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4.38  ·  Rating details ·  1,023 ratings  ·  91 reviews

The definitive biography of the father of modern Turkey, a powerful figure in the still-unfolding drama of the Middle East.

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War came the emergence of new nations, chief among them Turkey itself. It was the creation of one man, the soldier-statesman Mustafa Kemal, who dragged his country from the Middle Ages t

Kindle Edition, 560 pages
Published May 3rd 2012 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (first published November 1964)
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MY Turk but born in Thessaloniki, belonged Ottoman Empire at this time.
Turk but born in Thessaloniki, belonged Ottoman Empire at this time.
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Average rating 4.38  · 
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 ·  1,023 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Ozlem Moore
Shelves: history
How many people do you know who have
- defeated a super-power
- established themsleves a superior military tactician
- removed a corrupt imperial power
- revitalised education and the language
- reformed the writing system by changing scripts
- replaced a religon-based legal system with a modern secular constitution and set of laws
- revived national, civic and architectural pride
- negotiated the peaceful transfer of the popoulations of two major regions without further loss of life
- established a rep
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I read this book many years ago, yet it has stuck with me as one of the best biographies I've ever read. He dragged Turkey, kicking and screaming, into the modern era, and tried his darnedest to get it to embrace parliamentary democracy before kicking the bucket himself at an early age, unfortunately, from cirrhosis of the liver. In a sense, he was their version of George Washington, as someone once put it, trying to provide some perspective for an American. But Ataturk wasn't a founding father ...more
Jun 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the İstanbul bookstore where I bought this book, I also found a newer biography of Atatürk written in 2000 by Andrew Mango. I stood there for at least 15 minutes browsing through the two books, deciding which one to buy. Eventually I chose the Kinross version, even though it was written more than 40 years ago. It had a personal familiarity with both the man and his age that was extremely compelling, in a way that Mango's very precisely analytical -- and therefore rather sterile -- volume lack ...more
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a distressing sameness to most biographies: They begin with their subject's birth, follow him or her through a (mostly) promising youth, until the apogee is reached. From there, it is all downhill. So it is with Lord Kinross in Ataturk. Its subject, Mustafa Kemal, a.k.a. Kemal Ataturk, is the re-inventor of Turkey. What in his youth was a decrepit and moribund empire, he turned into a foward-looking republic (with the overtones of a benign dictatorship) that still reveres him some sixty ...more
A revealing account of the life of one of the most interesting(and overlooked in the West) men of the past century.

Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, who built a modern nation out of a medieval backwater by what amounted to sheer force of will, was a truly amazing giant of history.

Kinross clearly has a great admiration for the man, and I worried at first that the text would be little more than hero worship. But he isn't afraid to show that Ataturk, while being brilliant, progressive
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A truly enlightening book for me, such an amazing leader, with such foresight and skill, I wonder why so little is know of him when his contribution was so significant. Personally I would have like the author to have given more attention to his political and reforming years, section three of the book. His reforms were very far reaching and I would have liked to have learned more of this era of his life.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a very quaint book that hasn't aged well. The very first line insists on Kemal's "fair" skin and there is numerous mentions of blood and race, such as the "pure fair" blood of his mother etc. The author has a very imperialist view and speaks condescendingly of all non-Western Europeans, frequently speaking of how "primitive" and "savage" the Turks are (the Greeks and Arabs don't come out much better).

The historical method is also out of date as there is little use of sources and instead
Rick  Blasiak
A little hard to get into because of the numerous place-names that I was unfamiliar with and because this was my first reading of the ottoman -- turkish republic era. Kemal presents lots of contradictions and it seems hard to decipher how he came to hold all of the contraary views at the same time. A womanizer who did a lot for the emancipation of women. Someone who advanced the republic and democratic ideals but was ruthless with a political purge of opponents. Someone who apparently loved Turk ...more
Philip Lee
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Kinross’s biography of Atatürk is a tome I've been avoiding for the best part of thirty years. Lackadaisically, I suppose, but mostly it's been from mild trepidation. Not that I expected the book to be full of awkward truths, since it has a kind of authorised status here in Turkey. In spite of its hallowed subject, I’m pretty sure the Turkish translation would be uncensored. My fear is of joining the Atatürk cult, his gradually diminishing band of diehards.

As a foreigner – we Brits have to admit
An interesting read, bogged down with Orientalism and always written under the assumption of its basic premise: that Atatürk was by and large an admirable and great, if flawed, man.

Would like to read again.
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
Couldn't finish this. As is the problem with many biographies, way too much detail to avoid boring a reader who is not fascinated with the subject. ...more
Wesley  Gerrard
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was from humble beginnings. He lived through a critical period of Turkish history, witnessing the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire and making it possible for the modern secular, Western-focused nation state of Turkey to phoenix itself from the Ashes. Atatürk was a military man and although very lucky, his innovative and dedicated intellect assisted in him being Turkeys only undefeated senior commander during World War 1 and their last bastion of defence as plunderers ...more
Robert Bram
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be a highly compassionate view of Atatürk's life.

Patrick Kinross’ narration is insightful and reads like a story; very different from a dry historical text presenting fact after fact. He draws a rich picture of the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in terms of the changing political, religious and social landscape of his country in the first quarter of the 20th century. Atatürk literally created the nation of Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire as World War 1 re-drew th
Oct 03, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Given that President Erdogan seems to think he's the reincarnation of Ataturk... ...more
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing life at an amazing time in history. Very thorough account of all of Kemal’s triumphs and his many sins. Unfortunately, it glossed over the atrocities of war and the Armenian genocide.
Erçağ Pinçe
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First, I read bits and pieces from here and there about the inclination and sympathy of the author towards Atatürk regarding his glories during WWI and the Turkish war of independence. According to several resources, Sir Kinross' work is very much biased which uplifts Atatürk's position to a god-like Übermensch in the eyes of Turkish people.

Then, after reading the last few chapters, I found out quite a negative portrait of Atatürk, a tenacious man who easily holds grudge on others, a lonely man
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Terry Quirke
Enjoyable and informative, but dated. The book is roughly 50+ years old now and is reflected in some of the areas it skims over probably due to lack of access and information at that time (such as the Armenian genocide), but it still provides a good primer to how modern Turkey cam to be and the influence Ataturk had upon its creation and culture. I'd like to try and get a more modern and up-dated version of this story now as it is quiet an interesting area and whatever his faults, Ataturk had a ...more
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Turkey was born, Mustafa Kemal was the founding father. A political and military genius, alcoholic, and much more. To understand modern-day Turkey, one must start with Ataturk.
David Noel
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent introdution to the life of the founder of modern Turkey. Ataturk is a complex figure, an autocrat (one might even justifiably say dictator) deeply committed to transforming his country into a liberal democracy, he succeeded in creating a modern nation, and for a time it seemed a secular one, that would progress towrd multi-party democracy. There is no way to understand Turkey in the 20th and 21st centuy without understanding Ataturk and his impact, and this is a good foundation for ...more
David Fitzpatrick
Though bearing an unnecessary 200 or so pages, the book nevertheless paints a comprehensive and detailed picture of one of the more highly influential soldiers and statesmen of the last 100 years. Kinross doesn't shy from showing the sometimes ruthless and unstable sides of the hero. Ultimately, the mass amount of detail and writing flourishes convey his respect for a shrewd tactician and transformative, if autocratic, politician- one responsible for creating a more global Turkish state. ...more
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be fairly dry and full of military stories which show Kemal as a larger than life war-hero more than as a statesman. For a time with so much turmoil as the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the author hardly addresses the larger political situation and also falls for a great deal of western idealist tropes and orientalism. After reading this, I am more confused than ever in trying to understand Turkish history and the evolution of modern Turkey.
Michael Macdonald
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: balkans
Detailed traditional biography of the father of the Turks

Very detailed and old-fashioned, this epic history captures the strange autocratic personality of Kemal Ataturk. Excellent insight into a capricious and thoughtful leader, this is traditional historical narrative at its best.
Severn Mo
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read, but can feel a bit dated at times. As well Balfour appears to go down the path of hero worship, where he decries the political intrigue that Ataturks competitors were engaged in, which was the exact same variety as Kemal's. ...more
Murat Sulukan
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this book is very good a masterpiece book about explain to first 30th years of 20th century. Although wrote by an English researcher and historian, take attention be unbiased. Absolutely, I recommended.
Michael Scott
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
This was a revelation for me. I arrived at the book knowing of Ataturk's name and little else. His story is epic and astonishing. An imperfect man who tried to perfect his country between and after the World Wars. Ataturk's accurate analysis of the state of Europe prior to the Second World War is chilling but also displays his deep knowledge of political affairs in the 1930's. I learned an incredible amount about Turkey, Russia, Greece and the Middle East. The meddling hands of Great Britain and ...more
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good
Sebastian Tate
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Omar Taufik
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-challenge
This was a book I really enjoyed reading !
An autobiography of the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founder of the republic of Turkey, a history of the last half century of the Ottoman empire and first two decades of the Turkish Republic.
The book is a journey starting with the birth of Mustafa Kemal in late Ottoman Salonica going through his bringing up, his Ottoman military career, war of independence, establishment of the republic .. ending on his deathbed in Dolmabahçe palace Istanbul November 1
Oct 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kinross’ biography of Atatürk is everything which you could ask for of a biography, and is written with a thoroughness which is enabled only by the author’s unapologetic admiration for Atatürk. I make this last point with no criticism, Atatürk is a man worthy of intense admiration, and his existence alone makes it difficult for me to fully refute the idea of Great Man history. This biography is definitely written with this in mind, and through learning of Atatürk’s life you’ll also be injected w ...more
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John Patrick Douglas Balfour, 3rd Baron Kinross (1904–1976) was a Scottish historian and writer noted for his biography of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and other works on Islamic history.

He studied at the University of Oxford.
In 1938, he married Angela Mary Culme-Seymour, daughter of George Culme-Seymour and Janet (née Orr-Ewing) and former wife of the artist John Spencer-Churchill. They were divorced in

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“Greatness consists,’ he said, ‘in deciding only what is necessary for the welfare of the country, and making straight for the goal. … In the belief that you are not great, but small and weak, and expecting no help to reach you from any quarter, you will in the end surmount all hindrances. And if any man, after that, calls you great, you will simply laugh in his face.” 1 likes
“Sooner or later indignation against such oppression and its accompanying corruption was bound to flare up into revolt.” 0 likes
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