The Ottoman Twilight in the Arab Lands: Turkish Memoirs and Testimonies of the Great War

The Ottoman Twilight in the Arab Lands: Turkish Memoirs and Testimonies of the Great War

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Selim Deringil

Series: Ottoman and Turkish Studies
ISBN: 9781618119575 (hardcover) / 9781618119582 (paper)
Pages: 274 pp.
Publication Date: April 2019

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The Great War is still seen as a mostly European war. The Middle Eastern theater is, at best, considered a sideshow written from the western perspective. This book fills an important gap in the literature by giving an insight through annotated translations from five Ottoman memoirs, previously not available in English, of actors who witnessed the last few years of Turkish presence in the Arab lands. It provides the historical background to many of the crises in the Middle East today, such as the Arab–Israeli confrontation, the conflict-ridden emergence of Syria and Lebanon, the struggle over the holy places of Islam in the Hejaz, and the mutual prejudices of Arabs and Turks about each other.

Currently at the Lebanese American University, Selim Deringil was a professor at the Bosphorus University and a visiting professor in the United States, France, Japan and Hungary. His numerous publications include The Well Protected Domains and Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire, both of which won the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association M. Fuad Köprülü Book Prize.

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After the Great War, the legacy of 400 years of Ottoman rule in the Arab lands was reduced to a bitter feud between Arab and Turkish nationalisms. In both the new Arab nation-states and the Republic of Turkey, post-Ottoman memoirs aimed not at providing earnest accounts of the past but instead at bolstering the official nationalist ideologies of the new regimes. Through close examination of five prominent memoirs penned in Kemalist Turkey, Deringil reveals the true nature of these works and shows how nationalists used them to build the new Turkish state.
— M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, Garrett Professor in Foreign Affairs and Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University
Selim Deringil has long been recognized as one of the foremost historians of Hamidian Turkey and his new book makes a signal contribution to the history of World War I in the Middle East. Too many histories of the twilight of Ottoman rule are written from a Western perspective that treats the Arab theatres of the Great War as a sideshow. Featuring a lucid introduction and extensively edited translations from five hitherto untranslated Turkish memoirs, his book opens a window into the Ottomans’ view of themselves as their world crumbled around them and four centuries of Istanbul’s rule in the Arab East came to an end.
— Tariq Tell, Assistant Professor of Political Studies and Public Administration, American University of Beirut
In The Ottoman Twilight in the Arab Lands, Selim Deringil explores the fate of the very provinces that had been one of the main concerns of the Ottoman sultan Abdülhamid II, as he had himself shown twenty years ago in his groundbreaking Well-Protected Domains. His judicious selection of relevant excerpts from the memoirs of five Turks—three officers, an intellectual, and a young girl—who reminisce about the Ottoman debacle in the Arab lands during World War I makes for a fascinating read and a unique exploration into the meanders of individual and collective memory in times of tragedy and dislocation.
— Edhem Eldem, Professor of History, Boğaziçi University and Collège de France

Table of Contents

Introduction. Aspects of the Ottoman Twilight
Chapter 1. Falih Rıfkı Atay
Chapter 2. Hüseyin Kazım Kadrí
Chapter 3. Ali Fuad Erden
Chapter 4. Münevver Ayaşlı
Chapter 5. Naci Kaşif Kıcıman
Conclusion. The Atrak and the Arabs