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Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 1453-1924

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  304 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Mansel's sweeping narrative of the last five centuries of Constantinople reinterprets the history of the Ottoman Empire and provides an enthralling biography of "the city of the world's desire". "This is a work for the general reader which will also earn the admiration of all academic specialists in Ottoman history".--Sunday Telegraph (London) 8 pp. of photos.
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published November 1st 1996 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 1995)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  304 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Linda Steiger
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very long (400+ pages) and somewhat slow going, but quite a fascinating read. Difficult in that the first two-thirds of the book are structured thematically rather than chronologically: Mansel goes over and over the same four hundred years of history, gradually deepening one's understanding by shifting focus among various aspects of the cultural, political, and social history of the Osmanli dynasty, a dynasty that ruled a huge empire at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, an empire that ...more
A. Sacit
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Meticulously researched, this must be one of the best book written on Ottoman History by a foreign historian. Although the narrative of Mansel may seem a bit dry at times, the material is masterly organised and coherently presented, keeping the reader interested throughout. A must read for anyone interested in Turkish History, and the magnificent city of Istanbul.
J.M. Hushour
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you've never been there (and if you haven't you should go), you've probably at least heard that annoying song that will be sung by any within earshot of mention of either of the city's name. IstCon is a wonderful place and certainly deserves its own history. Mansel does a fine job encapsulating as much of the city's richness as he could. Those familiar with Middle Eastern history might find some parts dull (the Tanzimat? Yawn!), others might find the structure unsettling (it starts ...more
Nicholas Whyte
Jan 09, 2012 rated it liked it

a fascinating history of a fascinating city. After the first chapter, which describes the immediate aftermath of its conquest by the Ottomans in 1453, the first half of the book looks at various aspects of the city's life - religion, hammams, the role of the vizier and the dragoman - and then the second half is an entertainingly meandering narrative of events from 1700 to the twentieth century. I have worked a lot on various former fringes of the Ottoman
Eya Beldi
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: turkish-books
I used to love Istanbul but after this book I'm loving this city more than everything else.
Specially that I moved there and I was seeing all the places in the book during my read Architecture, palaces, roads and even people were embracing me to a better world where History and the present are one.
Constantinople is a place where I would give everything to stay and live here until the end of times
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is the story of a city and a dynasty. From the first moment of conquest in 1453 to the last moment of escape on the Orient Express in 1924.
Funny, that reminds me of a song... Istanbul, not Constantinople; so take me back to Constantinople; no, you can't go back to Constantinople; been a long time gone, Constantinople... :o)

"Like the city itself, he was a collection of contrasts: cruel and gentle, ruthless and tolerant, pious and pederast. He built schools and markets as enthusiastically as
Ming Wei
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book about a very interesting city, rich in history and culture. I really enjoyed reading this book, the Ottoman Empire is such a very interest part of history, this book would suit people interest in history. No editorial issues in the book, well written, really enjoyed it
Alicia Farmer
Interesting stuff, but I never do well with non-fiction. I think I need to take a class instead if I ever hope to understand this fascinating historical region.
Feb 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Comprehensive history of the city from its conquest by the Ottomans in 1453 until the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. The subject matter is fascinating; however, the writing is a bit dry. Also, the book was written 15 years ago, and there have been many changes since it was written. I made my first trip to Istanbul this past December, and found it to be a much more cosmopolitan (and also more Islamic) city than this author gives it credit for. I assume this is a reflection ...more
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting and informative read. However, the writing style made it difficult to follow. In my opinion, the author skipped from one person, topic or idea too many times making the reading "choppy". Probably would have given this five stars if the writing had been different. I definitely learned quite a bit about Constantinople and any time I learn from my reading I try to give the book at least four stars.
Tim Murray
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
What a slow book to wade through. Good books about history or travel make you want to go to these places and experience it (like Bill Bryson's books). After reading this I have absolutely no interest in going to Istanbul (this is purely a comment about the book, not the place which I'm sure is a great place to visit).
Apr 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This is a poorly written history so I will not end up reading it from cover to cover. I've been leafing through it as a reference, but even in that case its poor organization render it difficult to use as a reference book. Despite this it does have quite a bit of historical meat to it, and so I will struggle through these short comings and keep using it until I find a better one.
Colin Heber-Percy
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Anecdotal, sprawling, ultimately melancholy - like the great city itself.
Nathan Hatch
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What I liked

Very long and very detailed. Maybe I don't remember most of the details of what I've read, but the broad strokes and general themes are still there, due in large part to the way Mansel brings them to life with an abundance of details.

On a similar note: Tons of quotations from primary sources. It's fascinating hearing Constantinople of the past described in the words of people who were actually there. Mansel does a great job putting these quotes in context, so that the words speak
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
From the moment Mehmed the Conqueror rode into the fallen city on a white stallion in 1493 until the last Sultan fled the city on a midnight train in 1924, the Ottomans ruled their empire from Constantinople. Rather than a history of their reign, or even of the city itself, Mansel's book is a rich and colourful portrait of the world's first great cosmopolitan city.

While important historical moments are covered, particularly the rise and fall of Ottomon Constantinople, for the most part the book
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. It was interesting, and clearly well researched. But it was never particularly captivating in that way that makes you dread putting a book down. I learned a lot, but it was like pulling teeth to get through...and in the end it took me almost a year to slog through it. I've read another half-dozen books during this time. I'm very sorry to say so, but I'm glad to have this finally over with.
Stuart Miller
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Absorbing story of this city's and its citizens' roles in the history of the Ottoman Empire and Europe.
Spike Gomes
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If every book of history was as poetically evocative as this one is of the Ottoman city of Constantinople, then the field would likely be a lot more vital than it is today. That is by no means to say that Mansel's work isn't scholarly or academic. On the contrary, it is a paragon example of research, hundreds of sources cited, and all opinions well argued and conservative in nature, maybe a bit *too* conservative. That said, all that digging through dusty archives and antiquarian books in ...more
I started reading this in preparation for a vacation in Istanbul. The book is full of interesting information which enriched my trip, but I couldn't finish the book. It was too dense and the structure made it difficult for me to follow. It's divided by topic: palace life, religious life, trade, etc. While this made it interesting, but I found myself wishing for a straightforward, chronological history so I could keep the most important Sultan's straight (their names all seem to start with M: ...more
Klaas Roggeman
It took me almost half a year to finish... In the first half of the book Mansel applies a topical instead of chronological way of writing. I can understand this decision, but it causes quite a bit of confusion. In the latter chapters he opts for the chronological timeline and they feel much more lively and interesting.

Conclusion: very interesting, but rather muddled.
Lauren Albert
At once the most cosmopolitan and diverse of cities, old Constantinople also had the most diverse history. The savior of refugees from persecuting countries, then the persecutor of Armenians and others. I guess the city was always of two minds, with one mind or the other winning dominance at different points. Was it Turkish or Ottoman? Was it the Islamic capital or the capital of the east?
I am obsessed with Instanbul formerly Constantinople. This is an interesting book, though now I need to locate one about Constantinople during the time of Constantine, rather than during the Ottoman empire.
Nov 06, 2009 rated it liked it
This book was pretty thick, but it had lots of little-known facts in it. It tended to be rather plodding, however. The part about the siege that ended the Byzantine Empire and installed the Ottomans was well done.
Mar 12, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Very confusing to follow, and information wasn't presented in a very orderly manner. As a consequence, I kept falling asleep, and finally abandoned it. Perhaps the author was trying to take on too big a piece of the history--I believe it was intended to span 500-700 years!
Apr 16, 2011 rated it liked it
For sure, this is a comprehensive history of Istanbul, but I found it hard to keep going. It seems like an endless collection of facts, without much to liven it up.
Pinar Gungor
Mar 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful read, it is never boring eventhough it is about 600 pages.
Fazackerly Toast
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I HAVE to go back to Istanbul!
Tim Mitchell
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite cities in the world. I can't help but read this book.
May 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Moving through at snail's pace between other books, but fascinating stuff.
Carl Yirka
Aug 17, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
So far very enjoyable; a good read before our October trip to Istanbul. lots of facts (reading with pencil in hand) and will need to take some notes on the text.
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Philip Mansel is a historian of courts and cities, and of France and the Ottoman Empire. He was born in London in 1951 and educated at Eton College, where he was a King’s Scholar, and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Modern History and Modern Languages. Following four years’ research into the French court of the period 1814-1830, he was awarded his doctorate at University College, London ...more
“Here and there the great city takes as it were a breathing time in the country, and then begins again thicker, livelier, more highly coloured” 0 likes
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