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This revised edition builds upon and updates the twin themes of Turkey's continuing incorporation into the capitalist world and the modernization of state and society. It begins with the forging of closer links with Europe after the French Revolution, and the changing face of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. In his account of the period since 1950, Zürcher focuses o This revised edition builds upon and updates the twin themes of Turkey's continuing incorporation into the capitalist world and the modernization of state and society. It begins with the forging of closer links with Europe after the French Revolution, and the changing face of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. In his account of the period since 1950, Zürcher focuses on the growth of mass politics; the three military coups; the issue of Turkey's human right's record; integration into the global economy; the alliance with the West and relations with the European Community; and much more.


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This revised edition builds upon and updates the twin themes of Turkey's continuing incorporation into the capitalist world and the modernization of state and society. It begins with the forging of closer links with Europe after the French Revolution, and the changing face of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. In his account of the period since 1950, Zürcher focuses o This revised edition builds upon and updates the twin themes of Turkey's continuing incorporation into the capitalist world and the modernization of state and society. It begins with the forging of closer links with Europe after the French Revolution, and the changing face of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. In his account of the period since 1950, Zürcher focuses on the growth of mass politics; the three military coups; the issue of Turkey's human right's record; integration into the global economy; the alliance with the West and relations with the European Community; and much more.

30 review for Turkey: A Modern History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Pessoa

    Though not a comprehensive study, this is the best introduction to modern Turkey. Before picking it I checked negative reviews on its Turkish edition. Most of those dislikes stemmed not from the book’s failures but its strengths. Some didn’t like it because it “downplayed” Ataturk’s role. Zurcher takes into account different perspectives and thus provides a theoretically mixed but quite an objective history of Turkey. He doesn’t take a side. Official Turkish history and more recent religiously c Though not a comprehensive study, this is the best introduction to modern Turkey. Before picking it I checked negative reviews on its Turkish edition. Most of those dislikes stemmed not from the book’s failures but its strengths. Some didn’t like it because it “downplayed” Ataturk’s role. Zurcher takes into account different perspectives and thus provides a theoretically mixed but quite an objective history of Turkey. He doesn’t take a side. Official Turkish history and more recent religiously colored narrations about the perceived glorious past both want to see history as a weapon to justify their own worldviews. In other words, their necrophilia prevents them from forming a more forgiving and balanced view of past events. In Zurcher’s book, contrary to what Turkish secularists believe, Ataturk isn’t a superhero who can beat Superman to a pulp. He also isn’t an evil godless traitor whose only goal in life was to destroy Ottoman legacy and Islam. Many conservative Turks still fervently believe that the republic was a mistake, one of them probably being the current president and uncontested “supreme leader” of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But I don’t want to be too harsh to His Majesty. Erdogan has proven many times to be a shrewd pragmatist rather than an honest Islamist like Erbakan. An example. In the early 2000s, Erdogan was a strong proponent of European integration. His relations with EU soared after he consolidated his power and started freely imprisoning thousands of people under dubious coup accusations. Sorry for the rant above. Anyway, the best thing about this book is that it provides a lot of facts instead of trying to simplify and explain away everything by using theoretical/ideological tools. It isn’t encumbered by strict explanations. Therefore readers are free to come up with their own answers and/or do further research on the subject.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anonimo

    I read a lot of history so I know a good history when I see one. This book is history as it ought to be written. It is not only 'modern' in the sense that it covers the modern era; it is modern in its approach to history, giving due weight to economic and social factors and citing scholarship on the cutting edge for each chapter. The idea of the book is that modern Turkey did not begin abruptly with Ataturk's republic but rather began sometime around 1800. The story of the decline of the Ottoman I read a lot of history so I know a good history when I see one. This book is history as it ought to be written. It is not only 'modern' in the sense that it covers the modern era; it is modern in its approach to history, giving due weight to economic and social factors and citing scholarship on the cutting edge for each chapter. The idea of the book is that modern Turkey did not begin abruptly with Ataturk's republic but rather began sometime around 1800. The story of the decline of the Ottoman empire and the desperate attempts to keep it alive for the next 120 years is a compelling one with a tragic feeling of futility throughout. This is followed by the drama and violence of the war for Independence, an extraordinary story in its own right. But the establishment of the Republic is put in its proper context as the culmination of a longer process while Ataturk is knocked down a peg from his god-like status, despite the author's obvious admiration for the man. The story is not quite as exciting after the great man's death, but it is still worth getting an idea of how Turkey survived through three military coups to reach the status that it holds today. The book is, however, seriously due for an update as it stops at around 2002 and has nothing to say about the era of Erdogan.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robert Morris

    This is an academic text. It is well written, and can be quite interesting, but its narrative is second to its thoroughness. I was already familiar with much of the history described, so I found it useful. If I were looking for an introduction to Modern Turkey, it might be better to look elsewhere. The book was better about more distant time periods, where the historical interpretations are more settled. The material on the 18th century was especially interesting. The coverage got less convincin This is an academic text. It is well written, and can be quite interesting, but its narrative is second to its thoroughness. I was already familiar with much of the history described, so I found it useful. If I were looking for an introduction to Modern Turkey, it might be better to look elsewhere. The book was better about more distant time periods, where the historical interpretations are more settled. The material on the 18th century was especially interesting. The coverage got less convincing as the book moved through the eras. The coverage of 80s and 90s was especially lacking. I was dismayed to make it through 30 pages on the politics of the time without any mention of the Kurdish problem. It was covered elsewhere, and adequately, but the urge to cover individual topics individually was over-indulged with these passages. I also found the choice to refer to political parties by their English language acronyms bizarre. Turkish politics is a morass of not too differently named parties (the Democrat party and the Democracy party are two very different things). Zurcher's choice to re-name all the parties instead of using the familiar acronyms, well known in party literature and most international reporting was a rare mis-step in a generally clear and straightforward book. The book is a great resource, but kind of slow-going if you are not already interested in the topic.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rob Prince

    This book is better than the 3.48 rating given it by other readers. Much better. Replaces and is a distinct improvement over Bernard Lewis' old classic, The Emergence of Modern Turkey. If it is `not exciting' in the sense that it is straight political history, it contains a wealth of information of value, especially the parts about how Turkey got screwed through the Versailles Treaty at the end of World War One, the emergence of a new modern Turkish nationalism...As Turkey seems to be emerging a This book is better than the 3.48 rating given it by other readers. Much better. Replaces and is a distinct improvement over Bernard Lewis' old classic, The Emergence of Modern Turkey. If it is `not exciting' in the sense that it is straight political history, it contains a wealth of information of value, especially the parts about how Turkey got screwed through the Versailles Treaty at the end of World War One, the emergence of a new modern Turkish nationalism...As Turkey seems to be emerging as a force in and of itself in the Middle East (I'm a little skeptical about how `independent' it is and have written about it elsewhere),...still a good grasp of its history is necessary for any serious understanding of the Modern Middle East.... rjp

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mano Chil

    After my visit to Turkey, I went straight to reading a book in its modern history and chose this book which was easy to read and a delight. But it needs to be updated to include the Erdogan era.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anders

    A solid and very well-researched guide to the emergence of the Turkish republic and its many transformations, taking great care to emphasize continuities with the late Ottoman period and pick apart the Kemalist mythology that passes for historiography. Zürcher is in particular excellent on party politics and manages to navigate more or less readably through endless jungles of intrigue and shifting allegiances. These aspects may be overemphasized ever so slightly to the detriment of social, cultu A solid and very well-researched guide to the emergence of the Turkish republic and its many transformations, taking great care to emphasize continuities with the late Ottoman period and pick apart the Kemalist mythology that passes for historiography. Zürcher is in particular excellent on party politics and manages to navigate more or less readably through endless jungles of intrigue and shifting allegiances. These aspects may be overemphasized ever so slightly to the detriment of social, cultural and economic changes, but that is certainly a forgivable choice when writing the general history of a large, complex country over two centuries. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Fırat Tekbaş

    An objective outlook to the history of the Turkey and last years of Ottoman Empire.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Félix Weber

    Erik-Jan Zürcher's “Turkey: A modern history” provides a concise and detailed telling of the most political events which lead from the late Ottoman Empire to today's AKP ruled the Turkish Nation. After reading the book, you can expect to have basic knowledge of the timeline, the relevant figures of politics, the guiding principles as well as key knowledge of Turkish society. Unfortunately, though, even the 2017 published 4th edition comes with a handful of drawbacks which range from annoying tech Erik-Jan Zürcher's “Turkey: A modern history” provides a concise and detailed telling of the most political events which lead from the late Ottoman Empire to today's AKP ruled the Turkish Nation. After reading the book, you can expect to have basic knowledge of the timeline, the relevant figures of politics, the guiding principles as well as key knowledge of Turkish society. Unfortunately, though, even the 2017 published 4th edition comes with a handful of drawbacks which range from annoying technical flaws to more questionable content issues. The first category could have easily been prevented with thorough proofreading, as at least the Kindle edition suffers from regular typos. Additionally, many sentences are repeated throughout the book. As this is understandable to give the reader reminders about previously explained knowledge — the following quote is, I am sorry, just pure laziness of the author or editor. “Some 260,000 people died from diseases or hunger. As many as 260,000 were killed or died of disease and starvation [sic]” (p.122). More confusingly, Zürcher decided to use translated party names and acronyms. Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi becomes RPP, Adalet Partisi becomes JP, etc. This choice makes no sense — and Zürcher doesn't bother justifying it. Especially for parties still active today, the way of writing bothers. Zürcher seemed to have recognized it too, as after some point the acronyms are arbitrarily not translated anymore — and RPP suddenly becomes CHP, etc. As for content, besides a rather weak thread and guiding through the chapters (going back and forth through chronologies and subjects) Zürcher shows a clear miss- or not-understanding of abstract economical or legal basic knowledge. For example: “[The Turkish government] took the so-called ‘7 September Decisions’ of 1946. Essentially, these meant a devaluation of the Turkish lira by 120 per cent [...] and a number of liberalizing measures aimed at integrating the Turkish economy into the world economy.” (p.293) You don't need to be an expert in macroeconomy to understand that a devaluation of 120% is logically impossible, assuming positive prices — which is certainly the case for currency. Remember, this is the fourth edition and not a preprint. Zürcher proves among other examples his struggle with economic principles by wrongly setting mercantilism identical with capitalism, or in a more modern context his painstaking explanation of dropped credit ratings. “Two American firms whose job it was to determine the credit ratings of countries and firms and whose judgment the international banks generally followed, both lowered their rating for Turkey twice in succession, down from ‘investment grade’ to ‘risky’.” (p.429). On the other hand, and in contrast to this careful explanation of how credit rating agencies apparently work, Zürcher doesn't bother to explain concepts that are in my eyes crucial to understand the Turkish political system. It is at no point explained that the parliament, as a legacy of the Kemalist state, never consisted of more than one chamber — which obviously emphasizes “a winner (coalition) takes it all” compared to bicameral parliament consisting for example of a Congress and a Senate (which almost all western democracies feature). To Zürcher, this seems too abstract, and he prefers to summarize the whole issue as “particularities of the Turkish electoral system” (which it is definitely not, the D'Hondt method applied in Turkey is common in dozens of other parliaments, among those stable democracies as Switzerland, the Netherlands, Israel, Japan and many more) or even as “a political culture in which a simple majority in parliament was supposed to represent the will of the nation as a whole.” (p. 466). To me, it mostly shows that despite the beautiful, detailed telling of “happenings” in Turkey on the path of today's republic, Zürcher weakness clearly lies in abstract economical, political, or legal concepts. Historically, for example, Zürcher compares the Grey Wolves to the SS in the early Third Reich, as they both brought right nationalist violence on the streets and universities — thereby he shows that he confuses the SS with a different German infamous organization, the SA, which acted as he claims. These seem like details, I agree — but these careless and unnecessary explanations slowly undermine my trust in the care and seriousness the author put in his work. I don't understand why he didn't cooperate with fellows who are more able in these specific subjects — rather than sacrificing trustworthiness by writing obvious mistakes. And why is this trustworthiness crucial? Because Zürcher decided to write a book without more than anecdotal references. The footnotes are more about providing more insights (which I don't understand why he didn't just add them in the text itself), selected quotes, sources, or bits of advice for further reading rather than structured and transparent references for his claims. As a summary, if you aim to get a detailed picture of how Turkey became a republic and went on from there — without wanting or requiring more broad and generalizing assistance, I still recommend the book. But if your goal is a deeper understanding of the reasons, mechanisms, interpretations of the political system — or wider, if the goal is to get a more broad view of the cultural, religious, and economic aspects, don't expect too much of it. If you decide to read it, please take it with a lot of critical thinking.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Basel

    First of all, this book deserves a 3.5 stars (my opinion), but as you know on Goodreads you can't do this. The book: ⏺️Inappropriate chapter lengths:I known to understand Turkey the Republic you need to know at least the last decade of the Ottoman Empire, I'm not saying the part of the Ottomans should be short, but the part relating to the Republic should be longer, Or the word "Modern" should be dropped off the title. ⏺️Lack of knowledge about neighbours: the author knowledge about Turkey is und First of all, this book deserves a 3.5 stars (my opinion), but as you know on Goodreads you can't do this. The book: ⏺️Inappropriate chapter lengths:I known to understand Turkey the Republic you need to know at least the last decade of the Ottoman Empire, I'm not saying the part of the Ottomans should be short, but the part relating to the Republic should be longer, Or the word "Modern" should be dropped off the title. ⏺️Lack of knowledge about neighbours: the author knowledge about Turkey is undoubtful, but when it comes to comparing to the other states in the region,, let me say that he was not that good at this. ⏺️Great points:the author made plenty of great points make you understand some events more deeply (why happened OR why it could happen) ⏺️The objectivity: if you were looking for this:well this is the one.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Eya Beldi

    So good, so detailed. It takes a while to read it but definitely a knowledge enricher! I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read Turkish history starting from long-term reasons of the ruin of the empire I think the books starts in 1839 or a few years before that with the Tanizimat era.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Merve Akpınar

    One the best books i have ever read on the modern history of Turkey, The Turkish translation is terrible therefore i recommend you to read it in English.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aysha Alchamat

    Haven't finished. Haven't finished.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shriketr

    turkey 101 book, a must read before reading Bernard Lewis Emergence of Modern Turkey.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Begüm

    A great book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Burak

    Book reads itself, and definitely learned a lot.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Burak Ogutlu

    The book covers the Last 200 years of Turkey very objectively, but not thoroughly. Lack of details in some major events is disappointing, especially for the part covering the 20th century.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Fuad Karimli

    How history should be written

  18. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    While Zurcher doesn't write with much flare—or as much as the subject matter deserves—it's still a thoroughly informative and readable introduction. While Zurcher doesn't write with much flare—or as much as the subject matter deserves—it's still a thoroughly informative and readable introduction.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of this and the text is almost clinical in its description of a country that has modernized dramatically over the past two centuries - a central thesis of the book avows that westernization and secularization were far from the work of Atatürk alone while, as ever, economic considerations are every bit the equal of political ones. Not that Armenians requiring greater coverage of the 1915 massacre or Greek communities whose ancestors were expelled from Smyr Hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of this and the text is almost clinical in its description of a country that has modernized dramatically over the past two centuries - a central thesis of the book avows that westernization and secularization were far from the work of Atatürk alone while, as ever, economic considerations are every bit the equal of political ones. Not that Armenians requiring greater coverage of the 1915 massacre or Greek communities whose ancestors were expelled from Smyrna will be happy - both are covered although perhaps in less depth than they might have been - although as far as the latter story is concerned, it's interesting to receive something of a counterweight to the narrative of - say - Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex . Much space is devoted to more recent developments and the highly nuanced debate between secularists and the Islamic lobby is clearly explained even if the haze of acronyms amid a furry of coups and outlawings of political parties can get confusing at times, leaving one pining for the derring-do of the 'Sick man of Europe' era. Overall though, this is required reading if you want to get up to speed with the last two centuries of Ottoman and Turkish history.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lorientas

    It is a very interesting period for Turks and Europeans so I had a positive bias before starting and It really satisfied my curiosity. It is a very brief book and I am sure that there are very detailed books for the same period. However it is a good place to start and it gives a good idea about the roots of current political struggles of Turkey. It was a fairly objective book and I did not feel any biased presentation. Obviously this is my subjective judgment but I can easily say that writer tri It is a very interesting period for Turks and Europeans so I had a positive bias before starting and It really satisfied my curiosity. It is a very brief book and I am sure that there are very detailed books for the same period. However it is a good place to start and it gives a good idea about the roots of current political struggles of Turkey. It was a fairly objective book and I did not feel any biased presentation. Obviously this is my subjective judgment but I can easily say that writer tries to show both sides of the coin.

  21. 5 out of 5

    AskHistorians

    This book, while lacking in primary source references in some spots, is the most expansive modern history of a country that I've ever read. It manages its events in a clear way, and connects the important events to the overall history of the middle east. Starts in the Late Ottoman Empire and brings us through today. Does a great job balancing social, political, cultural, and economic history, though the pieces added for later editions (the parts covering after ~1980) give less focus to social an This book, while lacking in primary source references in some spots, is the most expansive modern history of a country that I've ever read. It manages its events in a clear way, and connects the important events to the overall history of the middle east. Starts in the Late Ottoman Empire and brings us through today. Does a great job balancing social, political, cultural, and economic history, though the pieces added for later editions (the parts covering after ~1980) give less focus to social and cultural history.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Simon Woell

    digs deeper in turkeys history than most other books on the issue as it starts with the end of the 18th century. the description of the ottoman empire is very good and easily readable for a broader audiance, so is the part about modern turkey which gives me as a political scientist some headache. the concept of a book that describes 250 years of history must be somehow vague, but it gives a perfect overview for starting students and everyone else interested.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Carmel

    As a middle eastern studies student, this area of the world is very interesting to me. While I learned a great deal, especially about WW1s affect on the Ottoman Empire, i wouldn't say this was a riveting read. The modern section got dry with all of the parties and economics. I'm definitely keeping this as a reference. Great resource! As a middle eastern studies student, this area of the world is very interesting to me. While I learned a great deal, especially about WW1s affect on the Ottoman Empire, i wouldn't say this was a riveting read. The modern section got dry with all of the parties and economics. I'm definitely keeping this as a reference. Great resource!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Aras

    A perfect book for who are interested in the history of rising Turkish Republic. The author were able to put forward the issues of last 195 years (except of the years 2000's because this masterpiece was completed in 1993). A perfect book for who are interested in the history of rising Turkish Republic. The author were able to put forward the issues of last 195 years (except of the years 2000's because this masterpiece was completed in 1993).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pinar Gungor Cankaya

    Academic text without cross reference or descriptive footnotes. This book is an excellent reference to whom wants to learn last era of Ottoman history and Turkish era since 1990s.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Grof J. Kešetović

    Great book! A bit lacking in some informations and the end was a bit inconclusive, but overally an awesome book in the modern history of Turkey

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mohammed Aiyob

    A truly good window on the modern history of Turkey, highlights the majority of the incidents that affected the way Turkey is involved politically on both the international and the regional level

  28. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Willardson

    A solid history of Turkey from the mid 18th century on. Good description of the birth of the modern Turkish state, and politics up to the early 2000s.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Huseyin

    Turkey: A Modern History, Revised Edition by Erik J. Zurcher (2004)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Burak

    One of the best books you can read about the history of Turkey.

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