The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920
by Eugene Rogan
Prospect Magazine, March 2015
This is narrative history at its very best: disciplined, well-paced, judicious and spiked with detail, character and incident. A chronological tale of the First World War might be wearyingly familiar, but by telling it from the perspective of the Ottoman Empire, Eugene Rogan grabs the readerís attention Ė as if we are hearing the Iliad from the Trojan battlements. It is a complicated story, for the Ottoman Empire fought a war on four major fronts: against the Russians in eastern Anatolia, against the British-Indian army in Iraq, the British-Egyptian army in Palestine and the Allied landings at the Dardanelles, not to mention the Arab revolt, Yemen and Thrace. It also tackles some pretty contentious issues head on (oil-fuelled imperialism, Islamic Jihad, the foundation of Israel, genocide, Kurdistan and British perfidy) but is magnificently free of partisan bias. Even if you have no desire to understand the foreign politics of Modern Turkey, the sensibilities of the Shiites of southern Iraq, or why Kuwait was a role model, read this to understand how the killing-beaches of Gallipoli link up with T E Lawrence, Lake Van and Buchanís Greenmantle. You will also hear many a strange tale on the way: of French-Algerian conscripts being charmed in German prison camps to join the Turkish army, of an Australian cavalry charge that stormed Beersheba in the last half-hour of dusk, of the Jihad Bureau of Baron Max Von Oppenheim, of heroic Ottoman volunteers being landed by submarine to fight alongside the desert tribes of Libya, of river boats storming up the Tigris and the fate of nations being decided by five rusty tubs holding their anchorage by night. And in the dark background, rumbling on its inescapable trajectory, is the tragic fate of the innocents, the half a million Syrians who died in the famine of 1916 and the one and a half million Armenians who were murdered as an act of state.
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by Barnaby Rogerson