The Best Books on the Ottoman Empire

Despite spanning three continents and over half a millenia, the Ottoman Empire has been relatively neglected by lovers of history, and some of the recent popular texts owe more to fiction than academic study. This is unfortunate, because the Ottoman Empire has an impressive and fascinating past, often closely tied to European affairs.

This is the sort of book you dream of being able to put number one on a list: a single volume history of verve and skill. Only published after the first version of this page, it shoots to number one as the essential starting point for readers. However, it is a little hard to read.

There is a dearth of introductory volumes on the Ottoman Empire, but this book is suitable for both the casual and serious reader. A history of both Constantinople (now called Istanbul) and the Ottoman's ruling family, from the Empire's founding until the end, Mansel's text also contains information on the empire as a whole in a catchy, event packed, book.

Halil is one of our foremost experts on the Ottoman Empire, and this book has been informed by meticulous research. Examining most aspects of life and culture, including politics, religion, and tradition, this volume is short but too dry in style for some readers; of course, the quality of the information far outweighs any struggle with the text.

Originally available only in one large volume, but now also published as two paperbacks, this book is crucial for any remotely serious study of the Ottoman Empire. Fascinating information, great detail and quality referencing have made this one of my most treasured texts. However, the tone is serious and dry, while the material is certainly a little specialized.

Ottoman forces clashed with many European nations in early modern Europe, gaining a reputation as fierce and effective warriors. Rhoads Murphey presents an examination of the Ottoman armies and their style of warfare along all borders.

Goffman examines the Ottoman Empire and its place within Europe, tackling the many inter-relationships between what people have traditionally perceived as two separate units. In doing so, the book dismantles the myth of the Ottomans as an 'alien' culture, or of Europe as 'superior.' 

So many countries emerged from the Ottoman Empire's collapse, including Lebanon and Iraq, that knowledge of the events is relevant to understanding our present, as well as Ottoman past. Macfie's book examines the background to, and causes of, the breakup, including World War One; information on the Balkans is included.

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The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire by edited by Marian Kent

A collection of essays examining the key question of how far the Ottoman Empire collapsed because of internal problems, and how far Europe's 'Great Powers' contributed. Most of the essays are titled Germany, Russia, Britain, or France and the end of the Ottoman Empire, for instance, as a title. Interesting, but specific, reading.

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Suleyman the Magnificent and His Age: The Ottoman Empire

A collection of essays relating to the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century, this book uses an exploration of the larger political and international effects of Suleyman as a theme; it also includes David, Geza's 'Administration in Ottoman Europe.' A competitively priced paperback version is available.

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The Well-Protected Domains by Selim Deringil

A fascinating study of the changing structure and nature of the Ottoman State, The Well-Protected Domains includes sections comparing the empire with Imperial units such as Russia and Japan. Details on ceremony, architecture and other cultural elements are integral to what is a largely specialized work.

A compact, but valuable, volume exploring the key trends which affected the later Ottoman Empire, including topics such as social structures, international relations, and war. However, the themes aren't aimed at lower level students, or someone needing an introduction, so this is best read later on in a study.

World War One destroyed several empires, and while the Ottoman one was in open decline when the conflict started it didn’t survive. Rogan’s critically acclaimed history looks at how the modern Middle East began to emerge.

The second edition expands the content, including a new chapter on the less than popular subject of taxation, but don’t let that word put you off a detailed study of the ‘early years’ and how the Ottoman Empire came to work.

An excellent reference work for anyone interested in the Ottoman Empire, this large hardback was expensive on release.