Lords of the Horizons

Lords of the Horizons

A History of the Ottoman Empire

Book - 1999 | 1st American ed. --
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Since the Turks first shattered the glory of the French crusaders in 1396, the Ottoman Empire has exerted a long, strong pull on Western minds. For six hundred years, the Empire swelled and declined. Islamic, martial, civilized, and tolerant, in three centuries it advanced from the dusty foothills of Anatolia to rule on the Danube and the Nile; at the Empire's height, Indian rajahs and the kings of France beseeched its aid. For the next three hundred years the Empire seemed ready to collapse, a prodigy of survival and decay. Early in the twentieth century it fell. In this dazzling evocation of its power, Jason Goodwin explores how the Ottomans rose and how, against all odds, they lingered on. In the process he unfolds a sequence of mysteries, triumphs, treasures, and terrors unknown to most American readers.

This was a place where pillows spoke and birds were fed in the snow; where time itself unfolded at a different rate and clocks were banned; where sounds were different, and even the hyacinths too strong to sniff. Dramatic and passionate, comic and gruesome, Lords of the Horizons is a history, a travel book, and a vision of a lost world all in one.
Publisher: New York : H. Holt, 1999, c1998
Edition: 1st American ed. --
ISBN: 9780805040814
Characteristics: xv, 351 p. : ill., map ; 25 cm


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Nov 07, 2019

I was looking forward to learning about the subject, but ended up quite disappointed: there is far too much of the clever and loquacious general remarks that summarize some aspect of the Ottomans, and there is some quick narration of key historical events and cultural and institutional workings, but its all too superficial. (Although I must grant that stuffing over half a millennium into about three hundred pages of text is extremely difficult.) Many of the events and developments of institutions just jump all over the place in the book; I was regularly thinking that he was up to the late 1700s just twenty pages ago and now he is narrating events of the 1500s, for example. There are many interesting tidbits though, too many to name, but I will mention one on page 217 and its footnote about some extremely long-lived individuals.

Jul 04, 2019

This was definitely not written by a historian. Goodwin seems to have read a lot about his topic and his writing is definitely colorful and interesting to read, and he has an extensive bibliography. However, his lyric prose romanticize his topic in an almost poetic manner. I note he has many old books among his sources, like Edward Lear, Journals of a Landscape Painter in Albania, published in 1852 and M.N. Penzer, The Harem, London 1936. Relying on the observations of old English observers is problematic because of the general Orientalism bias inherent in the British culture of the time. So while this might be a good view of how the Ottomans are viewed in stereotype by the English, it isn't a good history of the Ottomans that can give a real, unromanticized understanding. Its like a Hollywood version, a good story but not fussy about the facts. I'm going through the Great Courses university lectures on Turkey and getting a lot more out of them. Generally, the history of Turkey is not well presented in books in the Columbus Library.

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