The Ottoman Empire

Course No. 3160
Professor Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University
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Course No. 3160
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What Will You Learn?

  • Learn why Sultan Suleiman I is considered one of the Ottoman Empire's most important political rulers.
  • Make sense of the public - and private - politics of the grand Ottoman court.
  • Appreciate the empire's many cultural contributions, including mosques and illuminated manuscripts.
  • Examine reasons why the Ottoman Empire collapsed after the First World War.
  • Ponder how the legacy of the Ottoman Empire continues to shape the Middle East today.

Course Overview

When confronting the future, nations and civilizations always look to the past for guidance, lessons, and a shared sense of purpose and meaning. For the peoples of the Middle East, that immediate past is the Ottoman Empire.

In the West, we often overlook the fact that the achievements of the Ottoman Empire at the zenith of its power matched those of contemporary Western Europe – as well as the other great Islamic states of Safavid Iran and Mughal India. According to Kenneth W. Harl, award-winning professor of Classical and Byzantine history at Tulane University, “the cultural achievements of Ottoman civilization still endure, and they speak of a wealthy and sophisticated Islamic civilization.”

It is by understanding the vast, 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 – that one can better grasp the current complexities of the Middle East, including geopolitical tensions between Turkey and its Balkan and Middle Eastern neighbors, the sustained political and cultural power of Islam, and the balancing act between religious tradition and cultural modernity.

What made the Ottoman Empire such a match with the empires of the early modern world? What, in fact, made this empire unlike any other in human history? What forces were responsible for shaping this brilliant civilization—and what forces led to its ultimate destruction? These are just some of the questions you’ll explore alongside Professor Harl in The Ottoman Empire. Over the course of 36 historically rich and enlightening lectures, you’ll investigate more than 600 years of history that cover the nature of Ottoman identity, the achievements and oddities of the Sultan’s court, and stories of confrontation and cooperation with the West. The result: a better appreciation for the ways in which the Ottomans created a unique way of life – and how that way of life echoes throughout Europe and across the Middle East. 

From “Sublime Porte” to “Sick Man”

To the emissaries of King Francis I in 1536, the Ottoman Empire was called the “Sublime Porte,” referring to the magnificence of the high gate within the empire’s grand Topkapı palace complex. More than 200 years later, Tsar Nicholas I referred to the empire— beginning to lose territory and power—as “the Sick Man of Europe.” Less than 100 years after that, the empire disappeared.

The Ottoman Empire guides you through the rise, flourishing, and fall of one of the most powerful forces in history in a way that makes historical themes and ideas easy to understand. Working chronologically from the empire’s medieval roots to its rebirth as the modern republic of Turkey, Professor Harl groups the lectures around a series of historical moments and themes.

  • An Empire is Born: You’ll get an in-depth look at how the Ottoman Empire was first created, and you’ll follow the learning journey it took up through 1632, during the reign of Sultan Murat IV. Along the way, you’ll meet rulers seldom equaled by any other dynasty, including Suleiman the Magnificent – who reigned from 1520 to 1566 and whose iconic rule is still hailed as the apex of Ottoman power.
  • The High Ottoman Empire: The classical age of the Ottoman Empire is commonly held as the time between 1453 and 1699. What were its political and religious institutions like? What cultural advancements were made? You’ll dive into two centuries of vitality and originality, covering everything from the imperial economy to Islamic building programs to the development of miniature manuscript paintings.
  • When East Met West: Central to the classical age of the Ottoman Empire was its complex relationship with its eastern and Western neighbors, from Safavid Iran to European traders, who both engaged with – and threatened – the traditional Ottoman order. You’ll consider how wars and treaties with the Holy Roman Empire, Venice, Russia and more shifted the balance of power that would pave the way for the empire’s ultimate decline.
  • Reform, Collapse, Rebirth: Starting in the late 17th century, the Ottoman Empire began its slow decline, collapse, and partition. After which, a rebirth occurred in the form of the republic of Turkey. Professor Harl unpacks the various historical forces responsible for this, chief among them the First World War and the leadership of Mustafa Kemal.

People, Events, and Themes that Made an Empire

Befitting a story of such epic scope and grandeur, every lecture of The Ottoman Empire is a treasure trove of historical nuggets and fascinating insights into the people, events, themes, and locales responsible for shaping the story of this often overlooked empire.

Told with Professor Harl’s characteristic detail and insight, these and other topics are just a few of what you’ll find laid in these 36 lectures.

  • Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes. One of the central figures in the early spiritual transformation of Anatolia was Jalal-ud-din Rumi who, along with his followers, the iconic “whirling dervishes,” used Sufism to create a folk Islam linked to the mores of Anatolian village life.
  • Selim the Grim. An ambitious victor of a civil war in 1512, Selim earned his terrifying moniker, Yavuz (“the Grim”), after ordering the execution of all challenges to his rule, including his half-brother, his nephews, and his cousins.
  • The Sultan’s Deputies. Something of the Turkish sultan’s right-hand man, the grand viziers, after the mid-16th century, began to assume the foreign policy and administrative power from sultans, who found themselves more involved with spiritual and ceremonial matters.
  • Suleiman’s Wars. Not only was Suleiman I one of the Ottoman Empire’s most decisive, influential rulers, he also waged several fierce military campaigns against Safavid Iran (the empire’s main Eastern rival) that were less about territory and more about competing religious claims as to who would lead the Islamic world.
  • The Committee of Union and Progress. Between 1909 and 1911, the CUP dominated the Ottoman parliament as something of a shadow government ruling through repression. This is a political model that, Professor Harl notes, would be transmitted to the empire’s successor states in southeastern Europe and the Middle East.

A Fascinating Story Told by a Great Storyteller

Over the years, Professor Harl has been acclaimed by lifelong learners for his ability to untangle historical complexities and recreate the thrill of making historical connections. As a seasoned member of The Great Courses faculty, his expertise in the Classical and Byzantine eras (including scholarly work on classical Anatolia) makes him the perfect guide through centuries of fascinating history.

The winner of numerous teaching awards, including Tulane University’s Sheldon Hackney Award for Excellence in Teaching (on two occasions), Professor Harl has a preternatural ability to make the intricate layers and interconnections of an entire civilization’s history graspable.

A visually rich course, the video editions of The Ottoman Empire come complete with helpful maps that show the historic expansion (and contraction) of the empire; portraits that put a face with some of the many people you encounter in these lectures; photographs and illustrations of Ottoman architecture, illuminated manuscripts, and historic landscapes; and much more.

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.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Sublime Porte: Visions of the Ottoman Empire
    How should one consider the vast history of the Ottoman Empire? Professor Harl sets the stage for the lectures to come with a consideration of key themes in the empire’s journey from “Sublime Porte” to “Sick Man of Europe” – as well as the distorting images of Orientalism. x
  • 2
    Seljuk Turks in Asia Minor
    Ottoman sultans traced their origins to the Oghuz Turks of the Central Eurasian steppes, whose nomadic ways of life were transformed by Islam. Follow along as the subsequent Seljuk Turks evolve from raiders to conquerors–and spark conflict with Western Europe’s religious pilgrims. x
  • 3
    The Islamization of Asia Minor
    First, learn how the Seljuk sultans created an Islamic Turkish Anatolia, which would become the heartland of future Ottoman sultans. Then, explore Seljuk developments in architecture, decorative art, and religion – including domed mosques, medresses (religious schools), and “whirling dervishes.” x
  • 4
    Ottoman Sultans of Bursa
    Meet the sultans who transformed the Ottoman sultanate into an imperial state. Among these: Orhan, who made Bursa the state’s capital; Murad I and Bayezid I, who incorporated Asia Minor into the Ottoman state; and “the Thunderbolt,” who forged an empire of tributaries in the Balkans and Anatolia. x
  • 5
    Defeat and Recovery, 1402–1451
    The defeat of Sultan Bayezid by Tamerlane at the Battle of Angora revealed the fragile nature of the nascent Ottoman sultanate. Focus on the empire’s recovery under Mehmed I Çelebi and Murad II, who made the empire into a bureaucratic monarchy and defeated the Hungarians at the Battle of Varna. x
  • 6
    Mehmet the Conqueror, 1451–1481
    Mehmet the Conqueror made the Ottoman sultanate a leading Muslim power by 1481. In this lecture, investigate his remarkable rule, which included the conquest of Constantinople, the remodeling of the Hagia Sophia as a mosque, and the construction of the grand, walled mini-city of Topkapı. x
  • 7
    Selim the Grim and the Conquest of Cairo
    In 1512, Selim emerged victorious from the ashes of a civil war and executed all challenges to his rule (earning him the sobriquet “the Grim”). Go inside Selim’s military campaigns against Iran, Syria, and Egypt, which helped make the Ottoman Empire virtually synonymous with the “house of Islam.” x
  • 8
    Suleiman the Magnificent, 1520–1566
    Suleiman the Magnificent presided over the zenith of the Ottoman Empire. You’ll learn how, during his 46-year reign, he expanded civil bureaucracy, waged a naval war in the Mediterranean against Habsburg Spain, and also altered the imperial succession–sowing what some historians consider the seeds of the empire’s downfall. x
  • 9
    Sultans in Topkapı, 1566–1648
    Turn now to a period of decline, most notable for the emergence of the harem as a powerful political institution. Meet sultans including Murad III, a patron of the arts (especially miniaturist painting) and Ahmet I, an ineffective 13-year-old who presided over the “Sultanate of Women.” x
  • 10
    The Sultan-Caliph and His Servants
    Ottoman sultans played two roles: as sultan/warrior and as the caliph of Sunni Islam. Here, unpack the role of the sultan in the Ottoman Empire, including his relationship with the ulema (religious experts), his central administration (called the Porte"), and with his viziers." x
  • 11
    Timariots, Peasants, and Pastoralists
    Between 1500 and 1800, the Ottoman Empire spread across more than 1 million square miles–but economic activity varied from region to region. Discover how groups like pastoralists and the Muslim gentry (timariots) played their own critical roles in the drama and resiliency of the rural Ottoman economy. x
  • 12
    Trade, Money, and Cities
    Trade was vital to the Ottoman Empire – as well as a cause for its decline from “Porte” to “Sick Man of Europe.” Trace some of the empire’s most prominent trade routes, including the iconic Silk Road, as well as the British penetration of Ottoman markets in 1838. x
  • 13
    Arabs under the Ottoman Caliph
    For 300 years, Ottoman Sultans ruled the majority of Arabs. How did “the Porte” successfully administer the diverse Arab provinces under its control? How did “the Porte” respect Islamic traditions? Why were the Arabs so loyal to the empire up until the early 19th century? x
  • 14
    Christians and Jews under the Porte
    Under the Ottomans, Christian and Jewish subjects were classified as dhimmi (“people of the book”) and were afford legal protection and the right to practice their faith. Explore daily life in some of the Christian and Jewish communities (millet) scattered across the empire. x
  • 15
    Sunni Islam and Ottoman Civilization
    Go deeper inside the details of Ottoman civilization. Among the topics you'll explore are the transformation of Turkish into a new literary language; the importance of calligraphy and miniaturist painting; intellectual developments in history and geography; and, finally, the cultural influence of the Sufis. x
  • 16
    Ottoman Constantinople
    What was Constantinople like under Ottoman control? Professor Harl shows how the empire became a veritable paradise among Muslim cities, with markets and mosque complexes, social activities and public spaces, and the grandeur of Topkapı, which you’ll see through the eyes of French Ambassadors sent in 1536. x
  • 17
    The Sultan at War: The Ottoman Army
    Sultans between the reigns of Murad II and Mehmet IV commanded one of the finest armies in Eurasia. Discover how the Ottoman imperial army matched Europe's best, how money was raised to meet the rising costs of war, why the Ottoman army suffered decisive defeats, and more. x
  • 18
    Sultan and Shah: Challenge of Safavid Iran
    The Ottoman Sultan and the Safavid Shah clashed frequently over strategic lands between the two civilizations. First, learn why Safavid Iran was the religious and ideological rival of “the Porte.” Then, examine five major wars the Ottomans waged against their rivals between 1514 and 1722. x
  • 19
    Sultan and Emperor: War in the West
    Visit the empire’s northern border in Europe to explore its military clashes with the West. Why was fighting in Central Europe so indecisive? Why did the Long-Turkish War prove so embarrassing for three sultans? How did “the Porte” come to ease tensions with the Habsburgs after 1605? x
  • 20
    Sultan and Venice: War in the Mediterranean
    Learn why Ottoman success at sea in the 1500s stemmed from Suleiman's strategic vision and the skills of his admirals. Along the way, you'll investigate Suleiman's war against Venice, the Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and battles with another European naval power: Portugal. x
  • 21
    Köprülü Viziers and Imperial Revival
    Professor Harl reveals how a dynasty of Grand Viziers and bureaucrats rescued the Ottoman Empire from factions and court intrigue, then guided the empire through various crises between 1683 and 1699, helping to end the ruinous war against Venice, as well as end political instability within the House of Osman. x
  • 22
    The Empire at Bay, 1699–1798
    In this lecture, learn why the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz is a turning point in Ottoman history–another that marked the empire’s steady decline into the “Sick Man of Europe.” Central to this lecture: the Ottoman military’s engagement with a powerful new Christian foe: Catherine the Great. x
  • 23
    Napoleon Invades Ottoman Egypt
    France's occupation of Egypt from 1798 to 1801 compromised the restoration of Ottoman rule in the country. And, as you'll learn, Napoleon's invasion also marked the first instance of the Muslim Middle East's encounter with modernity and political reforms based on the principles of the French Revolution. x
  • 24
    Crisis: Muhammad Ali and Balkan Nationalists
    Learn how Muhammad Ali exploited the confusion in Egypt after Napoleon's departure and, in 35 years, became the first successful Muslim ruler to transform Egypt into the literary and intellectual center of the Arabic-speaking world. Also, consider several Serbian and Greek revolts that rocked the Ottoman Empire. x
  • 25
    Tanzimat and Modernization, 1839–1876
    First, examine how the reforms of professional ministers led by Mustafa Reşid Paşa ushered in a massive reorganization (Tanzimat) of both the Ottoman State and Ottoman society. Then, consider how Tanzimat widened divisions within Ottoman society and failed to make the empire a member of the Concert of Europe. x
  • 26
    Defeat and Retreat: The Sick Man of Europe
    How did the Crimean War vindicate the reformers of Tanzimat? Why was the Treaty of Paris a strategic victory for “the Porte”—that came at a high price? What impact did the empire’s catastrophic defeat during the Russo-Turkish War have on its future with the Concert of Europe? x
  • 27
    The Sultan Returns: Abdül Hamid II, 1876–1908
    On December 23, 1876, Sultan Abdül Hamid II proclaimed the first Ottoman constitution. Eleven months later, it was suspended, along with its Parliament. Go inside this period of continued reform, which tied “the Porte” to an alliance with Germany and ultimately led to Sultan Hamid II’s downfall. x
  • 28
    Constitutional Reform, 1908–1913
    Turn now to the Second Constitutional Period, which raised hopes for imperial recovery and reform but ended with the domination of power by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). Thus emerged a shadow government that became an unintended dress rehearsal for future one-party dictatorships. x
  • 29
    War in Libya and the Balkans, 1911–1913
    Discover why the Ottoman government was ill-prepared for both the Italo-Turkish War and the First Balkan War. Experience its stunning defeat by the improbable alliance of Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria. Learn why the Treaty of Constantinople almost assured the outbreak of another Balkan war. x
  • 30
    The Road to World War I
    Using recent research (based on Russian and Ottoman archives), learn why the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War. What role did the defeats of 1911–1913 play in the road to war? Why did Ottoman ministers negotiate favorable terms with Germany in exchange for entrance into the war? x
  • 31
    The Empire at Total War, 1914–1916
    Though it entered the First World War enthusiastically, the Ottoman Empire was not prepared for total war. In this lecture, focus on the empire's offensives against the Russian Caucasus Army and the Suez Canal, as well as its struggle against an impending British invasion in the Dardanelles. x
  • 32
    Ottoman Collapse, 1916–1918
    By 1916, the Ottoman Empire was fighting for its very survival. Professor Harl reveals the impact of the Russian Revolution on the war, the steady deterioration of the empire over the course of the fighting, and the army's ultimate collapse, which came suddenly and unexpectedly, in late 1918. x
  • 33
    Mustafa Kemal, Atatürk
    Meet the “father of the Turks”: Mustafa Kemal. By following his life and career, you’ll come away from this fascinating lecture with a well-rounded understanding of how he came to play such a decisive role in the modernization of Turkish civilization and the creation of the Turkish Republic. x
  • 34
    Casualties of War and Ethnic Cleansing
    The best estimate is that a total of 800,000 Armenians died between 1915 and 1921. In this powerful lecture, examine why the destruction of the Armenian community has come to be seen as the first in a series of similar events that would wreak havoc on the 20th century. x
  • 35
    The Emergence of the Turkish Republic
    Under Mustafa Kemal, Islamic tradition was seen as an obstacle to joining European civilization. How did Kemal and the Turkish Parliament approach the daunting task of transforming the imperial heartland into the Turkish Republic? How are Turks today wrestling with their Ottoman legacy? x
  • 36
    Nation-States, Islam, and the Ottoman Legacy
    Conclude with an insightful look at how the legacy of the Ottoman Empire still influences the Middle East–and will continue to do so in the future. Each of the empire’s successor states, you’ll learn, has its own perceptions of this legacy, and its own lessons learned from history. x

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Your professor

Kenneth W. Harl

About Your Professor

Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University
Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has...
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The Ottoman Empire is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 84.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bring history alive I bought last week and could not stop watching, The superb descriptions with helpful maps helped me understand how the ottoman empire evolved and offered insights that could benefit modern day political and social decisions
Date published: 2017-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Knowing The Ottomans This course is brilliant in describing the system the Ottomans used in administrating a multi ethnic and multi religious empire. Its narrative for the last 50 years of the empire is fantastic. It held my interest and explained things I vaguely knew so that I had a much better understanding of the events. It is even handed in describing the events of the early 20th century. That was a period where even handedness is very difficult to obtain. The coverage of the middle of Ottoman history is not as good as other parts. It sometimes gets confusing with one palace sultan after another. In that period the narrative was a little weak.
Date published: 2017-12-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The grand scope of the Ottoman Empire Professor Harl provides a detailed and fascinating journey through the surprising scope of the Ottoman empire - its conquests, its rulers, and its political misadventures. However, he completely omits discussion of the daily life of any of its subjects, and takes far too much time on battle after expedition after conflicts of its rulers. We were dispirited and overwhelmed by the end of the course.
Date published: 2017-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Helpful & very informative As a person of Middle Eastern origin whose father was born as Ottoman citizen, and who had initially been taught in school to view Ottomans as occupier I came later through learning more history on my own to view Ottoman in completely different light/perspective. I already knew a lot about Ottomans but this course helped me to understand more and to have a wider perspective. The course was very informative and well structured.
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great joy, as usual Prof. Hurl is the national treasure. I’ve listened to all his couses, and many times. Before this course I did not know a lot about Ottoman history. Dr. Hurl opened my eyes and added another civilisation to my collection. I am waiting for a new course by wonderful Hurl. Maybe the Punic wars?
Date published: 2017-11-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great Content, but Poor Delivery Dr. Harl obviously knows the subject matter very well. I think it is important in these times to know more about the history of the middle east. This course does well in providing this material. Dr. Harl's delivery style, however, must be an acquired taste. He provides a lot of information, but oftentimes too much. He also stutters a lot while apparently looking for words, inserting the annoying "uh" and "um". If you can get past that, then there is a lot of material here that will give you background on why the middle east is the way it is today.
Date published: 2017-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Harl is among the very best. Ties the various threads together and brings them to our current time. I have enjoyed his other courses such as the Byzantine Empire which is a natural first act to The Ottoman Empire.
Date published: 2017-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Ottoman Empire My interest in Prof. Harl’s courses at TGC started with the Vikings. From there, I quickly picked up his courses on The Era of the Crusades, Alexander The Great, The Peloponnesian War, Rome and the Barbarians and every single one after that. His courses are well researched, well designed, well organized, and demonstrate an incredible passion for his subject matter. Every lecture is carefully introduced and builds rapidly upon each succeeding topic. I cannot begin to express how excited I was when I saw that he had come out with this latest one on the Ottomans. I have watched every single lecture in all of his courses – a number of them more than once – and I can easily say that The Ottomans lecture series does NOT disappoint.
Date published: 2017-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well researched and presented course I had purchased an earlier course -- Vikings -- taught by Prof Harl, and enjoyed his presentation and style. This one did not disappoint, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the history of a culture that has often been seen as an adversary to the West, yet which has been so central to European history. One finishes the course wishing it had covered even more--a real recommendation for any course. My only quibble, and one which perhaps applies as much to the editors as to the instructor, is that many names spelled out on the video screen were fairly obviously pronounced inconsistently with what one reads--a bit of editing could have avoided these glitches. The instructor's enthusiasm for and photos of the Ottoman architecture make you want to get to Istanbul and other Ottoman cities ar the first opportunity. His handling of the post WW I years, especially the Armenian diaspora, seems balanced and nuanced--surely a difficult task.
Date published: 2017-10-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from prices I've been purchasing courses for over 20 years, originally cassette tapes then mainly CDs. I think your pricing has become a bit like Jos. A Banks-way over the top then given discounts -sales etc. Some of these courses are quite old so I'm sure you've made money on the popular courses-how much does it cost to pop out a CD?
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Solid Course by Prof who respects the Ottomans For a novice (like me) I learned a lot about the Ottoman Empire, and the way it was led. I found the presentation a little dry. I would have preferred more focus on the personalities (Leaders & general population)
Date published: 2017-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All the Ottoman you ever wanted to know In true Kenneth Harl fashion this course has added greatly to the great deal I thought I all ready knew about the Ottoman Empire. And the second time through will add even more; there is no way to absorb all there is to learn in one viewing, or even two.
Date published: 2017-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finally, I understand the Ottoman Empire Fascinating teaching about the Ottoman Empire. One nugget: I learned about the word 'bey' that was given to governors appointed to oversee provinces. So during my recent pre-surgery consultation, I asked my doctor about his hyphenated last name ('-bey') and was its meaning 'royal and governing.' He smiled, said no one has asked him before knowing its meaning and responded that, yes, its means governor and that his family served as governor in North Africa 10 generations ago. The surgery went very well.
Date published: 2017-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History I did not know ! Once again Professor Harl is outstanding in presenting this history. He even mentions the Turkish soap opera "Magnificent Century (near the end), which my wife an I enjoyed watching.
Date published: 2017-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good start I'm only a few lessons into the course, and have found it intriguing and well presented so far.
Date published: 2017-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Harl’s 10th winning course After I had completed all 9 of the previous courses from Professor Harl, I wrote in my 9th review that I hoped that Professor Harl would have a 10th course. My wish has come true with this 10th course on the Ottoman Empire. This course has Professor Harl’s usual combination of facts & figures intermixed with anecdotes and humor. This combination makes the source entertaining as well as educational. Professor Harl has a personal relationship with the modern day country of Turkey. His personal relationship and his many visits to Turkey provides additional informative content to this course. One of the greatest value of this course is that it prevents the history of the Middle East and specifically from “the other side”. Many courses present the Middle Eastern history from the point of view of the invaders & visitors from what is modern day Europe. This course presents the other side regarding these foreign peoples into their lands. This course has very good graphics, diagram and photos to illustrate the points being raised by Professor Harl. However, there is a typographical error in the graphic of Lecture 21 at 8:48. The graphic states that Fazil Mustafa Pasa was Grand Vizier from 1689 to 1961. I don’t think one individual could hold the position of Grand Vizier for 272 years. I highly recommend this course if you a better understanding of the Middle East and how it evolving to its current environment.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Course Professor Harl is well organized, is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about his subject, and illustrates convincingly why it is important in understanding events in the middle east today. He points out that Western historians have tended to under-estimate the accomplishments of the Ottoman Empire. Compared to European countries at the time, it was surprisingly tolerant of other religions. It had to constantly deal with threats from the west like Austria and Venice, from the south like Egypt, and from the east like Persia and Russia. It is a remarkable story well worth knowing.
Date published: 2017-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A most important subject for understanding Eastern This is the third and most polished course that I have downloaded from Professor Harl. The fascinating subject helps understanding the relationship of Islam and The West and why there will never be a complete welcome of Europeans towards people who profess Moslem beliefs. The reverse is also true. For those who are truly interested in understanding modern southeastern Europe, this series coupled with a book entitled "The Ottoman Centuries" written by Lord Kinross will be just about all you will need.
Date published: 2017-08-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Learn to Appreciate the Ottomans! With “The Ottoman Empire,” Professor Kenneth Harl has added yet another to his long list of good courses for the Teaching Company. It is a natural successor to his “Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor” and “World of Byzantium.” This course concentrates on the Ottomans’ geopolitical rise and decline, which one can divide into seven distinct periods: 1071-1300 (the Turkification of Anatolia before the Ottomans—Lectures 2-3), 1300-1566 (the great era of Ottoman expansion in Europe, Asia and Africa—Lectures 4-8), 1566-1656 (the “Sultanate of Women”—weak sultans in the hands of scheming queen mothers and concubines, but holding steady on the frontiers--Lecture 9), 1656-1699 (renewed expansion under the Köprülu grand viziers followed by military catastrophe at the siege of Vienna in 1683 and the subsequent loss of Hungary--Lecture 21), 1700-1768 (another era of holding steady), 1768-1920 (the “Sick Man” of Europe losing territory on all fronts to external enemies and successful rebellions—Lectures 22-24, 26, 29-32), and 1920-24 (the creation of modern Turkey—Lectures 33 and 35). Harl seems to start the “Sick Man” period in 1798 with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, but the empire was already suffering serious losses to Russia in prior decades. Breaking into this long narrative are good topical lectures on the empire’s central, provincial and military administration (Lectures 10-11 and 17), its economy (Lecture 12), its relationship with Arabs, Christians and Jews (Lectures 13 and 14), its literature and science (Lecture 15) and its capital city of Constantinople, especially its wonderful domed mosques (Lecture 16). Harl argues effectively that our view of the empire as backward and oppressive is greatly exaggerated. In the 15th and 16th centuries its army was top of the line in organization and weaponry, and its Christian and Jewish populations were generally satisfied their lot under Ottoman rule, even if treated as second-class subjects. He dates the beginning of military decline to the mid-17th century, when European powers came out of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) having learned to increase the discipline and firepower of their infantry and field artillery, a change the Ottomans were apparently unaware of. The longer-term problem was Russia, whose growing strength repeatedly humiliated the empire from the 1770s and inspired the sultan’s Orthodox Christian subjects to fight for independence during the 19th century. The sultans tried hard to “modernize” their empire, but couldn’t do it fast enough to catch up with the Europeans. Although Harl doesn’t say so, the Ottomans were also in serious trouble because Christian Europe (bar France) underwent a massive population boom in the 18th and 19th centuries while the Turks and Arabs did not; their turn would come only after World War II. Viewers and listeners may find Lecture 34 disturbing because Harl argues that the 1915 devastation of the empire’s Armenians was NOT a planned mass murder, and he refuses to use the word "genocide." War Minister Enver Pasha’s order for deportation from eastern Anatolia, prompted by fear the Armenians would sabotage railroads and support a Russian offensive, meant just that. Unfortunately, the operation spun out of control, resulting in massacres on the initiative of local officials and a badly provisioned death march to Syria. He puts the death toll at about 575,000 rather than the commonly cited 800,000 or more (Wikipedia at the moment says 1.5 million), with more than a million escaping to become refugees elsewhere. He points out that other powers also engaged in ethnic cleansing, if not on the same scale. The Austro-Hungarians expelled Ruthenians (Ukrainian-speakers) from Galicia. The Russians relocated 50,000 of their own German Jews, deported 15,000 Germans from East Prussia (during which 4000 died) and massacred Muslims at Van in eastern Anatolia. The postwar trials of Ottoman leaders were a travesty of justice, says Harl, preventing defendants from cross-examining witnesses while admitting hearsay testimony for the prosecution. I thoroughly enjoyed this course, so why am I giving it only an overall 4 rating? As to the content, I would have liked more on Ottoman culture and the arts. There is nothing at all about women, family and the household, though of course those topics usually get short shrift in Teaching Company history courses. He could have made room here by dispensing with Lectures 18-20, which analyze conflict with the empire’s three main enemies in the 16th and 17th centuries, Safavid Persia, Hapsburg Austria, and Venice. They are interesting, but there is also some overlap with other lectures. As to the presentation, I became increasingly irritated by the professor’s constant umms, uhhs and false starts. I hadn’t noticed this problem in other courses, perhaps because it wasn’t as bad. It’s great he can speak without notes, but here he needs more self-discipline. Twice he mispronounces the name Wilhelm von der Goltz as “von der Grotz.” There are also a couple of minor typos in presentation slides. In Lecture 15 one Piri Reis lives backwards from 1565 to 1553 (probably supposed to be 1653), and in Lecture 21 Fazil Mustafa Pasha holds office from 1689 to 1961, the longest-serving Ottoman official ever! I’m sure that was supposed to be 1691. On the positive side, Harl gives the viewer lots of great maps to show the route march of armies, battle locations and changes in borders, so I won’t downgrade him to a 3. Even though I don’t plan to learn Turkish, I appreciate him using it frequently for important epithets, terms and phrases. So by all means, buy this course. You will learn a lot about one of the finest states in Islamic and European history.
Date published: 2017-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fascinating history, mesmerizing I recommend this great series of lectures. It's effortless to listen to and it fills a lot of gaps in most Americans' knowledge about the Ottoman Empire and the famous characters whose names we know but whose histories are often overlooked in our curricula.
Date published: 2017-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unbiased and Objective An excellent review of the Ottoman Empire. Unbiased and objective. I wish Professor Harl had spent some time describing the atrocities committed by Kemalists on their on fellow citizens and how they destroyed the great heritage of the Turkish people beginning with the change of the Turkish script. Overall it's a great course. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about today's Turkey.
Date published: 2017-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant lecturer, fascinating course We have now watched all four of Professor Harl's Great Courses offerings--and have found them all brilliant and fascinating. Dr Harl knows his topics--varied as they are--backwards and forwards. His lectures consistently reflect real thought, effort, and insight. They are among the very best in the Great Courses catalog.
Date published: 2017-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vital course to understand a powerful country Turkey is my favorite country in the world and Istanbul is one of the most exciting and fascinating cities. As a history buff, the 3-week tour I wrote up for travel magazines was full of amazing opportunities to see legendary sites. I thoguht I knew a fair amount about the Ottoman Empire, having written about some of its leaders, but learned much and he is one of the Teaching Co's best presenters. I would strongly recommend that Americans visit Turkey (the risks are wildly exaggerated in the media compared with living in any major US city), which will help anyone see how Islam can guide the lives of people who are as fully modern as those who have a different philosophy.
Date published: 2017-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great help understanding Southeast Europe/Mid East Another 5-star Prof. Harl course. Packed with information and provides an excellent overview of how the nations of southeast Europe got to where they are today. Also provides insight into how the countries of the Middle East got to where they are today. I agree with others that Prof. Harl's presentation is not the best-of-the-best. I've suffered through a lot of bad Profs in undergraduate and graduate school . Prof Harl is who he is, beats many other Profs, and I have no problem with his form of presentation. I've taken several of Prof. Harl's TGC courses. I would jump at the chance to sign up in person for a Harl course ! He puts out so much information and explains its significance and consequences. I do have some issues with the editing/proof reading of the Guide Book and the closed captions on the video. In recent years it seems the TCG is not quite as good at the Editing and proofreading. But, it is easy to understand what is meant. This course fits in very nicely with "Turning Points in Middle Eastern History " and "The History and Achievements of the Islamic Golden Age". (As well as others from the TGC.) I recommend all three be taken together; 'Turning Points' first, 'Golden Age' second, 'Ottoman' third.
Date published: 2017-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comes to life The professor brings the individuals and events to life. He is deeply knowledgeable, and keeps in mind he has an audience for whom he explains terms and events in a manner which demonstrates his love and respect for the people he is talking about as well as the people he is talking to.
Date published: 2017-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Harl is a national treasure. Great lecturer, vastly, improbably erudite, wonderful style. Makes being educated a pleasure.
Date published: 2017-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great if you want to know about the Ottoman Empire In the interest of "fair disclosure" I need to point out three things up front: 1) I have ABSOLUTELY ZERO interest in this subject. 2) The reason I bought the course is I'M THE ONE WHO SUGGESTED IT. 3) Although I bought the video, I extracted the audio and mainly listened to that. I do know that it definitely is a lot better watching the lectures, because of the maps. I did watch 2 of the lectures and I will probably watch others at some point. Professor Harl does talk a bit fast, but I got used to that fairly quickly. I personally would rate MY interest in the lectures at about 6-7 out of 10--but that's someone with no interest in the subject. I would say that anyone with even just a moderate interest would consider them about 9 or 10. I was VERY surprised to find out how much interaction there was between the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe, even going back to the days of Charlemagne. I was also surprised at how much interaction there was between OE and Eastern Europe such as Bulgaria, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Armenia, etc. However, since I have almost no knowledge about the history of EE, it's not a matter of "I thought I knew". The course is basically about military and political activities and events. I WOULD like to see a course about the CULTURE, which could probably be done in about 12 lectures. But considering that most English speakers basically know nothing about the history of this area during this period, Professor Harl's course is a good introduction that goes deep enough but not too deep for an introductory survey course.
Date published: 2017-07-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Laregly Story Telling I always enjoyed it when my grandmother sat me on her lap and told me family stories. Dr. Harl is a good story teller, too. These lectures address the history of the Ottoman empire from the days that the Osman himself swept into Anatolia from the Steppes until the collapse of the empire following World War I. This is addressed in some respect by other TGC courses but not in this detail. This course is a welcome addition to the TGC repertoire. The lectures are disjointed. For example, in one lecture he will recount the events of a particular time but he’ll address economic and other issues in separate lectures so that the listener learns the events without the motivations or causes behind those events. Dr. Harl clearly lectures from the perspective of the Ottoman Empire. I’m not saying this is biased, incorrect, or improper, but it is helpful to understand the perspective of the lecturer. (For what it’s worth, he notes that his wife is Turkish.) For example, he’ll use the word “fortunately” to mean “fortunately for the Ottoman Empire.” He describes the widespread deaths of Armenians during World War I as tragic and he notes that it was precipitated by atrocities “on both sides.” He adds that before this event, the Armenians “prospered under the Sultans.” This course provides important insights for understanding relations between the Western world and the Muslim Middle East today. It is recommended for those interested in Middle East history and in Middle East current events. The audio version worked quite well. Other related TGC courses include these: * Great World Religions: Islam * The Era of the Crusades (also by Dr. Harl) * Turning Points in Middle Eastern History
Date published: 2017-07-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great (overdue) topic and great content; Style :-( Professor Harl's courses always get a mixed reaction from me. The subjects he covers and the content present in the courses blow me away but his presentation style is hard to get used to. Another reviewer termed it perfectly: he is an acquired taste. While I'm getting better at it (listening to all eight of his courses I own consecutively), I still have trouble "getting good" with it. "The Ottoman Empire" is no exception to my general assessment: this is a great topic (long overdue by The Great Courses in my opinion) and what you will learn in this course is immeasurable. But Professor Harl's presentation limitations/tendencies are also present. First the good: This course has some really good historical narrative on the Ottoman Empire from its origins in 1299 to its collapse at the end of World War I to its rebirth as the republic of Turkey in 1923. Two major themes really caught my attention and had me enthralled at times: o The Empire’s centuries long battles with central/eastern Europe (Hungary, the Balkans/Serbians, Venice, Romania, Austria), Safavid Iran, and Russia o One of the main themes of the course: how the Ottoman Empire confronted and responded to its decline in world power status when the European nations began surpassing them militarily and economically starting in the late 15th century: its reforms and transformation from a medieval autocratic empire to a modern day nation state transitioning from an absolute monarchy under the Sultan to a constitutional monarchy to a republic Okay now the bad: The course started slow and its first half in general was uninteresting (lectures 1-3, 10-17 are tough to get through): the stories of the Seljuk Turks and Byzantine Empire are already covered in other courses by the professor and lectures 10-17 on life in the high Ottoman Empire just did not keep me engaged (I had to listen twice because my mind was wandering by the minute). This could have been a 24-30 lecture course. Professor Harl’s general style is difficult at times: "rapid fire of facts" is the best I can term it. I wish he would stick with general themes more often. He also assumes the listener has previous knowledge of certain topics. I can see how he could lose alot of newer listeners. Knowledge or passion is not the issue but the weakness of his always seems to be a lack of "teaching". Perhaps he gets so much into the topics and has so much knowledge on them that it is difficult for him to take a breath and think about teaching the content vs. what at times feels like almost a stream of consciousness. He hops around the map in lightning speed making it hard to keep up at times if you are not familiar with ancient boundaries or natural features like river or valley names (or the ancient names of certain lands) You really need to pay attention when listening to Professor Harl and no multitasking! Listened to his courses always feels like hard work. But all in all I can't see how anyone wouldn't walk away with new knowledge on the topic and I keep coming back for more because of the content of his courses. So I will conclude with what I've said for other courses by Professor Harl: if you are interested in this subject then by all means purchase this course. All of the relevant info is presented and you will definitely learn ALOT. But be forewarned that there may be some frustration in getting used to the presentation style. Still I would recommend this course (along with most of his other ones).
Date published: 2017-07-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Embarrassing really I had studied Ottoman history years ago at university, and purchased this course in order to brush up on the topic. Well, this lengthy course did serve that purpose, because it's quite comprehensive. Regretfully, however, I cannot say that I found anything new or original here. I think the professor is trying to operate outside his core competency. In fact, the course seems in long sections to resemble a Sparks Notes on the multi-volume Cambridge History of Turkey, and, indeed, fully one-fourth of the sources listed in the bibliography are chapters from that work. Most annoying to me, though, was the lecturer's mangling of Turkish words and names. He leads one on to believe he speaks and/or reads Turkish, but his knowledge of that language is clearly rudimentary at best. For anyone who knows basic Turkish, the lecturer's pronunciation of Turkish works is painful and cringe-producing throughout the course. And this is strange, because, as he mentions in passing several times, his wife is Turkish. Why didn't he ask her to help him? Frankly, he seems to be unaware of his mispronunciations of Turkish and other non-English words. To my mind, this fault is rather discrediting. Also distracting to the viewer are the lecturer's mannerisms (the constantly bouncing left hand, the clenching right hand, the constant ahs and ums, the heavy shuffling when the camera point-of-view changes). I would urge people to buy the "audio only" version of this course (rather than the dvd version, except for the fact that the animated maps are extremely informative. Overall though, I must say that the lecturer's heart is in the right place; he is commendably sympathetic to the Turkish point of view. Yet, as a good historian, he is even-handed on controversial topics such as the Armenian genocide ("excesses committed in defense of the Empire"). So, I think Great Courses should give him a do-over. As it stands, I don't think this course will be well received. Finally, I must comment on the Course Guidebook. Clearly, it was never edited or proofread before being printed, or only in a haphazard and hasty manner. It reads like the professor's reading notes from the Cambridge History of Turkey, and some of the sentences descent into nonsense statements. Moreover, a glossary of persons and terms should have been provided.
Date published: 2017-07-15
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