The Ottoman Empire

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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 Professor 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.

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