Cascoly Books: Turkey

Cascoly Books - Turkey

Our latest Turkey travel pages

As always, these are my personal opinions on books I've read

Ancient Turkey : A Traveler's History by Seton Lloyd. This was one of our best preparations for our trips to Turkey . It covers an enormous periodFrom the Stone Age through the Christian era, Lloyd explores the numerous diverse cultures that have inhabited Turkey. He describes the deeds of the Hittite rulers, the battle between Croesus and Cyrus, the conquests of Alexander the Great, and Mithridates' heroic resistance against the Romans. The opening of the Tomb of Midas and the discovery of the Alaca Hüyük tombs are among the archaeological milestones that are addressed. From the shrines of CatalHoyuk to the temples of Ephesus and the churches started by St. Paul, Lloyd demonstrates how each succeeding culture has left its stamp on an astounding range of sites - it's history as the traveler will see it.

On our first, month long trip we only managed to visit about a third of the sites that he discusses, although we saw many of them represented in museums. But that just means we still re-read this book before each subsequent trip. My only wish would be for a sequel covering the last 2000 years of Turkish history

Norwich - Byzantium-- A fascinating account of the millennium of Byzantine history, starting with Constantine and ending with the Ottoman conquest
Lords of the Horizons - A History of the Ottoman Empire - Jason Goodwin
The Ottoman Empire grew and shrank for six centuries. In three centuries, it rose from the arid foothills of Anatolia to control over the Danube and the Nile; at its height, Indian rajahs and French kings begged for its assistance. It was Islamic, martial, civilized, and tolerant. During the following three hundred years, the Empire appeared to be on the verge of disintegrating—a miracle of survival and rot. It plummeted at the start of the 20th century. Jason Goodwin examines how the Ottomans came to power and how, despite all obstacles, they persisted in this stunning portrayal of their influence. He reveals a series of mysteries, victories, treasures, and terrors that are unknown to the majority of American readers in the process.
Fourteen Byzantine Rulers: The Chronographia of Michael Psellus -- a near-contemporaneous, subjective but entertaining history

After fifty wonderful years as the single emperor, Basil II died in A.D. 1025, ushering in a period of unrest, corruption, and incompetence that lasted for several decades. Our primary source for the subsequent 50 years of astonishing decline is Michael Psellus, one of the greatest courtiers and men of letters of his time. His vivid and compelling account is a historical and literary work of the utmost significance. It is full of psychological insight and a profound understanding of power politics. Psellus, a man of startling elegance and humanity, both shows and exemplifies the Byzantine way of life at its best. Modern historians have irrevocably destroyed the idea that the Byzantine Period was just a shabby and disreputable adjunct to the Roman Empire.
The Crusades through Arab Eyes - Amin Maalouf The author went through the writings of contemporary Arab chroniclers of the Crusades, as well as those of participants and eyewitnesses. He retells their tale while providing insights into the historical factors that currently influence Arab and Islamic consciousness.
T.E. Lawrence - Crusader Castles -- the subject of his academic thesis
Hourani - History of the Arab Peoples

The late Albert Hourani provided the complete history of the Arab peoples from the seventh century, when the new religion of Islam started to expand from the Arabian peninsula westward, until the present in a widely read book of profound and enduring significance. It is a masterful distillation of a lifetime of research and offers a distinctive window into a constantly tumultuous area. By including current events like 9/11, the American invasion of Iraq and its terrible aftermath, the overthrow of the Mubarak and Ben Ali governments in Egypt and Tunisia, and the escalating civil war in Syria, Malise Ruthven has brought Hourani's magisterial history up to date.
Empires of the Sand : The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1923 by Efraim Karsh, Inari Karsh A is a daring and thorough reconstruction of the Middle East's protracted nineteenth-century quest for supremacy (1789-1923). This book assigns regional powers equal blame for the region's restructuring rather than giving Western imperialist priority. The authors contend that local actors provided the primary impetus for the developments of this historic epoch, rejecting the notion that modern Middle Eastern history is a byproduct of international power politics.

Both Ottoman and Western imperial powers were involved in a deft balancing act of manipulation and intrigue in which they sought to take full advantage of regional and global situations. The writers disprove the common perception that Europe was to blame for the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the region's political unification, supported by a wealth of archival sources. Instead, they demonstrate how the Hashemites were instrumental in determining the limits of the modern Middle East and in hastening the fall of Ottoman control. Similar to this, local governments and states had no qualms about enlisting the assistance and defense of the "infidel" forces they had demonized whenever their needs so demanded

Instead of a "clash of civilizations," Karsh and Karsh observe a pattern of pragmatic cooperation and conflict between the Middle East and the West over the past two centuries. Such a viewpoint gives daringly fresh ways of understanding the Middle East's past as well as its explosive present.Especially interesting to read this book in conjunction with some of the more traditional approaches like Goodwin and Fromkin.

Holy War - Karen Arm Armstrong

War in the Holy Land: From Megiddo to the West Bank Beautifully detailed historical atlas following a history of the Holy Land from the Canaanite defeat by the Egyptians at Meggido in 1468 BC through the peace negotiations between Israel and the Arabs in 1998 and Arab. A great companion book to Karen Armstrong's Holy War

The Emergence of Modern Turkey - Bernard Lewis
A Peace to End All Peace - the Fall of the Ottoman Empire - David Fromkin The Middle East has long been a place of competing ideologies, nationalisms, religions, and goals. The arrangements, unifications, and divides enforced by the Allies after the First World War are at the basis of the hostilities between Arabs and Israelis as well as the violent challenges provided by Iraq's rival sects. David Fromkin explains how and why the Allies drew lines on a blank map to redraw the Middle East's topography and politics. He provides in this expansive and magisterial work the authoritative account of this pivotal period, focusing on the formative years of 1914 to 1922, when anything seemed conceivable, demonstrating how the Middle East started down a path that led to today's problems and disarray.
T.E. Lawrence - 7 Pillars of Wisdom

Some Englishmen, of whom Kitchener was chief, believed that a rebellion of Arabs against Turks would enable England, while fighting Germany, simultaneously to defeat Turkey. Their knowledge of the nature and power and country of the Arabic-speaking peoples made them think that the issue of such a rebellion would be happy: and indicated its character and method. So they allowed it to begin... - Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Introduction

This is one of my favorite books, re-reading it every few years. Of (subjective) historical value, it's also evocative literature. Read it with other books listed here on the history of the Arab revolt

In his autobiography Seven Pillars of Wisdom, he recounts his experiences in the Arab Revolt of 1916–18. He assisted in planning and carrying out raids on the Ottoman army from Aqaba in the south to Damascus in the north with the help of Emir Faisal and his tribesmen.

Sandra Mackey - The Iranians - Iran has grappled with two conflicting identities throughout its lengthy and intricate history—one originating from the ideals, social structure, and artistic expression of ancient Persia, the other from Islam. The Iranians discusses how the 1979 revolution came about, why the Islamic Republic failed, and how Iran is currently on the verge of disaster by studying the connection between these two identities. Iranian history and religion are made understandable to the nonspecialist in this landmark portrayal of a troubled society and the forces that define it. The Iranians offers crucial insight into this distinctive and important nation by fusing outstanding scholarship with the personal perspective of firsthand observations.ans

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Bitter Lemons - Lawrence Durrell - An evocative memoir of the author's stay [1953-6] in what's now Northern Cyprus. Much of the landscape was still as he described it when we visited Belle Pais, Famagusta, Kyrenia, and Nicosia, the Tree of Idleness and other sites on our hiking trip to Cyprus in 2001. His adventures in buying and maintaining a house rival those of Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence" written many years later. The peaceful interludes in the hills are marred by foreshadowing of the political turmoil and tragedies that would engulf Cyprus in the following decades, leading to the departure of Durrell and other foreign nationals. Some of those towns and even cities remain ghost towns to this day. Once hard to find, this book has now been deservedly reissued.

CIA World Factbook for Turkey

More on Travel in Turkey

More books about the near-east:

  • The Coming of the Greeks: Indo-European Conquests in the Aegean
  • In Search of the Trojan War -Exploring the site of ancient Troy
  • Kingdom of the Hittites
  • The Peoples of the Hills - Ancient Ararat and Caucasus
  • Noah's Flood
  • Archaeological History of the Ancient Middle East
  • The Middle East - A brief History of the Last 2,000 Years Bernard Lewis
  • Guidebooks and Travel Writing
  • Ancient History
  • Ottoman and Recent History
  • Culture & Religion
  • Fiction

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