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Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,066 ratings  ·  144 reviews
For six hundred years, the Ottoman Empire swelled and declined. Islamic, martial, civilized, and tolerant, it advanced in three centuries from the dusty foothills of Anatolia to rule on the Danube and the Nile; at its height, Indian rajahs and the kings of France beseeched the empire's aid. In its last three hundred years the empire seemed ready to collapse, a prodigy of ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by Picador (first published 1998)
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Patricia Originally in Great Britain and thereafter in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa....

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 ·  1,066 ratings  ·  144 reviews

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Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I chose this book as I wanted an introductory overview on this peculiar and fascinating polity, with the objective to gain a better knowledge of one of the main players in Middle Eastern and Balkan history, a multi-ethnic and complex Empire so often unfairly neglected or stereotyped in history books.

I must regretfully state that my objectives have been only partially fulfilled, and that this book has been a bit of a hit-and-miss reading experience.
I perfectly understand that the task of
There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things . Machiavelli

Of course Niccolo also said that conquering the Ottomans would be most difficult, but afterwards rather easy to hold or occupy. It is good being glib. I violated my latest reading plan over the holiday weekend.

Ottomans did not, on the whole, engage in trade; they worked in administration; their minorities,
Yelda Basar Moers
I just finished this dark and stormy popular historical book about the Ottoman Empire and I have to say that within fifteen pages of reading it I was utterly confused! Confused because studying Ottoman history for more than a decade now, and having lived in Turkey (and born there!), I didn't find anything Ottoman Turkish about it! And then that confusion I mentioned turned to anger! And then I was enraged!!! The last time I felt this feeling of injustice was several years ago when I read Glenn ...more
Sep 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-east, history
This book is sort of like a curiosity cabinet of travelogue and ethno-history, which is both its strength and weakness. You'll learn about obsessive clock-collecting, tulip madness, Istanbul's stray dogs, the sultan's silver slippers, madness and drownings and strangulation. Old-fashioned generalizations of ethnic character border on political incorrectness in a fun-but-wrong 19th century way. It's a theatrical, moody, stage-setting book. It's a zeitgeist book, more a diorama than a ...more
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, middle-east
Perhaps one of the reasons we are having so many problems relating to the Middle East and the Muslim world is that we choose to avert our gaze from it. Practically no one of my acquaintance knows anything about the Ottoman Empire, which lasted some 600 years. Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire by Jason Goodwin is an excellent place to start. It ranks with the classic The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross, which takes a more traditional chronologically structured approach to ...more
May 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
There's a lot of interesting detail here. Unfortunately, it's incredibly confusing. The author seems to believe that his readers are already intimately familiar with many of the people, battles, titles, etc of the Ottomans (in which case, why read a survey history book on the topic?). Since many of the sultans have the same name, this becomes extra confusing. Worse, there's only a vague nod towards linearity. Often, the century being discussed will jump from something in the 1500s in one ...more
May 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Never caught fire for me - the meandering style made it too difficult to see the connections between people and places that make history interesting to me. I really wanted to like this one more, as I enjoy Goodwin's fiction tremendously.
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spring, history
From its beginnings as a nondescript tribe dwelling in the foothills of Anatolia to the dazzling victory over the Byzantines at Constantinople, the Empire of Osman (Ottoman) was the powerhouse of its day. It was an empire that adapted to the countries it overran, so that a day in the marketplace at Istanbul would find Turks, Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Jews, Serbs, Moors and others mingling together, regardless of race or language.

"There is a great difference between our loss and yours. You
Lauren Albert
Oct 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
One of the best written histories I 've read. Very writerly. I sometimes got lost in the names but that's not the fault of the book. It probably would have helped if I knew more about the subject though I wouldn't discourage someone from reading it because they didn't. 9/09
Barbara Franklin
Jan 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
I could not finish this book.
Ming Wei
A decent readable book, learnt allot of stuff from this reading.
David Berry
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Jason Goodwin, previously a travel writer and later a novelist, turned in a very successful history. Don't expect footnotes, historiography, or debates about what really happened. This isn't the history you read in college. It belongs to that nearly lost genre, literary history. Its purpose is to impress on the reader with the splendor, magnificence, and difference of bygone societies and personalities. This Goodwin does spectacularly.

I was lucky enough to read this book in Istanbul. These
Pete daPixie
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-ottoman
Almost seven hundred years of history here, and most of it completely new to me. 'Lords of the Horizons', published in 1998, chronicles the astonishing rise and fall of the Ottoman empire, from the late thirteenth century to the end of World War One.
From the birth of Osman Bey in 1281, which set a spark around the Sea of Marmara to engulf Byzantium in a Muslim fire that roared across the Dardanelles to the Adriatic, and in less than a century was consuming the Balkans. After Constantinople fell
Oct 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The best short overview of the Ottomans I have read. Very lively and full of fascinating bits of information, it makes the rise and decline of the empire seem like an exciting romp, and is not without humour. The army had a regiment of madmen, for example, who were used as cannon fodder in the front line, ‘because they didn’t mind’. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent fell in love with a blonde slave girl from the Caucasus called Roxana, and slept only with her until the day she died. Highly ...more
Nazmul Hasan
I'm so sorry for Mr. Goodwin. I'm sure the man honestly loves the ottomans. But apparently he doesn't love accurate research. There are several GLARING errors in this book. In addition, Goodwin mentions outlandish stories without even providing citations. It's amazing what lengths the author will go to shock or grab his readers attention. Apparently, coming up with a non-existent Quranic verse is one of these tactics (on pg. 55)
If you want to be entertained, do read this, but at the risk of also
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it
I read this book as an introduction to the Ottoman Empire, and as such I found it disappointing. Goodwin's approach is journalistic rather than historical, and jumps from theme to theme without giving any sort of chronological framework in which to mentally organize the information. Because I felt somewhat muddled as I was reading, I know I won't retain as much, although what was presented was quite interesting.
Mar 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book, and, more importantly, to learn from it. The author, however, assumes that the reader has an intimate knowledge of the subject matter before coming to this... introductory book to the subject matter.

Worse, the writing oscillates between dull fact rambles and bordeline-racist stereotypical descriptions of a mystical 'other'. I am 100% sure there are better books on the Ottoman out there, and recommend finding those instead.
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's something antiquated and romantic about the sprawling Ottoman Empire and its glacial decline through the centuries. It's what made Jason Goodwin's mystery novel "The Janissary Tree" so compelling. I wish I'd read this book first, though, as it provides much appreciated historical context to events, particularly the rise and fall of the janissary soldiers, which mirrored that of the samurai in Japan but ended much more violently.
victor harris
Apr 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
Some interesting snippets, but very dry reading and lacks thematic unity. You plow through pages and ask " What is the point?" Suffers from a fatal flaw that is a familiar complaint about history writing - it is boring.
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
A poorly written book on a fascinating subject. I kept having to read sentences twice to discern their meaning, and the liberal use of Turkish words and terms (not all of which were in the glossary) didn't help. And yet... every now and then there was a flash of perspicacity, or even wit, that elucidated something perfectly. Go figure! Anyway, the Ottoman's system of governance was thoroughly unique and it's easy to underestimate their empire's influence on the modern world.
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Apart from the obvious fact of being Islamic, the former Ottoman Empire is fascinating in its method of operating on very different lines from the rest of Europe. Instead of a power structure based on feudalism and inheritance, it developed the “boy tribute” system which took “the finest Christian youths” into the Sultan’s service, up to the level of the Grand Vizier. The problem of jockeying for the one position which did involve succession was solved by legal fratricide: the Sultan’s heir, the ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Writing something that is as expansive as the history of the Ottoman Empire in 300 pages is a difficult task. Goodwin attempts this by thematic chapters that give bite-size information in a digestible form -- but even this format is difficult to master. The themes are not necessarily chronological and there is a lot of bouncing around between different time periods that at times is difficult to organize. The prose the author conducts is sometimes poetic, but other times plodding.

I finished the
Mick Scheinin
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Would have benefited from thorough editing. Anecdotes repeated. Goodwin's love of language seems to have carried him away. Convoluted sentences and questionable adjectives. Sloppy. A travel writer's history.
Mar 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
The worst part of the book is that although the author has an understanding of Ottoman history but is totally oblivious of even the most basic concepts of islam wich makes the reading difficult as the ottoman history is interwoven with religion. for e.g the book states that shias follow the progeny of Hazrat Ali (RA), and sunnis follow the progeny of Hazrat Fatimah (RA). The author doesnt even seem to know that the progeny of both is the same.

Most of the incidents and events are qouted in bare
Chris Allan
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was a maddening book. Not quite a popular history, more like a historical travel journal. Meandering through 600 years of Ottoman history. And I say history only because the later chapters talked (mostly) about things that happened later (mostly) than earlier chapters. It mixed beautiful evocations of past eras with countless non-sequitors and just plain head scratching sentences. Beautiful quips - "being Romanian was more a profession than a nationality" - that had nothing to do with the ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
This was one of the worst books I've read in a long time. Goodwin should be ashamed of himself for writing this. It meanders through the years of the Ottoman empire where any given sentence might encapsulate 500 years of history in one blow. The prose itself is god awful. There is this heavy-handed assumption that he as a white Englishman knows best and the rest of us should have the knowledge that he possesses and doesn't seem to want to share with us. There are amusing anecdotes about the ...more
Barksdale Penick
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I picked up this 350 page history of the Ottoman Empire while I spent my honeymoon in Istanbul. Our author has a little problem with try to write history in memorable and precious turns of phrase: "Just the facts, Sir". But he has a lot of good facts and I learned a lot about this empire which burst out of the East to overlord most all of the middle east and Mediterranean. My favorite fact is the Sultan only received foreign dignitaries in profile. It is a pretty fascinating tale that could be ...more
Jack Ziegler
I had a hard time with this book. I really wanted to like it. But, I guess I blame the style, it was hard to follow what was happening. Names and places and titles seemed like they were introduced and not really remarked on in the text. There is a nice glossary, but only about 1/2 of the words I checked for were included in it.

Maybe it is me, maybe I don't have the background needed to enjoy the book. I'm not sure. I was expecting more.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Flow of conscience....I got very blurred memories from the nearly one thousand long history. Obviously you need to make some stresses or spikes in narration at the most focal points.

John Julius Norwich's 3-volume epic on Byzantium perfectly is a striking difference in its part dealing with Ottomans.

And I heard there's a better book on Ottoman Empire out there...
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
I want to understand this history. But, this book is just too detailed, too complicated. All of the names, battles, relationships, etc. are too foreign for me to take in all in one sitting. I need to find books about the various pieces, in shorter segments so that I can take it in. Actually, I need to buy this book so that I can read a chapter every now and then!
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Jason Goodwin's latest book is YASHIM COOKS ISTANBUL: Culinary Adventures in the Ottoman Kitchen.
He studied Byzantine history at Cambridge University - and returned to an old obsession to write The Gunpowder Gardens or, A Time For Tea: Travels in China and India in Search of Tea, which was shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Award. When the Berlin Wall fell, he walked from Poland to Istanbul to