The Ottoman Empire

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

  • numbers Learn why Sultan Suleiman I is considered one of the Ottoman Empire's most important political rulers.
  • numbers Make sense of the public - and private - politics of the grand Ottoman court.
  • numbers Appreciate the empire's many cultural contributions, including mosques and illuminated manuscripts.
  • numbers Examine reasons why the Ottoman Empire collapsed after the First World War.
  • numbers 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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  • 303-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested Reading
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  • Bibliography

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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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Reviews

The Ottoman Empire is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 94.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly superb - not to be missed I've always found Ken Harl to be one of my absolute favorite TC instructors, and have previously taken each of his other courses. I bought this when it came out in 2017 and held it in reserve as I always like a Ken Harl course to look forward to. I hope to does more. But, I finally listened to the entire course over the past 10 days. I found it excellent: deeply informative and interesting and told with Prof Harl's usual passion. I find him an excellent presenter, who clearly knows and loves the material and so clearly enjoys teaching. Whether you're a beginner in this area of study or an expert, this course on the Ottmans is well worth it.
Date published: 2019-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Harl reall knows his subject. I have only had the course for a month. So far it is great. Dr. Harl has to know more about middle eastern history than any other man on this planet. I completed his course on, "Barbarian at the Gate." and it too was great.
Date published: 2019-09-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A partisan course I was disappointed by this course. I had enjoyed other courses by Prof. Harl, but this came short of my expectations. First, it is too long, full of details and sometimes confusing as regards chronology. More importantly, the Ottomans can do no wrong in the eyes of the professor! His meter to judge the sultans seems to be how successful they were militarily, regards how cruel they were, including to their own families. His treatment of the Armenian genocide and the massacres of other Christian minorities is pitiful (much as he pretends to be even-handed).
Date published: 2019-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the Ottoman Empire and the Byzantine Empire This is a course that should be taken in tandem with the Byzantine Empire. Turkey has one of the most interesting, and yes Byzantine, histories one can study. Istanbul/Constantinople, is a fascinating place to visit and the uplands equally so. I would recommend taking both courses before visiting Turkey. It will enrich your visit enormously. Professor Harl's knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject is contageous
Date published: 2019-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So Much I Didn't Know - That I Should Have Known.. I stand all amazed at how much I did not know about this absolutely fascinating subject. It is tragic that we in the West know so little about this remarkable civilization that during significant periods of time exceeded anything known in Europe. Professor Harl did an excellent job in covering a massive amount of material in a way that was highly informative but also interesting. There were times when it was difficult to follow all of the individual Sultans and what they accomplished but I attribute that in part to my Western education and difficulty is assimilating so many Ottoman names. I especially liked Professor Harl's introduction to the subject that told his audience the history of the region before Osman and the Ottoman Empire. That alone made the course worth while. It was obvious that Professor Harl was doing his best to walk a fine line when addressing the issue of the Armenian "genocide." I thought he presented the issue fairly - although if I were Armenian or Turkish, I might take great exception to his attempt at even handedness. I was introduced to so many truly important historical figures about whom I had little or no knowledge. How long I will be able to retain any level of detail is to be seen but I thought there was the right amount of detail and summary. I regret not having taken this course before traveling to Turkey a few years ago. It would have made that trip just that much more fascinating - and it was truly awesome even without the course background. Istanbul is truly one of the most remarkable cities I have ever visited. I must make the point that Professor Harl's use of video content/graphics/maps/pictures was one of the best I have experienced in taking many Great Courses courses. I am sometimes disappointed when I get the video version and the professor makes very little use of video related teaching tools. That was most definitely not the case with this course. You must have the video version to get the most out of the course. I highly recommend the course.
Date published: 2019-07-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from These courses take time to really appreciate what is involved I have to read the course guide. Then view the course to do so means about an hour The math courses are longer. At 70 I am not able to get the concepts as rapidly. I had to invest a graphing calculator purchase. It looks like I will be doing more time on that but since I retired I have a lot of spare hours to invest I took the math courses. 45 years ago so this stuff is alien to me. I now have enough for at least 6 to 9 momths with the maths.
Date published: 2019-07-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Abhorrent treatment of the Armenian genocide I was irked the first time listening to this course by his apologetic treatment of the Armenian genocide, essentially claiming that it was a justified defense against Armenian uprisings. Having now read some of the excellent academic literature on the topic (including "The Thirty Year Genocide"), that irk has turned to revulsion of how he treated the topic. Kenneth Harl used to be my absolute favorite professor from the teaching company.
Date published: 2019-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I learned a lot and loved The Ottoman Empire This is the fourth lecture series of Dr. Harl's that I have purchased. This one was very well done. His knowledge of and personal enthusiasm for the Ottoman Empire is obvious in his presentation. I found the course to be very well organized and presented with wonderful maps and illustrations. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2019-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Instructor I bought this course to gain an understanding of the Ottoman Empire. Until I took this course all I really knew about it was the name but didn't really know where it fit in history. This course is in depth and I now have a thorough understanding of its place in history and a greater understanding of the conflicts in the middle east. The instructor is passionate about the subject and extremely knowledgeable.
Date published: 2019-05-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great background Excellent data but professor delivers it so fast it is hard to keep up with if you are not already and expert on the subject
Date published: 2019-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Harl Impresses Again I have listened to and enjoy most of Professor Harl's courses and now have had the time to watch this one on video, which was helpful to get the difficult names and locations. As always his enthusiasm for his subjects and obvious love for expounding are on display. His deep knowledge of his subjects and ability to add interesting asides are just marvelous. As I am of an age to understand, I can easily excuse his "uhs" and stumbles as his enthusiasm carries him through his topics; I find it charming along with his gravely vocal fry. In this course he has again taken a huge complex topic and honed it down to an easily followable journey through time and place. I really feel that I have a much better understanding of the region, as he had hoped. I can not only recommend this course, but any that he has presented.
Date published: 2019-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very insightful presentation on the culture and history of the Ottoman Emprire that is not the norm in most western civ courses. Thought provoking.
Date published: 2019-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great History Excellent presentation and highly educational! It kept me up late listening and digesting the information!
Date published: 2018-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thematic organization takes getting used to Overall I enjoyed this lecture series. It is a subject about which I had fairly rudimentary knowledge going in, mostly about Ottoman history as it related to the history of Europe and its actors. I found it quite informative, although I cannot of course speak to its complete accuracy or whether Prof Harl's views are considered orthodox or heterodox today. Although I do think he was a bit soft on the Turks as it regards Armenians, I actually prefer historians who do not morally recontextualize matters based on contemporary mores. Yesterday's "business as usual" sometimes becomes today's abomination. I can draw my own judgement about the assessment from today, so am more interested in hearing how it was assessed by the event's contemporaries. The one thing that took a bit of getting used to was Prof. Harl's choice of organization many of the lectures on thematic, rather than temporal. lines. Thus, over a series of several lectures, the reader is taken through a broad arc of time and Sultans (and their families and advisers). Very early in the course, I felt I would have preferred a more temporal organization in which the changes effected by each successive leader would have been covered together. However, after a few more lectures, I did come to appreciate the chosen approach to organizing the material. The only criticism I could make of the course is that Professor Harl does not exactly have a radio voice. While I always have a particular appreciation for lecturers who are blessed with golden pipes, I didn't find Harl's delivery troublesome. I note several reviewers complain about the pace of his delivery. It did not bother me, although I speak at a brisk pace myself and often listen to podcasts at an increased speed since I find many speakers so slow that I can become distracted by the ponderous delivery.
Date published: 2018-10-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from History tells quite a different story Most of the time when the professor attempts to offer interpretation of the events or facts I wander: What sources he is referencing to? Did he really studied all the available sources or only the ones that support his pre-meditated views? Or, maybe he tries to promote some apologetic, pan-Turkish views. What historic "truth" is he trying to promote? I can imagine the "ethnic tolerance" when they come and take my only child for Janissary! There are cases, well reflected in the local folklore, when the Janissary son comes back later to kill his Christian parents. What about the savagery with which the Turkish moved entire cities from the Balkans to Asia Minor and sold them into slavery to intentionally depopulate the Balkans? Why the Turkish population was concentrated in the cities, but the local population in the countryside? And this peaceful conversion to Islam in the Balkans !!! Why not listen to the local Balkan folk songs that all tell stories of unimaginable savagery, never heard before in Europe. Moreover, in the views of this professor the Christian churches were converted to mosques simply because there was not enough Christian worshipers: why waste the beautiful buildings? The great Russian classic F. Dostoevsky writes: "They burn villages, murder, outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to the fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang them- all sorts of things you can't imagine. People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that's a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that's all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it. These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, -too; cutting the unborn child from the mothers womb, and tossing babies up in the air and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mothers' eyes." The great British historian of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon in late 18 century openly calls the Ottoman rule in the Balkans "slavery". But Professor Harl calls it "ethnic tolerance"? What proof he has that the people in the Balkans were just manipulated for the imperialistic ambitions of the Russian czars? Poor Greeks, Serbians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, they just did not know what they were doing! And Napoleon! Oh, if only the Corsican Monster did not come to Egypt, the Christians might still be happily praying for the health of the the Padishah! Can the professor show what is it that still remains in the Balkans that was build by the Turkish sultans during the 5 centuries, besides some mosques (that resemble old Christian churches) and a couple of bridges for their army to pass? What roads, what canals, what magnificent buildings, what? And this great logistic that the Ottomans had!!! So much food, water, how did they carry it for thousands of miles!? Why the professor does not mention the role of the para-military troops during the military campaigns? Does he know how were they paid? What about the para-military gangs that ravages and depopulated the Christian villages and towns on the Balkans? The Balkan folk history tells you quite well how did they do it! No matter how much the professor tries to promote his "pro-Turkish" ambitions, the peoples history in the Balkans tells very different story! He just needs to leave Istanbul and spend some time studying the available historic resources in the Balkans. I cannot recommend these lectures, despite the large historic material that the professor uses. I actually think that these lectures have no place in The Great Courses.
Date published: 2018-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I know a many who came from that part of the world, and HE wants to listen to those lectures!
Date published: 2018-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Harl is among the best of the best..! ... and this Course is arguably his very best. I have all of his Great Courses and this one is jam-packed with information, delivered with his hallmark non-stop passion for the subject. Prof. Harl brings the incredible Ottoman Empire to life, and objectively so, addressing many western-held prejudices. I own about 50 Great Courses, and in my book, Prof. Harl stands with Prof. Robert Greenberg as being the best of the best. A joy to listen to and learn from. Video format is good to have since the lectures are supported effectively by maps and photos.
Date published: 2018-09-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Good Course Having grown up in a country that was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for 400 years, and having studied the Ottoman Empire independently and in school and, and having heard from my grand parents what was it like living under Ottoman rule, I think that Prof Harl has done a very good job presenting historical facts, and through them give the listener the historical context and a real feel of that era and Empire. I only wish that Prof Harl pronounces Iran and Iraq correctly!! It is NOT Ay-Rak or Ay-Ran, it is I-Raq and I-Ran. Prof Harl's pronunciation is very offensive to the ears of the Middle East speakers,, and has a real "bad meaning" in the languages of those countries!!
Date published: 2018-08-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Harl's continued description of Asia Minor Prof Harl has previous courses on ancient civilizations of Asia Minor, The Byzantine empire and the kingdoms of the Steppes (with emphasis on the Silk Road and the Mongols impact on Asia Minor and the Middle East). This course dovetails with these other courses to give a comprehensive overview of middle Asia. His delivery has not changed from these other classes: If you like it, you will like this course, if not then you are on your own. I personally like it and he definitely gives the class from the prospective of the Ottoman Empire. The course ranges from the end of the Seljuk Turks (read Mongols) through the 1920's. It definitely helps that he is very familiar with Turkey.
Date published: 2018-08-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great graphics but poor delivery Pr Harl delivery is very poor: when not stuttering or hesitating or repeating himself, he speaks so fast I sometimes have to rewind! He knows his sibject very well however and the booklet helps a lot to arganize what is being said in the DVD. The maps are excellent. I would recommend it only to a person that has an absolute need about the contents.
Date published: 2018-08-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointed Though Dr. Harl is an authority on this subject, it seemed to me that he knows it so well that he has become bored with it. He rambles and punctuates his lectures with "uh" to the point that I lost interest. It's as though he's fallen out of love with teaching it. That said, I do plan to explore some of his writings and the history of the Ottoman Empire in more detail.
Date published: 2018-07-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Ottoman Empire I really liked this comprehensive review of the Ottoman Empire, so often referred to in traditional Western European History as the Islamic Turkish menace. The Course gives great insight into how the Ottomans were able to successfully govern the Middle East for so long. Perhaps we could learn from the Ottoman experience to bring to the Middle East today. My only criticism of the Course was that there was so much material to cover that the lecturer often rushed his presentation at times.
Date published: 2018-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understand middle east I have only watched four sessions but i already have a greater understanding of the forces involved in disputes in Iran, Iraq and Turkey.
Date published: 2018-06-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The instructor needs to join Toastmasters Difficult to get past the first few minutes. I found myself counting the “uhs”. Was annoying. Counted at least 20 in tbe first 2 minutes, i had to go back and check my count. I was right. I will probaby try to finish lecture one, but not sure. I am interested in the topic. I’ve purchased over 100 Great Courses; was expecting a more polished presenter. My comments relate only to style, not content.
Date published: 2018-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Ottoman Empire: Excellent course. Excellent course. Professor Harl knows how to hold your attention and moves things along. He brings a different perspective on the Ottoman Empire than I have received from my reading about other countries and their interaction with the Ottoman Empire.
Date published: 2018-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Harl does not disappoint, as usual Unlike many of the topics that Professor Harl discusses, I had only a glancing knowledge of the Ottoman Empire and am delighted that my understanding has been enriched and broadened by this series of lectures. Some may be troubled by a bit of jumping around as the history is interrupted by a discussion of the cultural aspects of the Empire. I found, however, that as the series progressed, those lectures were, at least in part, helpful context for what followed. There is a bit of repetition, although not annoyingly so. It was fascinating to have a few "ah-hah" moments -- when one sees how current events (not just in Turkey) trace back to historical reference points that Professor Harl describes. And, as always, his seemingly ad libbed asides often hold fascinating tidbits of information. There is so much information, that several of the lectures will require me to go back to ensure that all the information Professor Harl imparts is absorbed. This is not a course to be listened to with less than full attention.
Date published: 2018-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pretty straightforward! I've listened to multiple lectures by this professor and this was his best - he is passionate about this topic, perhaps because his wife is Turkish. The CD's were just great - lively like a good movie but also extremely relevant to what is going on in the world today. It was really interesting to see things like World War I from "the other side." Not just informative, made me want to go to Turkey!
Date published: 2018-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another excellent course from Dr. Harl So far I've done all of Dr. Harl's courses and each one in order bring history together inter-linking and keeping both your interest and knowledge gaining in a continue moving forward mode. This one was even more interesting when the mention of my 12th-14th generations were referenced.
Date published: 2018-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb history of the Ottoman Empire I have watched all 34 lectures over a period of three months. I found that very enjoyable as opposed to binge watching several episodes at a time. Professor Harl brings such a knowledge and his confident presentation of this history is unmatched by any previous professor I have seen in at least 20 courses. I started at a very low appreciation of the Ottoman empire until finishing this series, and am amazed at the implications of the middle east and the balkans from the rule of the sultans. I found the continuous use of maps a very useful and visual aid during the course.
Date published: 2018-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Ottoman Empire I bought this title within the last year in order to learn more about this civilization, after running into them in the Western Civilization II course. The content is good. The lecturer's still is sometimes confusing as others have said. But the one thing this course should really do is to put into the course materials A TIME LINE THAT OVERVIEWS THE MAJOR EVENTS. Since the professor chose to proceed topically, jumping ahead and back in the timeline, this would have been invaluable. I am now left to go elsewhere to develop this timeline on my own.
Date published: 2018-02-11
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