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Publisher's Summary

By understanding the dramatic story of the Ottoman Empire - from its early years as a collection of raiders and conquerors to its undeniable power in the 15th and 16th centuries to its catastrophic collapse in the wreckage of the First World War - one can better grasp the current complexities of the Middle East.

Over the course of these 36 enlightening lectures, investigate over 600 years of history that covers the nature of Ottoman identity, the achievements of the Sultan's court, and stories of confrontation and cooperation with the West.

Befitting a story of such epic scope and grandeur, every lecture is a treasure trove of historical insights into the people, events, themes, and locales responsible for shaping the story of this often-overlooked empire. You'll cover everything from Rumi, the whirling dervishes, and the importance of the sultan's grand viziers to the wars of Sultan Suleiman I, the shadowy politics of the Committee of Union and Progress, and the birth of the Turkish Republic under Kemal Atatürk.

Welcome to a fascinating story of the triumph and tragedy, war and peace, intellectual progress and civil insurrection of a great empire that, for all its glory and grandeur, has left an important legacy that will shape the future of the Balkan nation-states, the Turkish Republic, and the Arab world - and those of us in the West as well.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2017 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The Ottoman Empire

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Lecture 34

I have almost all of Prof Harl’s Audible great courses and I enjoy them. I’ve emailed him regarding topics and I find his sense of nuance to be valuable regarding lots of historical topics. This audiobook was pretty good, except Lecture 34 regarding ethnic cleansing. Harl really dances around the term genocide.

He does several things which I found distasteful. Honestly, they remind me of the arguments used against the Native American genocide.
- He starts off by saying it’s best to be a dispassionate historian and just lay out facts, but that’s not the job of a historian. Historians also interpret events and he doesn’t do this.
- He also says that “atrocities were committed on both sides.” This completely ignores the power dynamic between the two groups. One was a group of people being forced from their homes and which suffered a reduction in population of at least 80% in 1 year. The other was an empire capable of reducing a population by 80% in one year. A “both sides” argument doesn’t really hold water in this case.
- He basically says that Ottoman Empire was at war and World War 1 was bad for everyone. I’m sorry but war isn’t a get out of morals free card. That’s why we have “war crimes” and, as a veteran in particular, that isn’t an excuse.
- Finally, he ends with “nobody was innocent”. I’m pretty sure the Armenians just living in their homes that were were forced out onto “death marches” (Harl’s words) were innocent. Common citizens often become statistics in history but we need to remember that these were just normal people.

I’m sure part of this was calculated because Prof Harl frequently works in Turkey for his research and he wants to maintain a good relationship so he can continue to work there. But I think he did a disservice to history and to a lot of victims in this case.

17 people found this helpful

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Another A++ series from Prof. Harl!!!

I’d give it 7 of 5 stars if possible. It is superbly organized. It’s terrific to see history unfold from the Ottoman viewpoint. I think it corrects for conceptions of the modern Muslim-majority nation state that is too frequently projected into the past. The course is very helpful in thinking about the Balkans and the lead up to WW1.

I appreciate Prof. Harl most when he’s focused on Antiquity through the Middle Ages, where his style is to tell us what the literary sources say – what the archaeological record (so far) tells us – the relevant ancient anecdotes and excerpts (from Herodotus, Plutarch, Livy) that make history interesting – a few jokes of his own – and then maybe a few comments on the current “state of scholarly debate,” or where he has a bias with which other history profs may disagree.

To contrast, some very good lecturers get too bogged down in what various historical “schools of thought” say about a subject (Fagan, others). Others get too cute in trying to weave a continuous narrative and leave out too many details (Fears, Garland). A few bad apples start with a sociological point of view, and try to read that back into time by cherry picking incidents that support it (Dise).

Harl’s lectures are authentic and flow naturally, without any gimmicks. His mastery of the material is obvious. I have listened to all 11 of his courses, most more than once, and he’s simply the best. I would love to see him do a deep dive on the Iranian plateau – Persians though Seleucids, Parthians, Abbasids, etc. That has yet to be covered in detail by a lecturer of Prof. Harl’s caliber.

37 people found this helpful

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A Sympathetic View of the Ottoman Empire

Like many Christian Americans with a partial Balkan heritage, I've always seen the Ottoman Empire as "bad guys" who tragically ended the Roman Empire, turned churches into mosques, and were oppressive conquerors who threatened Europe for centuries. So I came to this course more to round out my knowledge of history rather than to try to understand them any better.
This course offers another side of the story, though. Harl is sympathetic to the Ottomans (even a bit biased sometimes), presenting them as brilliant heroes until they become unfortunate victims of a world changing too fast for them. But if you think about it, this counterweight in perspective is probably what you want in a course about such a misunderstood people. Now that I've listened for 18 hours, I haven't forgiven anyone for 1453, but I definitely have more appreciation and respect for this long-lasting empire that largely allowed a very diverse population to participate in its own rule. Many of their achievements were noble and impressive, and they deserve to be seen as more than a foil to the West.
As usual, Dr. Harl is brilliant, has encyclopedic knowledge, and unbridled enthusiasm. I recommend this course to anyone who is interested in filling in some of the missing pieces in their historical map. I know I will be delving into this subject more in the future.

8 people found this helpful

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Some History with a Healthy Portion of Bias

Unlike other Great Courses, Harl clearly was pushing a point of view. He often times rationalized events and chose not to provide details if they did not fit his perspective. His bias was not subtle; instead it was alarmingly obvious. Yes there is history here, but it was not worth the time required to listen. Also, his delivery can be irritating. Too many "ahhhs" to fill space while he was thinking of what to say. I felt I was listening to someone partially distracted with other activities. Had I been in a college lecture I would have dropped the class after the first session. Overall, a weak experience.

7 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

I have enjoyed all of Professor Harl's courses but this one seemed to be very different from the other offerings. He always has that infectious enthusiasm that makes listening to the content a pleasure. He typically points out both the successes and flaws of the civilization under study - in a way that lends authenticity to the content, however this one seemed less of a history and more of a defense of the Ottoman Empire. It came across as political correctness. This is the only one of his courses that I have not rated as five stars.

He is a gifted lecturer, but I would not recommend this one.

4 people found this helpful

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Important piece of world history

It’s important for US citizens to understand the history of Ottoman Empire which has as much of more influence on our modern world as Greek and Roman empires. This empire was vast in territory and long lasting - 700 years - and played a major role in development of Christianity, Islam and left a legacy in modern arts and science. It also was an important key to World War 1 and the resulting geopolitics of the Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe that we face today.

I have listened to three if Ken Harl’s Great Courses so far. Ken Harl is an excellent teacher and has such deep knowledge of Anatolian History you will learn a lot even if you are a history buff. His delivery is engaging and humorous while representing serious scholarship. I found myself needing to relisten to chapters or sections due to the multilayered information and the fast pace of dates, places and names. You might want to slow down speed of playback at times. Even if you are not particularly interested in Turkey today, which has a strong movie industry on Netflix, you will still learn a lot about European history from a different lens. Middle East history is here as well but I feel the need to read more on books on that.

3 people found this helpful

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Some interesting parts but ...

Although there are some good parts on this and is at times an interesting story to listen to, the author takes a "bold" pro-Ottoman side in crucial humanitarian issues like the Armenian and Greek genocide. As himself states early in the book, his wife is Turkish, I am afraid this has prevented him for keeping a more neutral stand in these depressing pages of human history. Overall, a disappointing purchase.

38 people found this helpful

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Ottomans through rose-colored glasses

If you seek a rosy history of the Ottomans, download this now! His chapter on the Armenian Genocide is dominated by whether it should be labeled as a "genocide" and not the fact that it was an atrocity - by any definition. It sure comes off as an apologist take on the event. And it happens to be one of the few negative parts ever discussed in 18 hours covering 500+ years of Ottoman history. Even during downtimes of the empire, Harl always points out the positives over any negatives. It came off as very biased.

27 people found this helpful

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professor harl is the best!

this is the second course I've listened to by professor Harl, and I think he is just great. he really presents the information in an accessable way, and throws some humor in with some of the dense parts. he is not a monotone talker, or a droner...it really feels like there's a smart guy on your couch telling you a great story. I can't wait for more of his courses.

2 people found this helpful

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Great treatment of vast subject matter

Really enjoyed the narrator. This is a long series of lectures - took several weeks for me to finish. However, I enjoyed all the time spent. Really enhanced my understanding of an important part of the world.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Muhammad Khan
  • 10-03-20

An excellent book

one of the Best book on Ottomans their uprising and their downfall.
History teaches everything

3 people found this helpful

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  • Submal
  • 08-15-20

Excellent

I absolutely loved this. Very detailed and it touches on a variety of different areas.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-19-20

It's like attending classes at university!

Prof. Hart is brilliant in his narrative of a very complex set of historical facts stretching over a very long period of time. If you want to understand political problems in the Balkans and the Middle East today, or if you're simply fascinated by the brilliant sultans - and/or the crazy ones - then listen to this course first, then go read a more detailed book. Without this high level narrative if you're not a historian you're likely to be lost in a book because the history (and legacy) of the Ottoman empire is incredibly complex.

2 people found this helpful

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  • C.W
  • 08-24-19

A great journey!

This course was a fantastically informative study of the Ottoman Empire. highly recommended. it is clear the narrator is very passionate about this topic and you get a great overall sense of the impact of ottoman history on the world today. You can tell whole topics, half an hour long, could fill hours of content, but that is withing the scope of this book and it is interesting and informative all the same. Would recommend!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Troll
  • 02-04-21

Overall - good, yet occasionally biased

A number of topics prioritised just one point of view, disregarding alternative interpretations. The use of certain words, also demonstrated the selective bias in favour of the Turks, muslims and islam - e.g. the war crimes perpetrated by the Ottomans are often referred to as ‘conquest’, ‘retaliation’ etc, whereas war crimes say of the Armenians are called genocide or massacres, albeit the two are not even remotely comparable in terms of their magnitude or casualties.

Quite a few historical inaccuracies, e.g. references to the date of the Russo-Japanese war rather than Russo-Turkish war, wrong historical figures and incorrect references to historical localities and provinces.

On the plus side, the lectures provide a good mix of dry facts and historical context to be interesting.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Aaron E
  • 10-01-19

A fantastic overview of The Ottoman Empire

The subject matter is broad but this course has given me a fantastic understanding of the growth and development leading to the creation of the Turkish Republic.
Dr Harl is an engaging lecturer.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Sammy E
  • 02-09-19

Excellent, Comprehensive and very balanced!!

It's so rare to find a balanced, non-biased and dare I say it - non-racist - historical guide to the Ottoman empire. Most books written about the subject are tainted with bias and a lack of recognition for a relatively recent period in history that in many ways influenced the world.
You can learn so much from this series, and really appreciated the achievements, scale and influence of the Ottomans. It is densely packed - not exactly an easy read - but using the accompanying PDF guide really helps digest the information.

There was a review on here talking about the Armenians, and perceived lack of focus on that subject. The truth is, the Ottoman history spanned centuries, and to reduce it down to a one event misses the point of this audio book (see my opening sentence about bias). You get to learn about the Ottoman history in its entirety - the good and the bad.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 06-06-18

An excellent overview

Running at 18 hours long it may be surprising to learn that I think this audiobook is too short. However when covering hundreds of years of history as this audiobook does it may be that details were omitted in favour of covering the entire period of history.

I came at this audiobook as a complete novice I have no historical qualifications and my interest in this audiobook was for entertainment/curiosity reasons rather than academic and therein may lie the problem.

I felt like this audiobook was mostly dates and names and a brief outline as we travel through the years. None of the people were really brought to life and there was little to no mention of the day to day population and very little focus on the females in the Ottoman empire (Unless you are a 'scheming' mother of a potential Sultan). Basically unless you are a Sultan or a high ranking male official you aren't getting a mention in this book and even if you are then you may not be given much of a fleshing out.

The narration is excellent as the professor is clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about his subject matter.

In summary a very detailed academic study of the Ottoman empire but maybe not suitable for a layman like me who wants an entertaining account of history.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Iain S. Palin
  • 10-08-17

Good overview for the interested non-academic

The common Western view of the Ottoman Empire is shaped by films like "Lawrence of Arabia" - a decaying despotism being pushed off history's stage. Yet for several centuries it dominated that stage, an empire extending over three continents, and for much of that time more pluralist in racial or religious terms than many of its successor states.
This is a well-presented account for the interested non-academic: I enjoyed it and learned a lot from it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-08-19

How history should be related

This book and course is outstanding as it is written by an objective scholar with broad knowledge and affinity with the history he relates. Truly a lesson on how history is narrated with as much balance as humanly positive. AAA

2 people found this helpful

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  • Bashy Cina
  • 01-23-21

Brilliant

Loved it, I love history so learning more about the Ottoman Empire it was great.
It goes into detail of how the empire started and was run by different sultans and how much more religious and ethnic tolerant were the Ottoman’s compared to their European counterparts.

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  • irtapil
  • 03-01-20

History presentation at its worst

i'm currently about half way through, i don't know if i will manage to finish it. The presenter has quite an annoying voice and tends to drone monotonously, and the content is a tedious list of military events. I tried listening because its hard to find good content about the Ottomans, but i i give up, this guy is insufferable.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-14-18

Skip the Armenian genocide

I truly enjoyed it. Shame about the apology of the Arminian genocide. Apart from this is I learnt a lot.

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  • Adam
  • 10-06-17

Very Educational

well constructed and thought out lecture series. Highly recommended. only complaint is that the lecturer stumbled over names. A lot.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-17-17

Amazing!

I'm going to listen to every audible by Professor Kenneth W. Harl. So respectful and passionate I could listen to this for hours and have.