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Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire


3.67  ·  Rating details ·  901 ratings  ·  99 reviews
According to the Ottoman chronicles, the first sultan, Osman, had a dream in which a tree emerged fully formed from his navel "and its shade compassed the world"-symbolizing the vast empire he and his descendants were destined to forge. His vision was soon realized: At its height, the Ottoman realm extended from Hungary to the Persian Gulf, from North Africa to the ...more
Hardcover, 704 pages
Published February 13th 2006 by Basic Books (first published 2005)
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Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Finkel gives a monumental account of the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire. I will never again feel that they were an obscure or exotic group. Before I read this book the Ottomans seemed so mysterious and distant. I had the pleasure of visiting Bulgaria in December 2014 and I was struck by the notion that for 500 years the Ottomans ruled Bulgaria and the Balkan peninsula. There are still Muslims in the Balkans and their influence is felt in the architecture, art, food and other cultural and ...more
As dry as the sands of Arabia...

As long as the Silk Road...

As heavy as the walls of Constantinople...

This is....Osman's Dream.

I knew Turkey was supposed to be sleep-inducing, but I thought that was because of the triptophan, not the history (oh he's clever!). Okay, that's being unfair for comedic (?) effect. This book has every single name and date you could want in a comprehensive history of the Ottoman Empire, which is good, particularly since there aren't many modern, detailed studies like
Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire, is a blow-by-blow account of the rise and fall of one of the world's most interesting Empires. The Ottoman's started as a tribal group under the leadership of Osman, carving out a space for themselves on the Western coast of Anatolia under the shadow of the waning Roman Empire (in Constantinople). The state grew rapidly, taking territory from fellow Turkic tribes in Anatolia, Greek city states along the coast of Turkey and the Balkans, and Slavic ...more
Alia Salleh
It took me some time to reach the end of this rather dry narrative of Ottoman history. Then again, it is the story of 600 years in 554 pages; one difficult, perhaps ambitious feat. And the fact that I understood most of it is a cause to thank her - it is readable without prior knowledge of Ottoman history.

Starting at the very beginning, from Osman I of when the Turcomen are gaining power in the region to the fall of the empire, and thus the Caliphate, the book tells of the rise and fall of
I read this mostly for the first 150 years, the wars with the russians during the 18th century, and the dismembering of the empire.
Overall, it's a good book, all the different regions of the empire are given attention, I also enjoyed reading about the Ottoman-Safavid relations and later on, the arabs. Warning: it's really, really dry, even for a history book.
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love Turkey, it's history fascinates me. This book is one of the best works on Ottoman empire ever written in English, so I'm going to read it to the very end. Inside there's many interesting details and illustrations.
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I recently started obsessing over the Byzantines and became curious about the empire that eventually defeated and replaced them. Like the Byzantines themselves, the Ottomans don't get a lot of love when it comes to popular, accessible history texts for the layman. It's a shame since they were every bit as impressive and cultured as their contemporaries, and the repercussions of their rule continue to be felt today in the Middle East. This book is a good overview for anyone who wants to fill in ...more
Omar Taufik
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was a journey I really enjoyed for 5 weeks.
With a very interesting preface the author prepares us for the long and exciting journey starting before 13th century Anatolia with the Turkmen tribe settlement then witnessing the birth of the Ottoman state and the long six century reign of the 36 Ottoman sultans ending 1922 with the abolishment of the sultanate and establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
The author even takes us further to end the journey in the year 1927
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-2015
(not yet finished with the book)
I am trying to understand the part of the Ottoman empire which this day I know best. I have the impression that the Turkish people are torn between the East and the West. Their sense of history is different than the history as we know in the West. I personally heard a Turk recounting the fate of the Armenians; the genocide ( Armenians, but also the general point of view) in the early 20th century. While hearing this and standing among the ruins of the medieval
Cathal Kenneally
It took longer than I expected; suffice to say, it covers a lot of detail in 550 odd pages of text for an empire that lasted longer than the Russian empire. How do you cover 6 centuries of history, even if it’s one country or empire? Still for anyone who wishes to study the Ottoman Empire this is a valuable resource. Comes with a list of ruling sultans through the ages and a significant timeline. Definitely one to keep
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
A massive narrative history of the Ottoman Empire. From the legendary founder of the Osmanli dynasty, an insignificant Turk warlord from Bursa, Anatolia, to a mighty Empire that stretched from Algeria to Iraq and from Yemen to the gates of Vienna. The initial advantages of the Ottomans that made them invincible were their relative tolerance to different cultures and religions, embrace of technological advancements (the first armies in Europe that made extensive use of firearms and cannons) and a ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Who could have imagined that an errant Central Asian tribe would go on to change the course of history?

Osman's Dream follows the course of the Ottoman Dynasty, as it grew from a local landowning tribe in Anatolia to the leaders of a state that went on to conquer what reminded of the Byzantine Empire and push into the Balkans. The dynasty ruled over a base of highly diverse subjects, from Protestant Hungarians, to Armenians, to Anatolian Turks, to Bedouins, and Sephardic Jews.

The various changes
Waste of time. far too much is spent on court intrigue and the boring lives of sultans at the expense of broader developments in the Ottoman Empire.
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Ottoman Empire was a chiefly agrarian state that for the majority of its lifespan was grounded in a respect for tradition and suspicion of innovation shared between its peasantry and elites. For over 150 years after Gutenberg the printing press was illegal in Ottoman realms in order to preserve the traditional craft and art of calligraphic books. (The law was overlooked to allow Christians to print books but they had a hard time of it too.) Their polity resembled the Roman empire and they ...more
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A really good introduction to the Ottoman Empire.
I recommend it to everybody interested.

If I had to mention the main advantage and the main disadvantage of the book I would summarize as follows:

Disadvantage: Finkel fell into the trap of underestimating the consequences of some acts of the late ottoman period. She did not do so by putting them into the context of that period but instead she did it in a way that indirectly reveals her attachment to modern Turkey. This is not obvious to a new
Lynn Dolan
Jun 23, 2015 rated it liked it
I actually started the book much earlier in the summer - and I should add in fairness, read it only in fits and starts whenever I needed a break from other material. The title was intriguing. Yet, I should have realized as soon as I picked up this hefty book and glanced at the tight font on its pages, that it would be a rigorous account of the Ottoman Empire - no lyrical descriptions to be had. It's like a big bowl of nutritious porridge. You rather "know" than "feel" that it is good for you and ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding book.Caroline Finkel’s writing style is absolutely flawless and mesmerizing.A great way to wrap six centuries of the great Ottoman Empire in a short space. ...more
Mar 07, 2010 added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
This was a little too ambitious for me right now.
This is the driest book in the world. There's no life behind the words. It was a slog but I got there in the end. I learned a lot about the Ottoman Empire, which was interesting, but it was SO DULL.
Ming Wei
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a great book, cannot rate this book high enough, excellent writing, centuries of history included, I quickly got submerged in this book and could not put it down, the Ottoman Empie is so interesting, and this book does the Empire proud. What be an excellent book, for any students of history at University or College, no editorial faults, no spelling faults that I could find, excellent from start to finish, this book as made me want to read further books about the Ottoman Empire, it was so ...more
Jackson Cyril
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Finkel's thesis, as I read it, is that the 'decline' of the empire began in the 16th century, with internal strife-- rebellious governors, unorthodox religious beliefs and the like. This strife was aggravated by the decentralization of power after Suleyman I, with power being held primarily by the Jannisary corps who deposed and named sultans at will (not unlike Rome's praetorian guards and the Romanovs' palace guards)-- and also because of a string of weak and under-aged Sultans in the 16th and ...more
Sep 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, islam
An impressive work of scholarship, but a real bear to read. This is truly a history book - it is primarily the history of the "great men" of the Ottoman empire, with cultural and religious history drawn in mostly when required by the text. No doubt anyone interested in Ottoman history or the history of the middle east would value it as a reference book. As a book to actually read from cover-to-cover though, it leaves something to be desired. First of all, although I'm not sure how this could ...more
Tony Gualtieri
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There is a lot of information crammed into these 600 pages, making for a dense but rewarding read. Ottoman history covers a vast swathe of time, stretching from competition with the Byzantine Empire to dismantlement by the British and French at the end of World War I, and geography, from Morocco to the Caspian Sea from Yemen to the outskirts of Vienna. That Finkel is able to coherently and cogently cover this extensive history is remarkable. Usually treated as a mysterious "other," the Ottoman ...more
Jan 18, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The subject of the book was an interesting one and provided some interesting insights into how the Ottoman Empire actually affected European history. The threat it posed, for example, to the Hapsburgs severely crippled the Hapsburgs in the Thirty Year War is something rarely mentioned in accounts of that conflict, nor do you often find mention of how the Protestant powers sought Ottoman aid in fighting the Catholic powers of Spain and Austria.

But despite all that, the book was probably too
Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Alot of the reviews on here seem to imply this is dry or boring, but I thought this the best history of the Ottoman Empire I have ever read-yes, including Lord Kinross' epic masterpiece.

By being purely the narrative of the state itself and only engaging with secondary topics as they become relevant, it avoids that obnoxious pitfall so common to contemporary histories of entire narrative-breaking chapters devoted solely to soft social issues like 'religion' or 'home life' and other things I have
Dec 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I learned a lot about the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire from this book. However, I think one of my main take away points is that this is a long, complex history, and reading one book about isn't enough to have it really sink in. I'd love recommendations for ther books on any part of Ottoman history.
Tom Nixon
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
My parents used to have (and I hope they still have) a Times Atlas of European History which I would read and look at almost religiously when I was kid and one of the forgotten states/empires that always fascinated me was the Ottoman Empire. It was crazy to think that Rome in one form or another persisted until 1453, when it was snuffed out by a rising Ottoman Empire- and the rise of the Ottomans was equally fascinating to watch unfold on the pages of the atlas. What would have happened had they ...more
Anthony Nelson
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Kind of like reading a really long wikipedia article.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
With a title like Osman’s Dream and a publication year of 2005, one might expect that this work by Caroline Finkel would be an updated take on the history of the Ottoman Empire that incorporates the most recent research into the sociocultural dimensions of Anatolian history. That is not the case, however, as this massive tome instead provides an in-depth political and diplomatic history of the empire from its foundation to its dissolution, one that focuses on grand figures and, often enough, its ...more
Timothy Dymond
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was holidaying in Istanbul during the Gezi Park demonstrations of 2013. They started as a protest against the AKP government’s redevelopment of Taksim Square, one of the last remaining green spaces in the city. They were building a shopping centre and a new Mosque there. The demonstrations coincided with Ramadan, so to draw people away from the protest, the city authorities located their free Iftar meals (the traditional breaking of the fast after sunset) in Sultanahmet Park on the other side ...more
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“To understand those who are culturally and historically different from us – rather than resorting to such labels as ‘evil empire’, ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘terrorist’ to mask our ignorance – is a matter of urgency. The greatest hubris is to ask why ‘they’ are not like ‘us’, to accept our cultural biases lazily and without question, and to frame the problem in terms of ‘what went wrong?” 1 likes
“But why should 1299 CE be considered the founding date of the empire? – there were no famous battles, no declarations of independence or storming of a bastille. The simplest explanations are often the most convincing: that year corresponds to the years 699–700 in the Islamic calendar. By rare mathematical coincidence, the centuries turned at the same time in both the Christian and Islamic calendars. What more auspicious year to mark the founding of an empire that spanned Europe and the Middle East?” 1 likes
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