A Military History of the Ottomans: From Osman to Atatürk
The Ottoman Army had a significant effect on the history of the modern world and particularly on that of the Middle East and Europe. This study, written by a Turkish and an American scholar, is a revision and corrective to western accounts because it is based on Turkish interpretations, rather than European interpretations, of events. As the world's dominant military machine from 1300 to the mid-1700's, the Ottoman Army led the way in military institutions, organizational structures, technology, and tactics. In decline thereafter, it nevertheless remained a considerable force to be counted in the balance of power through 1918. From its nomadic origins, it underwent revolutions in military affairs as well as several transformations which enabled it to compete on favorable terms with the best of armies of the day. This study tracks the growth of the Ottoman Army as a professional institution from the perspective of the Ottomans themselves, by using previously untapped Ottoman source materials. Additionally, the impact of important commanders and the role of politics, as these affected the army, are examined. The study concludes with the Ottoman legacy and its effect on the Republic and modern Turkish Army.
This is a study survey that combines an introductory view of this subject with fresh and original reference-level information. Divided into distinct periods, Uyar and Erickson open with a brief overview of the establishment of the Ottoman Empire and the military systems that shaped the early military patterns. The Ottoman army emerged forcefully in 1453 during the siege of Constantinople and became a dominant social and political force for nearly two hundred years following Mehmed's capture of the city. When the army began to show signs of decay during the mid-seventeenth century, successive Sultans actively sought to transform the institution that protected their power. The reforms and transformations that began frist in 1606successfully preserved the army until the outbreak of the Ottoman-Russian War in 1876. Though the war was brief, its impact was enormous as nationalistic and republican strains placed increasing pressure on the Sultan and his army until, finally, in 1918, those strains proved too great to overcome. By 1923, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk emerged as the leader of a unified national state ruled by a new National Parliament. As Uyar and Erickson demonstrate, the old army of the Sultan had become the army of the Republic, symbolizing the transformation of a dying empire to the new Turkish state make clear that throughout much of its existence, the Ottoman Army was an effective fighting force with professional military institutions and organizational structures.
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Choice, Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, July 2010
The Ottoman Empire was founded by and named for a Turk from Asia Minor, Ghazi Osman, whose first victory was over the Byzantines at the Battle of Baphaeum in 1301. From then until the early 20th century, Ottoman Turks held power in the Eastern Mediterranean. The height of the empire was in the 16th century, under Suleyman I, known as "the Magnificent" to European, North African, and Persian armies that feared his military might. Ottoman ships roamed the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean; Suleyman's troops attacked Belgrade, Rhodes, Hungary, Algeria, Iran, and even Vienna. Yet, by the end, the Ottomans barely held onto Anatolia, the European side shrunken to only a few miles west of Istanbul. The empire, unable to recover from defeats in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and WW I, fell in 1923 to an uprising led by Kemal Ataturk. There has long been a need for a military history of the Ottomans in English, and Uyar (Turkish Military Academy) and Erickson (US Marine Corps) provide a very complete one. There may be more focused studies on Ottoman campaigns but little better on the Ottoman army and nothing better in a single volume. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.
K. R. DeVries Loyola University Maryland
Cornucopia, vol.7, no.44, Autumn 2010, p.22
THE UNKNOWN SOLDIERS
Lord Curzon, rather unflatteringly, said that the Turks were a nation of private soldiers. Bu drop the “private” and many Turks, until very recently, would have agreed with him. Considering the prominence of the army in Turkish society throughout the country’s history, it is surprising, how little substantial history has been written about it – leaving books on “civil-military relations” to one side. Now the gap has been filled with this fine account by Mesut Uyar and Edward J. Erickson. It helps that both men have a military background themselves. Colonel Uyar is not only a military historian but also a serving officer in the Turkish army with something most historians these days do not have; plenty of active service experience.
In fewer than 300 action-packed pages, the book takes the reader from the very earliest Ottoman fighting units, described as “a steppe nomadic cavalry force”, up to 1919 and the death of the empire, when “almost overnight, regiment after regiment…changed its loyalty from the sultan to the Turkish nationalist cause”. This is an aspect of the establishment of the republic that is usually overlooked. By the end, the Turkish army, though battered and impoverished, had for several decades been a modern army organized along European lines.
The book covers the classical age of Ottoman military supremacy and the conquest of Anatolia, the Arab Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans, followed by a long period of decline after the mid-17th century. The Ottoman military were technologically resourceful long after the rest of Turkish society appeared to have frozen in time, and by the 1730s the first attempts to import military science from Europe were taking place.
However, the largest section of the book covers the period between 1826 – when the traditional Ottoman forces, the Janissaries, were disposed of in a blaze of grapeshot, to be replaced by a modern army – and the end of the First World War. Throughout this time, military collapse and partition seemed imminent, and the non-Turkish provinces of the empire were peeled away in a series of military defeats. But the military reforms - and the officer corps they produced – were sufficient to enable Atatürk and his fellow officers to win the War of Independence and create modern Turkey. His account focuses both on the close-up details of military history – how battles ad campaigns were fought, and why they were won or lost – and on deeper long-term issues, including shortages of skills and resources, and sultans who often spent more time designing uniforms than working on organisation. The authors write damningly that the
2 Classical Period 14511606
3 Transformation and Reform Efforts 16061826
4 Fighting for Survival 18261858
5 The Beginning of the End 18611918