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Publishers Weekly, 1999-02-15 In this elegant work, British author Goodwin (On Foot to the Golden Horn) combines deft historical summary with the buoyant prose and idiosyncratic focus of the best travel writing. The combination enables him to take the full measure of a realm riddled with paradox. The Ottoman Empire was a Turkish empire most of whose shock troops were Balkan Slavs; a bellicose state that expanded by war, it often governed its conquests with a light handÄa necessary approach given the many cultures and nationalities that fell under Ottoman rule. Ottoman society at its best was civilized and tolerant, observes Goodwin. The Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 were warmly received in Salonika, Constantinople, Belgrade and Sofia. While war and superstition ruled Christian Europe, the Islamic Ottoman Empire thrived and glittered with mathematical, architectural and artistic accomplishment. Goodwin is marvelous at describing how, for three hundred years before its final collapse after WWI, the empire survived even though it was perpetually on the verge of collapse. He attributes the calcified empire's decline not only to corruption and the rise of France and Russia but to the Turks' prideful ignorance of the West, a vanity that eventually deprived the empire of the fruits of modernity. As good as Goodwin is at blending political, cultural and military affairs, his work is distinguished by stylish writing and a sharp eye for just the right anecdote. His epilogue, which is built around the fate of the empire's famous stray dogs, is at once amusing and strangely, beautifully moving. Illustrations. (Apr.)
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