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The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  2,589 ratings  ·  335 reviews
In 1914 the Ottoman Empire was depleted of men and resources after years of war against Balkan nationalist and Italian forces. But in the aftermath of the assassination in Sarajevo, the powers of Europe were sliding inexorably toward war, and not even the Middle East could escape the vast and enduring consequences of one of the most destructive conflicts in human history. ...more
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Basic Books
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Charles No.

The campaign in the Middle East was a side-show of the Great War. This book really shouldn't be attempted unless you have some background on the…more

The campaign in the Middle East was a side-show of the Great War. This book really shouldn't be attempted unless you have some background on the greater conflict. It assumes the reader already has context with 19th and the first decade of the 20th-century history.

Although the book is readable without any background, you'll likely be left wondering: "Who are these people?" and "Why did they do that?"

I recommend you read a general history of the war like Keegan's, The First World War or Tuckman's, The Guns of August first.


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Abubakar Mehdi
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When ever World War 1 is discussed, it is usually in a 'Western' context. What most people ignore or overlook, is that the impact of the 'Great War' on Middle East, was absolutely catastrophic. It literally shaped the modern middle east, and all the fault lines and regional conflicts that came to the fore after War War 2 are directly linked to War War 1 and the fall of Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire was founded by Osman 1 in 1299. Starting from 14th century, the Ottomans ruled a vast areas
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, islam
This is an excellent history. Well researched, well written, it provides a great deal to think about. I will note that, at times, I grew impatient with the detailed descriptions of battles. I should have preferred more information about the internal politics and social pressures inside the Ottoman Empire. I know, however, that for many readers, those same battle scenes are the core of the book. Each to her/his own.

My second Eugene Rogan history of the peoples of North Africa and Western Asia.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I feel bad for the Ottoman empire in a sense. It was a large, long lasting and incredibly diverse empire. It was THE European boogie man (when they weren't worried about the Hapsburg) for centuries and destroyed the last vestiges of the Roman Empire. It was a super power and major influence on the course of history, both European and Near Eastern. Just look at how big it reached at its height:


But almost all Americans know about Ottomans (apart from they are a great thing to prop your feet up on)
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwi
The Ottoman Empire was born of war, it’s frontiers drawn through centuries of conquest and conflict. However, only in November 1914, as the Ottomans entered the first global war, did they face the threat of war on all their frontiers at once. With over 7,500 miles of borders and coastlines spanning the Black Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean, the Ottomans presented their enemies with many points vulnerable to attack.

The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle

When ISIS swarmed into northern Iraq in the summer of 2014, the hashtag they were using on their social media posts was #SykesPicotOver. Using a First World War diplomatic agreement to get traction on your terrorism – now that's some legacy. Of all the books I've read on 1914-18 since I started this centennial reading project, this is by far the one that had the most unexpected and startling things to teach me about how the conflict's repercussions can be seen in today's world: here in the
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, Eugen Rogan takes us on a journey through the Middle East, starting from the Unionists taking power untill the end of the hostilities in the Middle East in 1918. Highly readable, objective combined with a good inside literary sources makes this an excellent read. If you want to understand the Middle Eastern situation nowadays, this is a good start. A solid 4 stars.

Fearing Russia to take oppurtunity from the fact that the Western Powers were busy slaughtering themselves in the
May 06, 2015 marked it as to-read
This seems to be a good one volume history of the end of the Ottoman Empire, and the beginning of Modern Middle East. Professional reviews so far have been encouraging:

Review in The Guardian:

Review in The Telegraph:

Review in The New York Times:

Review in The Spectactor:
Jill Hutchinson
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
After I read the review of this book posted by my GR friend, Jerome, I was at a loss to say much more.
This is, as the title indicates, the history of the collapse of the once powerful and huge Ottoman Empire which by 1914 (the beginning of WWI) was faltering due to the years of conflict with the neighboring Balkan countries. Horrible things were happening within the Empire with the genocide of the Armenian people being the worst and after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand at Serajevo, the
Mac McCormick III
Apr 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, military
Over the last few years, as the centenary of World War I approached and began, I've been reading a number of books on World War I. When I saw Eugene Rogan's The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, I was immediately interested in it. With the exception of the Gallipoli Campaign, the war against the Ottomans is part of World War I that doesn't get a lot of attention. After reading Anderson's Lawrence in Arabia, I've been looking for more books that covered the Middle Eastern ...more
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was just reading a piece in today’s New York Times, reporting on interviews with President Obama that appeared in The Atlantic:

“Mr. Obama’s frustration with much of the Arab world is not new, but rarely has he been so blunt about it. He placed his comments in the context of his broader struggle to extract the United States from the bloody morass of the Middle East so that the nation can focus on more promising, faster-growing parts of the world, like Asia and Latin America.

‘If we’re not
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4,5/5 stars
May 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a really great one volume history of the fall of the Ottoman Empire, focusing mostly on their involvement in the various fronts of WW1. To a great extent, certainly more so than David Fromkin's history of this period, Rogan has also cited Ottoman sources themselves, to give a sense of history from their perspective.

Some of the great insights are the length to which the Ottomans actually tried to stay out of WW1, the political machinations which eventually pushed them into it, and the
Bob Duke
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A good read and the author attempts to give a balanced perspective. However it is reliant on sources from the Entente side. This is not the authors fault as the Turkish Government makes access to official records very difficult due to such sensitive matters as the Armenian Genocide. The shadow of this conflict still falls across former Ottoman lands.
Heinz Reinhardt
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Conflicts do not occur because a state is strong, strength is, after all, the greatest deterrence to violence. Conflict occurs when a state has weakened, or is perceived to have become weakened. In the case of the formerly mighty Ottoman Empire, prior to the First War, they were both weakened in perception, as well as in reality.
Internal corruption, the rise of ethnic nationalism among its occupied peoples, especially the Greeks, Slavs, Armenians and Arabs, as well as a slowly decaying military
A comprehensive and well-written account of the First World War in the Middle East and Asia Minor, focusing on the war effort of the Ottoman Empire. The Middle East as we know it today is still based on the outcome of that war, and those who seek to understand how and why the region's conflicts have emerged need, at the very least, a nodding acquaintance with the campaigns in Mesopotamia, Gallipoli, the Caucasus and Palestine/Syria; how and why they were fought and who won. The various ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
A well-written, nuanced and refreshing history of the Middle Eastern theater, although it’s more about the era’s politics than the military campaigns, and often it seems like Rogan covers the British more than the Turks.

Rogan tells his story through the eyes of all kinds of participants and in a very readable, judicious, and accessible style, mostly chronological with only a few main arguments. Rogan describes the history of the Young Turks, the strategy of pan-Islamism, and the Turk and Arab
Gumble's Yard
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Clearly written and enjoyable account of the Great War in the Middle East, which draws extensively on eyewitness accounts (many from non Europeans) and Arabic and Ottoman sources to present a deliberately balanced view of the war on the ottoman front which the author points out both due to where it was fought and the nationalities that fought there was the Front that turned a European war into a genuine World War.

The book starts by setting out the lead up to the war in the Ottoman Empire - the
Athan Tolis
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
There’s a ton of information and loads of opinion in this beautifully written book, but not terribly much cohesion when it comes to the telling of the story itself. Rather, what we have here is a collation of twelve very separate chapters about the six theaters of war that transformed the Great War into WWI: the Caucasian front, the European front (chiefly the Dardenelles), the North African front, the Arab Peninsula, Mesopotamia and what we call today the Middle East. You also get a chapter ...more
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The Ottoman Empire was one of the most unique empires that the world has ever seen. Multiethnic and multiconfessional, the empire was founded in Turkified Anatolia and absorbed what remained of the dying Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire to form a state with heavily influences from both the Persianate Islamic world and the Hellenic Christian one. Over the centuries it grew and occupied some of the most important regions on the Eurasian continent, before falling into decline.

This book explores the
Leora Wenger
Nov 10, 2015 rated it liked it
This book has a great deal of information, and I learned quite a bit about battles, fights in the Dardanelles and the Armenian Genocide. However, some of the book is indeed opinion, and opinion that may be based on incorrect facts. Here's an example, about the Balfour Declaration: "... that would not adversely affect the rights and interests of the indigenous non-Jewish population." That's quite controversial: who indeed are the indigenous people when it comes to the area now called ...more
Omar Amer
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely fascinating read.
Eugene Rogan provides a detailed account of the fateful decisions Enver Pasha and the Young Turk leadership took causing their downfall and that of an empire. However the author writes as if speaking from the Entente perspective, more specifically the British. He is also highly critical of the Turkish treatment toward Armenians without providing too much in the way of sources.
Nick Pengelley
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly researched and beautifully written. I've read so much about the Great War in the Middle East, but nothing that I can recall which provided any insight from the largely faceless and unseen enemy. With the centenary of the Gallipoli landings approaching this is indeed a welcome addition to the canon.
Mar 08, 2015 marked it as to-read
Since no one else have reviewed this book yet,
The Economist did write a pretty agreeable review:
victor harris
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A comprehensive analysis of the diplomatic and military dynamics of the long-standing Ottoman Empire as it was reeling in its final stages. Rogan does an excellent job of connecting the intricate web of events, both in how the Ottoman Turks entered the war on the side of the Central Powers and how their role would affect the strategy of the Allies, most prominently, leading to the fateful decision to launch the Gallipoli campaign.
Once the dominant power in the Middle East, the Ottomans had
Jul 30, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a readable account of the entire duration of the Ottoman Empire's participation in the First World War. It's probably unfair to expect more from a book with such a broad scope, but I found myself wanting more than just the highest level political history and accounts of military developments. Rogan's frequent deployment of excerpts from contemporaries' firsthand accounts effectively provides some sense of what the participants experienced. The text suffers from repetition, which may be ...more
T. Fowler
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This is an epic story that explains all aspects of the First World War in the Middle East. And there are many aspects - military campaigns from Gallipoli to the Caucasus to Mesopatamia to Arabia to Palestine. All well written and easy to follow, well researched using not only English sources but Arabic and Turkish as well. The political background is also described, without getting bogged down in details, but sufficiently explained to leave one with a anger that the victors of the war (Britain ...more
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-east
Very good read, almost but not quite epic battle scenes and well researched, describes WW1 from an Ottoman point of view.

It served as a good background companion to the game of "Ottoman Sunset" that I played some years ago which now gives added depth to this book.
Book (and game) convey the despondancy of the Ottoman position in the Great War that ultimately tore it up, leading to the current situation after six centuries of relatively quiet.

Insightful: e.g. not all in what's now Jordan were in
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, history
Eugene Rogan is a lecturer in history at Oxford University and the director of its Middle East Centre. Rogan is a Brit, and that means that WWI is the World War: in that war the Brits suffered many more deaths and much more exhaustion of treasure than did America, and they and the French had a three-year slog in the killing fields before we came along and “won” the war. His splendid The Fall of the Ottoman Empire: The Great War in the Middle East was prompted by a visit to Gallipoli, where he ...more
Emmanuel Gustin
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There is a massive amount of popular history about the First World War, in the form of books, television documentaries, radio, and even plays. But this particular book covers events that are both very important, with a very obvious impact to the present day, and almost unknown. As a general introduction to the fate of the Ottoman Empire, which still encompassed the modern Middle East, this works well. These event that are described are very varied and it could be quite confusing, but Rogan ...more
Larry Schwartz
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-i
1) I know a lot more stuff now than I did when I started the book.
2) The chapter on the Armenian Genocide just about did me in.
3) I re-watched "Laurence of Arabia" after I finished the book, with a bit more understanding. That film is one fine hagiography and a pretty lousy biography.
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Eugene Rogan is Director of the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. He took his B.A. in economics from Columbia, and his M.A. and PhD in Middle Eastern history from Harvard. He taught at Boston College and Sarah Lawrence College before taking up his post in Oxford in 1991, where he teaches the modern history of the Middle East.
“Muslim crowds massacred thousands of Armenians in the south-eastern city of Adana. The roots of the pogrom dated back to the 1870s. In the course of the First World War, that hostility would metastasize into the first genocide of the twentieth century.” 1 likes
“Like the Armenians, the Assyrian Christians of the Ottoman Empire were accused of making common cause with Russia at the outset of the Great War. The Assyrians are a Christian ethnic group who speak dialects derived from ancient Aramaic. For centuries they lived among the Kurdish communities in the border regions of the modern states of Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq. The Nestorians, Chaldeans, and Syrian Orthodox Christians are the main Assyrian denominations.” 1 likes
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