Osman's Dream

The History of the Ottoman Empire


By Caroline Finkel

Formats and Prices





  1. Trade Paperback $22.99
  2. ebook $14.99

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 24, 2007. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The definitive history of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was one of the largest and most influential empires in world history. Its reach extended to three continents and it survived for more than six centuries, but its history is too often colored by the memory of its bloody final throes on the battlefields of World War I. In this magisterial work-the first definitive account written for the general reader-renowned scholar and journalist Caroline Finkel lucidly recounts the epic story of the Ottoman Empire from its origins in the thirteenth century through its destruction in the twentieth.



There has been an explosion of history-writing in recent years, and on the shelves of bookshops together with histories of every other time and place are now to be found Ottoman histories of varying scope and subject matter. Some are intended for an academic audience, some cover only limited periods of time, some are based entirely on non-Turkish or non-Ottoman sources. My purpose has been to try to provide for a general audience an up-to-date history of the whole chronological span of the Ottoman Empire – and beyond; my aim has been to counter the over-simplified notion that the Ottoman Empire rose, declined, and fell – and that is all we need to know about it.

Like history itself, historical research does not stand still, and the last ten or fifteen years have produced exciting new perspectives and interpretations. Nevertheless current general perceptions of the Ottoman Empire still owe a great deal to the observations and prejudices preserved in European sources written in the heat of the various confrontations between western states and the Ottomans. Characterizations of the empire as an ‘Oriental despotism’ or ‘the Sick Man of Europe’, for instance, derive from particular moments in time when such ‘soundbites’ suited particular purposes. Unfortunately, they have been continually repeated and recycled as though they encompass the whole history of the empire and are adequate to embrace the historical insights gained since they were coined.

Much of what passes for general history-writing about the Ottoman Empire in its varied aspects is in reality quite innocent of ‘history’ and reduces the Ottomans and their world to a theatre of the absurd – a parade of salacious sultans, evil pashas, hapless harem women, obscurantist clerics – stereotypical characters frozen into a well-worn setting which lacks all but the barest acknowledgement of the dynamics of history. It tells a timeless tale of an alien and exotic universe, and fails to inform the reader of the processes which shaped that universe. That these books sell well is evidence of general interest in the Ottoman Empire; that they are grounded neither on the more recent historical perceptions nor on the original sources is a reflection of the fact that Ottoman historians have rarely stirred themselves to write for a general audience. I hope my ‘new narrative’ will entertain the general reader, while at the same time serving as a modest corrective, furthering our understanding of the connections between past and present and of how we got to where we are today.

My own approach to Ottoman history is perforce coloured by long residence in the Turkish Republic, the final successor state of the Ottoman Empire, where I have lived for some fifteen years. The past is truly another country in Turkey, whose citizens have been deprived of easy access to the literary and historical works of previous eras by the change of alphabet in 1928 from Arabic script to the Roman alphabet familiar to most of the western world. At the same time, an ongoing programme to make the vocabulary more Turkish is expunging words of Arabic and Persian derivation – the other two components of the rich amalgam that was the Ottoman tongue, today in danger of becoming as ‘dead’ as Latin. On the other hand, works from the Ottoman centuries are now being published in modern script with simplified language, enabling modern readers to gain some understanding of what went before. The situation would otherwise be dire: imagine an English literary canon which lacked anything written before the 1930s!

It once seemed possible that, with the passing of those generations who had learnt the Ottoman language before the change of alphabet, there would be few who were able to read the voluminous documents and manuscripts which are the basic source-material for Ottoman history. However, students continue to train as historians, and learn Ottoman, and they hold university positions in Turkey and abroad alongside non-Turkish-born Ottoman specialists. Yet it has not been easy for Turks to cast off the ‘official history’ taught them in school, a version of their past which took its impetus from the revolution identified with the name of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the ‘father of modern Turkey’. In the early years of the republic the Ottoman centuries were considered to be a closed book and disdained as though they had no connection with its citizens, for whom a more distant Turkic past was considered appropriate. But as the Ottoman period has receded in memory, it is becoming open to scrutiny; and although Turks have been enjoined by the gurus of education to see themselves as inheritors of a proud past which can be described but not interrogated, this too is changing. Thus official history now endorses the notion that the Ottoman dynasty was invincible and its sultans all-powerful – except those remembered with such soubriquets as ‘Sot’ or ‘Crazy’ – but little attention has yet been given to the opposition to the state and its writ which occurred from the earliest years of the empire: a reluctance to acknowledge the existence of dissent which is an abiding feature of politics in modern Turkey.

Yet, despite the practical hurdles which hinder an understanding of their Ottoman past, the citizens of the modern Turkish state are endlessly curious about their history. Political discourse is peppered with lively exchanges of a kind quite unfamiliar to western observers: varying perceptions of the past provide a rich source of reference as politicians and interest groups quibble over which version of history will best serve tomorrow’s purposes (a tomorrow that has often seemed more uncertain than it is elsewhere). Many conversations allude to topics whose roots stretch back into history. The most visible example of the past haunting the present is the ‘Armenian question’ – which in its current manifestation revolves around Armenians lobbying for national governments to declare the communal massacres in Anatolia in the First World War a genocide. Less obvious to outsiders are two other topics high on the Turkish agenda: the role of the military in politics, and the limits of the acceptable in religious expression. These are themes that pervaded Ottoman history, and preoccupied the statesmen and people of the past as they do today’s. The historian’s task is to show how the past led up to the present, or to a present that is now past. In Turkey history-writing thus becomes a more serious matter than it is in some other countries, and the writer of Ottoman history cannot enjoy the luxury of supplying entertainment at the cost of explanation.

It is customary for studies of the Ottoman Empire to end in 1922, the year of the abolition of the sultanate; in 1923 when the Turkish Republic was declared; or even in 1924, when the caliphate was abolished. I have extended my account into the republican period, to 1927, the year when Atatürk made a great speech justifying his role in the overthrow of the empire and the establishment of the republic, and setting out his vision, his dream for the future. Herein lies the conceit behind the title of my book, which alludes to a dream the first sultan, Osman, is said to have had, a dream interpreted as prophesying the birth and growth of the empire whose story I endeavour to tell. Continuing this history until 1927 also allows me to point to some of the continuities between the republic and the history of the empire: the received wisdom that the republic was a tabula rasa which bore only the imprint of the Atatürk revolution is gradually being challenged by historians.

In writing a work of such ambitious scope I have been faced with many hard choices. I make no claims to completeness – which would, after all, have been impossible to achieve. A strong narrative line seemed desirable. At some points, readers may object that it would be easier to understand what is going on if unfamiliar elements like the janissaries or the harem were treated separately, outside the main flow of the text. I contend that these features are integral aspects of the society which produced them, that they did not exist in a vacuum; by the same token, art and architecture arise from the complexity of society, and cannot be interpreted as isolated expressions of pure creativity. Nor does it make any sense to deal with religion in a chapter entitled ‘Islam’, since religion is a major dynamic force in history, and the way it is practised at any time or in any place has political repercussions. Viewing history through ‘institutions’ tends to freeze-frame what was dramatic, and obscure the interconnections between related events. It has the further drawback of encouraging the reader to seize upon the very aspects of Ottoman history that have so often been treated pejoratively, without explaining how they arose and why they developed as they did. Thus is any attempt to interpret Ottoman history by the same standards as other histories hindered, and that history made to seem unique. There are unique aspects to the history of every state, of course; but to emphasize them rather than the aspects that are comparable to the history of other states seems to me to miss the point.

The ‘black hole’ that is Ottoman history is a cause for regret in and of itself, but more regrettable still is the present palpable ‘iron curtain’ of misunderstanding between the West and Muslims. This stems to a large degree from the West’s ‘old narrative’ of the Ottoman Empire, which by extension is the narrative of many centuries of the Islamic past. To understand those who are culturally and historically different from us – rather than resorting to such labels as ‘evil empire’, ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘terrorist’ to mask our ignorance – is a matter of urgency. The greatest hubris is to ask why ‘they’ are not like ‘us’, to accept our cultural biases lazily and without question, and to frame the problem in terms of ‘what went wrong?’

This, then, is a book intended for several audiences. I hope general readers who know little of the Ottomans apart from the ‘old’ narrative will find the ‘new’ narrative every bit as entertaining – and much more complex and satisfying, since it explains how the empire and its people saw themselves and how this perception changed over time. I have written much about the Ottomans’ neighbours and rivals to east and west, so there is something, too, for those interested in territories on the Ottoman frontiers as well as further away. It is also intended for students embarking on a study of Ottoman history, who presently lack a single-volume narrative in English. I hope, indeed, that it will be read by all those for whom the long centuries of the Ottoman Empire hold a fascination.


First among equals

THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE ended on a particular day, but its beginnings are shrouded in myth.

On 29 October 1923 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was declared president of the Turkish Republic, a state whose legitimacy was based on popular sovereignty within finite, internationally-recognized frontiers. Turkish republicans had already demoted the Ottoman Sultan – on 1 November 1922 – so that he retained only his religious role as caliph, and on 3 March 1924 they abolished that office too, thereby abandoning altogether the notion that the state they were creating owed its existence to dynastic politics or to divine right.

Between the 15th and the 20th of October 1927 Mustafa Kemal set out in a lengthy address to parliament – so famous that it is known in Turkish simply as ‘The Speech’ – the reasons his generation had rejected the nation’s stale and unprofitable Ottoman past. His first years in power were dedicated to a series of reforms, which he called revolutions, designed to oblige the Turkish people to abandon their imperial heritage, escape the tyranny of clerics, and embrace the modern world.

It is only more recently that Turks have been able to see their own history as something other than the story of the rise and terrible decline of an Islamic empire that at its height in the sixteenth century might have rivalled the might of ancient Rome, but that owing to some inherent flaw failed to keep pace with the Christian West. For centuries Ottoman military might intimidated the armies not just of Europe but of Iran and other Muslim states; Ottoman architects built the great mosques which dominate the skylines of Istanbul and provincial cities; the empire’s legal system continued to juggle the ethnic complexities of the Balkans and the Middle East. To discover exactly how the Ottomans managed to finance and administer an empire of this scale, modern historians of an independent mind began to decipher the architects’ account books and to examine the legal records; a new generation of scholars began to read between the lines of chronicles commissioned by victorious sultans, to see how the history of empire was not simply the history of its ruling family; and, perhaps most importantly, they began to look critically at the histories written – sometimes with all the sophistication of western scholarship – in territories that had once been under Ottoman rule, and discovered that they were partial and incomplete because, seeing through a glass darkly, their authors presented national myth as historical fact, and made assumptions about the nature of the Ottoman Empire without listening to the Ottoman voice.

So by the time the Turkish Republic celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of its creation in 1998, it had the confidence to plan festivities on the eve of the second millennium to commemorate the founding 700 years earlier of the Ottoman Empire. But why should 1299 CE be considered the founding date of the empire? – there were no famous battles, no declarations of independence or storming of a bastille. The simplest explanations are often the most convincing: that year corresponds to the years 699–700 in the Islamic calendar.fn1 By rare mathematical coincidence, the centuries turned at the same time in both the Christian and Islamic calendars. What more auspicious year to mark the founding of an empire that spanned Europe and the Middle East?

The early Ottomans, struggling to plant their authority, were less concerned with the date of the founding of their state than with the vision that underpinned their right to rule. To them, empire began quite literally with a dream. One night, the first sultan, Osman, was sleeping in the house of a holy man called Edebali when:

He saw that a moon arose from the holy man’s breast and came to sink in his own breast. A tree then sprouted from his navel and its shade compassed the world. Beneath this shade there were mountains, and streams flowed forth from the foot of each mountain. Some people drank from these running waters, others watered gardens, while yet others caused fountains to flow. When Osman awoke he told the story to the holy man, who said ‘Osman, my son, congratulations, for God has given the imperial office to you and your descendants and my daughter Malhun shall be your wife’.1

First communicated in this form in the later fifteenth century, a century and a half after Osman’s death in about 1323, this dream became one of the most resilient founding myths of the empire, conjuring up a sense of temporal and divine authority and justifying the visible success of Osman and his descendants at the expense of their competitors for territory and power in the Balkans, Anatolia, and beyond.

No one could have predicted the achievements of the Ottomans over the succeeding centuries. Around 1300 they were only one of many Turcoman, or Turkish, tribal groups of Central Asian origin vying for control in Anatolia – the land between the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Aegean. This had been part of the Eastern Roman Empire, which evolved into the Byzantine Empire following the split between East and West. Constantine the Great, after he came to power in 324 CE, had founded his new imperial capital, Constantinople, on the Bosporus, and the city had continued as capital of the eastern empire. Byzantium at its height had included the Balkans and extended east across Anatolia into modern Syria and beyond, but never recovered from the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by the knights of the Fourth Crusade, nor from the ensuing Latin occupation of the city between 1204 and 1261. By the early fourteenth century the empire was reduced to Constantinople itself, Thrace, Macedonia and much of modern Greece, and a few fortresses and seaports in western Anatolia.

Turcoman tribes had been bold raiders on the eastern frontier of the Byzantine Empire for centuries, long before the Ottomans came to prominence. Most successful of the earlier wave of Turcomans were the Seljuk Turks, who had gradually moved westward from Central Asia as part of a prolonged migration of pastoralist nomads into the Middle East and Anatolia at a time when Byzantium was weakened by internal disputes far away in Constantinople. The Seljuk Turks met with little opposition and in 1071, under their sultan Alparslan, they defeated a Byzantine army commanded by Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes at the battle of Malazgirt (Manzikert), north of Lake Van in eastern Anatolia, opening the way for the Turcoman migrants to move westwards practically unhindered.

Islam arrived in predominantly Christian Anatolia with the Seljuk Turks; individuals of Turcoman stock had embraced Islam from the ninth century when they came into contact – often as mercenaries – with the Muslim dynasties of the Arab heartlands; mass conversion of Turks in Central Asia was only about a century old, however. Their migration into Anatolia was a momentous event. Under Alparslan’s successors the Seljuks established themselves in Anatolia, making their base not far from Constantinople, at İznik (Nicaea), until the capture of that city by the soldiers of the First Crusade in 1097 forced them to withdraw to Konya (Iconium), in central Anatolia. At around the same time the Danishmendid emirate, initially more powerful than the Seljuks, controlled a wide swathe of territory across north and central Anatolia; in the north-east, the Saltukids ruled their lands from Erzurum and the Mengucheks from Erzincan; and in the south-east were the Artukids of Diyarbakır (Amid). The Anatolia into which these Turcomans moved was ethnically and culturally mixed, with long-established Kurdish, Arab, Greek, Armenian and Jewish populations in addition to the Muslim Turcomans. Byzantium lay to the west, and in Cilicia and northern Syria were the Armenian and Crusader states, bordered to the south by the Muslim Mamluk state with its capital at Cairo. Over the course of the next century the Seljuks absorbed the territories of their weaker Turcoman neighbours, and in 1176 their sultan Kilijarslan II routed the army of the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus at the site known as Myriocephalum, to the north of Lake Eğridir in south-west Anatolia. No longer confined to the interior of the Anatolian plateau, the Turcomans began expanding towards the coasts, gaining access to the trade routes of the surrounding seas.

The early thirteenth century was the heyday of the Seljuks of Rum as they called themselves (the geographic marker ‘Rum’ signified the lands of ‘Eastern Rome’, the Byzantine Empire) in distinction to the Great Seljuk Empire in Iran and Iraq. Stable relations between the Byzantines and the Seljuks of Rum allowed the latter to concentrate on securing their eastern borders, but this equilibrium was shattered when another wave of invaders swept in from the east: the Mongols, led by the descendants of the fearsome conqueror Genghis Khan, who sacked the lands of the various successor states of the Great Seljuk Empire that lay in their path. As the Seljuk victory at Malazgirt in 1071 had hastened the collapse of Byzantine rule in Anatolia, so a Mongol victory over a Seljuk army in 1243 at Kösedağ, near Sivas in north-central Anatolia, spelled the end of independence for the Seljuks of Rum. Their once-powerful sultan in Konya now became a tribute-paying vassal of the Mongol khan whose seat was far away at Karakorum in inner Asia. The subsequent years were turbulent as the sons of the last independent sultan Kay-Khusraw II disputed their patrimony, supported by various Turcoman and Mongol factions. Although during the last quarter of the century the Mongol Ilkhanid dynasty imposed direct administration, Ilkhanid control in Anatolia was never very strong for they, like the Seljuks, were locked in internecine struggle. The Turcomans of Anatolia resisted the Ilkhanids, and the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria made inroads into the Ilkhanid domains from the south. But the Ilkhanids were more concerned with securing the profits to be earned from customs dues on the valuable trade between India and Europe, which passed along the routes through north-east Anatolia, and all but abandoned their ‘far west’ to the Turcoman marcher-lords on the north-western fringes of the former Seljuk lands.2

By the early years of the fourteenth century Anatolia had become home to a new generation of Muslim Turcoman emirates. They often formed strategic alliances, but inevitably came into conflict as each developed its own distinct economic and political goals. In the south around Antalya (Adalia) was the emirate of Teke, in south-west Anatolia was Menteşe, with Aydın to its north; the inland emirate of Hamid centred on Isparta, Saruhan had Manisa as its capital and northwards towards the Dardanelles lay Karesi. Germiyan’s capital was Kütahya, while north-central Anatolia was the territory of the house of İsfendiyar. The emirate of Karaman occupied south-central Anatolia with its capital at first deep in the Taurus mountains at Ermenek, then at Karaman and finally at the former Seljuk seat of Konya. By mid-fourteenth century, Cilicia was home to the emirates of the Ramazanoğulları, centred in Adana, and the neighbouring Dulkadıroğulları, based to the north-east at Elbistan. In north-west Anatolia, bordering what remained of Byzantium, was the emirate of Osman, chief of the Osmanlı – known to us as the Ottomans.

We first hear of the Ottomans around 1300 when, so a contemporary Byzantine historian tells us, there occurred in 1301 the first military encounter between a Byzantine force and troops led by a man called Osman. This battle – the battle of Bapheus – was fought not far from Constantinople, on the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara: the Byzantine forces were routed.3 Many years were to elapse, however, before the power of the Ottomans could be said to rival that of the Byzantines and many myths would arise to explain the origins of a dynasty that seemed to have sprung from nowhere.

Why did the family of Osman come to dominate its neighbours and, over the succeeding centuries, how did the Ottoman emirate, only one among many in the borderlands between Byzantine and Seljuk–Ilkhanid territory, become the sole inheritor of both these states and develop into a great and long-lived empire expanding into three continents? These questions continue to fascinate historians – and to elude conclusive answer. One reason is that the history of medieval Anatolia is still rather little known. Another is that contemporary annalists of the settled states of the region – Seljuk, Armenian, Byzantine, Mamluk and Latin – were preoccupied with their own fate: details of those against whom they fought or with whom they concluded treaties enter their accounts only fortuitously. The traditions of the Anatolian Turcomans were oral and it was only once most of their rivals had been erased from the map that the Ottomans wrote down the story of their origins, emphasizing their own history at the expense of that of long-gone challengers and their doomed endeavours to found permanent states.

There are further questions to be considered. Was the Ottoman emirate motivated above all by commitment to ‘holy war’4 (jihād) – the struggle against non-Muslims that was a canonical obligation upon all believers? For Muslims the world was notionally divided into the ‘abode of Islam’, where Islam prevailed, and the ‘abode of war’, the infidel lands that must one day accept Islam – and ‘holy war’ was the means to bring this about. ‘Holy war’ had, after all, motivated the Muslim community in its early years as the new faith sought to expand and, like the proclamation of a Christian crusade, had provided inspiration to fighters down the ages. Or was it the fluid character of frontier society at this time which enabled the Ottoman emirate to gain control over extensive territories? Was the Ottoman emirate’s ability to win out over rival dynasties and states due to a favourable strategic location in the march-lands of the poorly-defended Byzantine Empire, or was Ottoman expansion a consequence of political acumen and good luck? Modern historians attempt to sift historical fact from the myths contained in the later stories in which Ottoman chroniclers accounted for the origins of the dynasty, with the help of clues contained in contemporary inscriptions, coins, documents and epic poems, as well as in works in languages other than Turkish. Wherever the answers to questions about Ottoman success may lie, the struggle of the Ottomans against their Anatolian neighbours was hard fought over almost two centuries.

The geographical and climatic features of the Anatolian land mass which was home to the Turcoman emirates played a significant role in shaping their history and in the success or failure of their efforts at carving out territorial enclaves. Most of Anatolia is high, forming an elevated central plateau ringed, except in the west, by mountains rising to 4,000 metres. The terrain is gentle in the west, where the foothills of the plateau fall to the Aegean and the Sea of Marmara leaving a wide, fertile coastal plain. In the south-east the mountains give way to the deserts of Iran, Iraq and Syria. In the north and south the coastal strip is narrow and deep valleys penetrate the mountains between steep, rugged peaks. The steppe grasslands of the plateau provide rich grazing for flocks and herds but experience extremes of climate: Turcoman pastoralists – like many Anatolian husbandmen today – moved their animals to high pastures for the summer months. They traded with the settled agriculturists of the western lowlands and the coastal fringes, where soils are more productive and the climate less severe; the people of the coastal lands in turn looked to the sea for their livelihood. Thus were goods exchanged and alliances established.

The Ottomans were not the first of the post-Mongol wave of Muslim Turcoman dynasties to appear in the historical record. We hear of the Germiyan house in 1239–40,5 well before Osman’s battle against the Byzantines in 1301, while the Karamanids, named after one Karaman Bey, first appear in 1256.6 As they began to claim permanent lands, these emerging dynasties sought to make themselves visible in new ways, for instance by building monuments to impress would-be supporters. This, a practice of settled folk, not of nomadic pastoralists or subsistent agriculturists, can be seen as indicating the ambitions of former nomads to found a sedentary state. Evidence for the building activity of the Turcoman dynasties survives in dated inscriptions: from the mosque of the minor dynasty of Eşrefoğulları at Beyşehir in the lake district of south-west Anatolia of the year 696 of the Islamic calendar (1296–7 CE),7 and from the now-demolished Kızıl Bey mosque in Ankara where the pulpit was repaired by the chiefs of Germiyan in 699 (1298–9).8 The Great mosque built by the Karamanid leader Mahmud Bey in Ermenek dates, according to its inscription and foundation deed, from 702 (1302–3).9


  • "Caroline Finkel effortlessly conveys the high drama of Ottoman history."—Orhan Pamuk
  • "Magnificent.... For perhaps the first time in English, a genuine Ottoman scholar has written a clear narrative account of the great empire based mainly on Turkish rather than hostile western accounts. The result is not only a revelation; it is a vital corrective to the influential but partial and wrong-headed readings of the flagbearers of intellectual Islamophobia."—William Dalrymple, The Scotsman
  • "Finkel has managed to produce a scholarly, lucid, judicious and enjoyable account of over 600 years of history in a single volume, which will surely be the standard work of its kind for many years to come."—Times Literary Supplement
  • "An absorbing, monumental story of one of the most reviled and misunderstood of all empires.... Osman's Dream is a marvelous achievement."—BBC History Magazine
  • "How timely to have such a lucid, well-researched, and fair-minded history of the Ottoman Empire--and one too which treats it not as some exotic and alien world, but as part of our common past."—Margaret MacMillan, author of Paris 1919
  • "Osman's Dream is a treasure for anyone who wants to know exactly what happened when in the Ottoman Empire. Here at last is a reliable history that takes into full account not only the work of international and Turkish historians but also the writings of the Ottomans themselves."—Hugh Pope, author of Sons of the Conquerors: The Rise of theTurkic World
  • "Finkel has brilliantly woven together a highly readable survey of 600 years of Ottoman history. Well researched and beautifully written, Osman's Dream will be essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about the Empire that ruled for centuries over so many of our contemporary trouble spots--from the Balkans to the Arab world."—Heath W. Lowry, Princeton University
  • "Finkel is judicious, evenhanded and objective...is an impressive and important work."—The Nation
  • "[Finkel's] mastery of the historical literature is obvious: The sheer amount of information packed between these two covers makes it a landmark achievement."—New York Sun
  • "With this superb book, Finkel boldly covers new ground in striving to show the Ottoman Empire from within.... Having spent 15 years living in Turkey, Finkel is uniquely positioned to overcome the practical hurdles to Ottoman research, but her real strength is in historiography: she has a keen ability to extract salient observations from her sources even as she renders their political motives transparent. The result is a panorama of the Ottoman Empire to rival the best portraits of the Romanovs and Habsburgs, and a must-have for history collections."—Booklist
  • "The timing of Caroline Finkel's splendidly written Osman's Dream reflects the buoyant state of Ottoman scholarship. Neglected archives have been triumphantly mined by a new generation of scholars, and Finkel's intimacy with the material makes this the most authoritative narrative history of the empire yet published."—Literary Review
  • "Osman's Dream is a deeply sympathetic, compelling and highly readable account of the rise and fall of an immensely complex and dynamic society which, at its height was the most the most far-reaching and the most powerful Empire the world had ever seen. But it is also something more. For Caroline Finkel has not only told history of how a band of Turcoman warriors from eastern Anatolia came to dominate so much of the world. She has also shown why that history matters, why today we are in no position to understand, not merely the modern Republic of Turkey but also modern Islam unless we also understand the past, and the present perception, of the greatest and most enduring of the Islamic states."—Anthony Pagden, Distinguished Professor of History and Political Science, UCLA

On Sale
Apr 24, 2007
Page Count
704 pages
Basic Books

Caroline Finkel

About the Author

Caroline Finkel has lived in Istanbul for many years and traveled widely in Turkey and the former Ottoman lands. She has a doctorate in Ottoman history from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Osman’s Dream is her third book. She currently divides her time between Istanbul and London.

Learn more about this author