcompensation toward the past.
The eve of war and how Turkey stubbled into it follows, in a somewhat comical way whereby today we do not know whether the Ottoman government even intended to attack the Russian ports in the Black Sea (they were commandeered entirely by Germans). Chapters on Gallipoli, Lawrence of Arabia, and the Armenian massacres (Butler does not consider them a holocaust) follow. Rather detailed accounts of the campaigns in Sinai, Mesopotamia, and Syria explain the military defeat of the Ottomans, with the final chapters outlining how Ataturk managed to defy all odds and fill the lacuna of the map within the borders of a Republic of Turkey....more
Daniel Allen Butler is a maritime and military historian, the author (through September 2011) of nine books. Some of his previous works include Unsinkable: the Full Story of RMS Titanic (1998); Distant Victory: The Battle of Jutland and the Allied Triumph in the First World War (2006); The Age of Cunard (2003); The Other Side of the Night: The Carpathia, theCalifornian, and the Night the Titanic wDaniel Allen Butler is a maritime and military historian, the author (through September 2011) of nine books. Some of his previous works include Unsinkable: the Full Story of RMS Titanic (1998); Distant Victory: The Battle of Jutland and the Allied Triumph in the First World War (2006); The Age of Cunard (2003); The Other Side of the Night: The Carpathia, theCalifornian, and the Night the Titanic was Lost (2009); The Burden of Guilt: How Germany Shattered the Last Days of Peace, Summer 1914 (2010); and Shadow of the Sultan’s Realm: the Destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East (2011).
Educated at Hope College, Grand Valley State University, and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Butler served in the United States Army before becoming a full-time author. He is an internationally recognized authority on maritime subjects and a popular guest speaker, having given presentations at the National Archives in Washington, DC, the Mariners’ Museum, and in the United Kingdom. He has also been frequently included in the on-board enrichment series of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 andQueen Mary 2, as well as the ships of the Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines.
Butler is currently at work on three new projects: The Field Marshal, a biography of Erwin Rommel; The Last Field of Glory: Waterloo, 1815, a history of the Hundred Days; and But for Freedom Alone, the story of the Declaration of Arbroath.
A self-proclaimed “semi-professional beach bum,” Butler divides what little time he spends away from his writing between wandering long stretches of warm, sandy beaches, his love of woodworking, his passion for British sports cars, and his fascination with building model ships. After living and working in Los Angeles, California, for several years, Butler has recently relocated—permanently, he hopes!—to Atlantic Beach, Florida, where the beaches are better. ...more