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The Ottoman Empire

Narrated by: Kenneth W. Harl
Length: 18 hrs and 44 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (21 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

By understanding the dramatic story of the Ottoman Empire - from its early years as a collection of raiders and conquerors to its undeniable power in the 15th and 16th centuries to its catastrophic collapse in the wreckage of the First World War - one can better grasp the current complexities of the Middle East.

Over the course of these 36 enlightening lectures, investigate over 600 years of history that covers the nature of Ottoman identity, the achievements of the Sultan's court, and stories of confrontation and cooperation with the West.

Befitting a story of such epic scope and grandeur, every lecture is a treasure trove of historical insights into the people, events, themes, and locales responsible for shaping the story of this often-overlooked empire. You'll cover everything from Rumi, the whirling dervishes, and the importance of the sultan's grand viziers to the wars of Sultan Suleiman I, the shadowy politics of the Committee of Union and Progress, and the birth of the Turkish Republic under Kemal Atatürk.

Welcome to a fascinating story of the triumph and tragedy, war and peace, intellectual progress and civil insurrection of a great empire that, for all its glory and grandeur, has left an important legacy that will shape the future of the Balkan nation-states, the Turkish Republic, and the Arab world - and those of us in the West as well.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2017 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Excellent series, good speaker

Professor Harl is a knowledgeable individual with unique insight, but his over-use of 'umm' and 'uh' was a little distracting. Overall an excellent and engaging series, I would recommend.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great material but terrible speaker.

Holy smokes! This is the second time I’ve listen to one of Dr Harl’s courses and, while what he says is interesting, the way he says it is quite off-putting. His pronunciation—regional preferences, I guess—is distracting; his grammar is questionable; and he “hums” and “uhs” at record levels. It’s really too bad. I love the material but it really is a challenge to get through the narration. I will persevere, but if this kind of thing bothers you, be warned.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Terrific!

Really amazing story of a historical period with lots of lasting consequences to date. Kenneth Harl's mastery of the concepts, even those deep within the Islamic and Turkish traditions is really superb. And his narration brings everything to life as if you are watching a great series. I really enjoyed this and I'm kind of sad it's finished!

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Fascinating

This is a fascinating and thorough overview of the Ottoman Empire. If you are interested in the history of the region and how hit has shaped the current state, this is highly recommended.

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  • Mike R.
  • 2017-08-09

Another A++ series from Prof. Harl!!!

I’d give it 7 of 5 stars if possible. It is superbly organized. It’s terrific to see history unfold from the Ottoman viewpoint. I think it corrects for conceptions of the modern Muslim-majority nation state that is too frequently projected into the past. The course is very helpful in thinking about the Balkans and the lead up to WW1.

I appreciate Prof. Harl most when he’s focused on Antiquity through the Middle Ages, where his style is to tell us what the literary sources say – what the archaeological record (so far) tells us – the relevant ancient anecdotes and excerpts (from Herodotus, Plutarch, Livy) that make history interesting – a few jokes of his own – and then maybe a few comments on the current “state of scholarly debate,” or where he has a bias with which other history profs may disagree.

To contrast, some very good lecturers get too bogged down in what various historical “schools of thought” say about a subject (Fagan, others). Others get too cute in trying to weave a continuous narrative and leave out too many details (Fears, Garland). A few bad apples start with a sociological point of view, and try to read that back into time by cherry picking incidents that support it (Dise).

Harl’s lectures are authentic and flow naturally, without any gimmicks. His mastery of the material is obvious. I have listened to all 11 of his courses, most more than once, and he’s simply the best. I would love to see him do a deep dive on the Iranian plateau – Persians though Seleucids, Parthians, Abbasids, etc. That has yet to be covered in detail by a lecturer of Prof. Harl’s caliber.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Angel
  • 2018-03-25

Mixed feelings

What was most disappointing about The Great Courses’s story?

The obvious bias of the author saying thing like "The orthodox christian nations of the Balkans should be grateful to the Ottoman empire for saving their identity..." and justifying the Armenian genocide with the fact that some Arminian held important positions in the empire and the Armenian church was protected, calling it "unfortunate event". More of this was to be found throughout the book.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Nick
  • 2017-07-01

Surprisingly biased

I enjoyed every other series Professor Harl has made, but this one was sub-par. I found myself wondering why he was really hitting hard on the positive stuff about the Ottomans and downplaying the negative, when what I'd admired about his other lectures was the relatively unbiased approach. They weren't apologies but they weren't condemnations either, it was simply history. This series really felt like an op ed piece at times, and Harl often exhibits doublethink (ex: denies that the Armenian genocide occurred because it doesn't fit the UN definition of genocide, but then dismisses the German govt's acknowledgement of the genocide since he "doesn't think politics should play a role in deciding what actually happened"). Once he said he has a Turkish wife though, it started to make sense. There's still some good information in the course, if you don't mind that he glosses over some of the more gruesome aspects of Ottoman society, like how the Janissaries were kidnapped and forcibly circumcized, or the fact that he never really explains that whole silk cord thing or any of the cultural background in which such practices emerged.

That being said, I don't think this course is worth purchasing, you could get all this information on wikipedia and you wouldn't be missing out on any thing really. The most interesting part of the narrative is whenever Europeans enter the scene and Harl has plenty of other quality courses on those subjects, like The Era of the Crusades, World of Byzantium, and Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor.

65 of 88 people found this review helpful

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  • Jon Crawfurd
  • 2017-09-30

Not up to The Great Courses Statndards

I could get through only a small portion of this. It seems disjointed and unorganized, and assumes the listener has more of an understanding of this history than I do. Not good.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Judas Mallory
  • 2017-11-21

Ottomans through rose-colored glasses

If you seek a rosy history of the Ottomans, download this now! His chapter on the Armenian Genocide is dominated by whether it should be labeled as a "genocide" and not the fact that it was an atrocity - by any definition. It sure comes off as an apologist take on the event. And it happens to be one of the few negative parts ever discussed in 18 hours covering 500+ years of Ottoman history. Even during downtimes of the empire, Harl always points out the positives over any negatives. It came off as very biased.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Nikolas Kouvaros
  • 2017-10-14

Some interesting parts but ...

Although there are some good parts on this and is at times an interesting story to listen to, the author takes a "bold" pro-Ottoman side in crucial humanitarian issues like the Armenian and Greek genocide. As himself states early in the book, his wife is Turkish, I am afraid this has prevented him for keeping a more neutral stand in these depressing pages of human history. Overall, a disappointing purchase.

19 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • sirolfw
  • 2017-06-21

Good clear sum-up of the history for anyone who wants understand this period in time.

A good distinction is made about why this empire was not "Turkish" or Arabic, but Muslim.
Also, provides good background about the modern day conflicts between Serbia and Bosnia.



8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Drazen
  • 2019-04-14

Mixed review

Very pro Turkish/Ottoman view of history. Quite apologetic of Turkish actions with regards to conquest in Europe and persecution of Armenians. In that respect not objective.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • khaledalyami001
  • 2017-06-24

This is an magnificent set of lectures!

I have listened to most of Professor Harl's lectures given by the teaching company through Audible, not to mention that I have listened to some set of lecture more than one time. I can say that I am very grateful for these lectures as they are very informative, interesting, engaging, and (to use the adjective Mr. Harl uses to Süleyman the Magnificent) magnificent, which is a word I rarely use to describe something.

I have moved to Turkey about 6 months ago, and with the help of this course on Othoman Empire (even if I don't prefer to call it so) I was able to understand people and thing s happening around me. What I really liked though is Professor's Harl great effort to combine sources from the East and West seeking understanding some of the most controversial aspects of Othoman history.

What I also like is the organization of this set of lectures in a way that has allowed me to understand the most important dates, events, turning points, and more in Othoman history and a little beyond :)
I highly recommend it!

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Justin
  • 2017-06-04

A+ Course by an A+ Professor

Harl is one the greatest professors with the Great Courses. I enjoyed every second of this largely unexplored area of world history.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful