Billy's Reviews > Arabs and Young Turks: Ottomanism, Arabism, and Islamism in the Ottoman Empire, 1908-1918

Arabs and Young Turks by Hasan Kayali
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's review
May 08, 08

bookshelves: middle-east
Read in November, 2007

In Arabs and Young Turks, Hasan Kayali argues that previous historical scholarship on the advent of Turkish nationalism have been from an outsiders’ perspective. Kayali’s work will appeal to political scholars of the region, as it aptly explains Ottoman government policies in Arab populated regions while simultaneously showing the transformation of these policies at century’s outset. Central to this argument is the often overused and little understood moniker “Young Turks.” This title assumes a nationalism inherent in young revolutionaries of the early 20th century. Kayali takes great care to point out this oversimplification, especially by using the example of the Committee of Union and Progress (or CUP). This “conspiratorial constitutionalist society” started the 1908 revolution in Turkey.

Kayali attempts to prove this thesis with a thorough examination of documents from the central government, parliament, and the “capital’s contemporary press.” Also, outside sources add to the argument that outside countries viewed the events in early 20th century turkey as decidedly nationalist in nature, a point of view that obstructs the viewpoints of Arabs in the Ottoman empire. In sum, nationalism was not central to the arguments of Young Turks; instead, the points of view of this and other political organizations were manifold and far from well delineated. Kayali’s argument is well researched and most likely valid, but also boring as hell. He does show how Orientalism has been prevalent in previous scholarship of the incipient Turkish nation-state, but you'll need a lot of Turkish coffee to get through this book. Recommended only to specialists.

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