• The Ottomans

  • Khans, Caesars and Caliphs
  • By: Marc David Baer
  • Narrated by: Jamie Parker
  • Length: 17 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A major new history of the 600-year dynasty that connected East to West as never before.

The Ottoman Empire has long been depicted as the Islamic Asian antithesis of the Christian European West. But the reality was starkly different: the Ottomans' multiethnic, multilingual, and multireligious domain reached deep into Europe's heart. In their breadth and versatility, the Ottoman rulers saw themselves as the new Romans. 

Recounting the Ottomans' remarkable rise from a frontier principality to a world empire, Marc David Baer traces their debts to their Turkish, Mongolian, Islamic and Byzantine heritage, how they used both religious toleration and conversion to integrate conquered peoples, and how, in the 19th century, they embraced exclusivity, leading to ethnic cleansing, genocide and the dynasty's demise after the First World War. Upending Western concepts of the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, the Reformation, this account challenges our understandings of sexuality, orientalism and genocide. 

Radically retelling their remarkable story, The Ottomans is a magisterial portrait of a dynastic power and the first to truly capture its cross-fertilisation between East and West.

©2021 Marc David Baer (P)2021 Hodder & Stoughton Limited
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"A book as sweeping, colorful, and rich in extraordinary characters as the empire which it describes." (Tom Holland)

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  • iain ward
  • 12-04-21

muddled and tangential

the potential of this book is swallowed by the authors repeatedly wandering off into fields which are not really ottoman history but may more accurately be described as a history of the Jewish people in the ottoman empire. interesting but not what I was looking for.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-14-22

A fresh take on a canonical story

First and foremost I'd recommend not limiting your scope of ottoman history to just this book. It's good and has some interesting points but cannot really aspire to be a comprehensive guide or a canonical introduction.
I've read this book in sync (syncing the scope of historical eras) with Balfour's The Ottoman Centuries and this method proved itself quite useful in my opinion.
On the one hand, Baer skipped a lot of quite important events or played them down to a miniscule role compared to Balfour; on the other hand, he gave way for several themes unfitting Balfour's drier narrative. And vice versa, where one lagged or stumbled, the other elaborated on much more details and themes.

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  • Guy
  • 07-24-22

Enlightening and essential reading

Beautiful narration and easy to follow . Gives the reader a perspective that perhaps is often misunderstood on the region and the Ottoman empire

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  • Mr. Anthony Carney
  • 06-11-22

Mixed Quality

The last third of the book is detailed with a clear narrative focus.
Much of the rest is muddled without a focus on how institutions work, how the economy functions and develops and how the legal code is applied.

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  • Links
  • 05-08-22

Interesting but not serious

This unabridged book reading has a lot of information. Its strength lies in its width of information, with good chronological accounts of the Armenian Genocide and some details of the harem system. However, it cannot be counted as serious history. It constantly distracts itself from explaining the key motivations of the actions of the Ottomans. Perhaps most irritating, the author keep trying to shoehorn the ‘European-ness’ of Ottoman history without making a case of what is means to be part of European history, or why does the definition even matter! (I don’t think it does) Contradicting concepts are presented in the role of the Ottoman sultans. They are initially concluded to be almost constitutional monarchs after a series of palace coups in the 16-17th century, yet in the book they are shown to have great agency in latter periods up to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. This leads to another weakness of not explaining how actually the Ottoman bureaucracy works in managing such a vast empire, therefore obscuring causes and motivations in Ottoman actions. Great reading, popular history with a collection of facts at best, but muddled in thought.

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  • Stephen
  • 04-05-22

Utterly breathtaking!

This rounds out our understanding of European history so beautifully! I recommend it to any serious historian.

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  • Jamie Barron
  • 02-08-22

Consistently fascinating, thorough & analytical

Eloquently written and with what seemed to me (new to the subject) a great depth and breadth of research, this was a truly fascinating tour of Ottoman history. The historical characters are vivid in Baer’s descriptions, and I really enjoyed the way he contextualised the historical events in terms of influences of both East and West.
This struck me as a very balanced overview, with some really thought-provoking analysis. Baer follows a roughly chronological approach, but as the book progresses he explains why this is less tight as it goes on, which I felt worked very well. As well as describing and narrating, he takes time for analysis of cultural aspects of Ottoman life that don’t suit a chronological telling - the role of women; homosexuality; how Western Europe depicted Ottomans in Orientalising ways; etc.
Between the consistently interesting content and the perfect narration by Jamie Parker, this was all I could want from a history audiobook.

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  • Matt
  • 11-09-21

Brilliant

A fascinating story with a terrible ending, highly recommended for anyone interested in the ottomans, really shows how they are a part of European history.

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  • Mitchvg
  • 07-21-22

A lot of facts

As you would expect. There is analysis, but overall very fact heavy. Pretty good companion to 16 Ways to Defend a Walled City actually