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From Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisation Turkish Studies or to the Research Master Middle Eastern Studies. Proficient reading skills in modern Turkish (level B2 European Common Framework). Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to one of the mentioned master programs and/or are not sure whether they meet the language requirement are requested to contact the convener, Prof. Dr. Erik-Jan Zürcher.


Modern Turkey came into existence in the period 1908-1945, in which traumatic and revolutionary developments followed each other in quick succession: the constitutional revolution, eleven years of war, mass migration and mass murder, the end of a 600-year old empire and almost the partition of the remains among the victors in World War I. At the same time it is the period of political experiments, the building of a national economy and the birth of Turkish nationalism. The republic is both heir to all of these developments and a daring experiment in nation building and modernization.

Course objectives

The course aims to use the historical context of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of a new nation state, the Republic of Turkey, to discuss and analyze four major issues that played a dominant role in the history of this period: the emergence of the modern state, the impact of war, nationalism and nation building, and the role of religion and secularism.

Course schedule and reading materials

Below are the details of the course schedule (the relevant reading material will be announced in the syllabus which will be handed out in the first class and be made available on Blackboard). The course is divided into four blocks. First three blocks follow a chronological sequence but the last block is designed as a discussion of ideological currents that have been influential in the chronological narrative of the first three blocks. Please be informed that all the reading material listed under the categories of “Secondary Texts” and “Primary Sources” are mandatory to read. In addition to that, students are required to independently read chapters 5-12 of E.J. Zürcher, Turkey. A Modern History by way of preparation for the course. Please remember that student reactions to the texts and lively in-class participation constitute % 20 of your overall grade. Therefore we strongly encourage students to read all mandatory materials before they come to the classes. It is not required to read the “Optional Text(s)”, they are included to encourage further discussion.

All listed lectures are scheduled on Fridays between 10.00-13.00.


1.0 Introduction Week:

Introduction Class: 6th September

Dedicated to the discussion of course logistics, aims and material.

Block 1: The emergence of the modern state

1.1 Towards new notions of legitimate rule

Week 1: 20th of September
Lecture: from Circle of Justice to Social Contract

1.2 Incorporation: trade, loans and investment

Week 2: 27th of September
Lecture: Incorporation, modernization and the Ottoman debt

1.3 The growth of bureaucracy and army

Week 3: 11th of October
Lecture: the logic of a growing state

Block 2: The impact of war

2.1 The lost provinces

Week 4: 18th of October
Lecture: The Young Turks and the borderlands

2.2 Demographic engineering in Anatolia

Week 5: 1th of November
-How refugees become killers – the cases of Çerkes Reşit, Abdülhalik Renda and Bahaettin Şakir (30 min.)
-June 1914, The Summer of Organized Chaos in the County of Foçateyn (30 min.)

2.3 The Great War in the Middle East

Week 6: 8th of November
Lecture: A pre-industrial state in an industrial war 1914-18

Block 3 Building the nation state

3.1 New borders, new states

Week 7: 15th of November
Lecture: National Resistance and Nation State

3.2 Turkey in the thirties: the realities of the nation state

Rough Draft Due Date: 16th of November is the due date for the term paper rough-drafts. Please bring your print outs to the classroom and send them to instructors email addresses on the same day.

Week 8: 22nd of November
Lecture: Turkey and the world crisis – from authoritarianism to totalitarianism?

3.3 Atatürk

Week 9: 29th of November
Lecture: Father, Teacher and Hero

Block 4: Ideological currents

4.1 The legacy of positivism, Darwinism and materialism

Week 10: 6th of December
Lecture: Comte, Le Bon and the Young Turks

4.2 The Turkish version of secularism: good and bad Islam

Week 11: 13th of December
Lecture: Religion and state in the late empire and the early republic

4.3 Nationalism

Week 12: 20th of December
Lecture: Young Turks, Ottoman Muslims and Turkish nationalists




Mode of instruction

Seminar (werkcollege)

Assessment method

The final grade of this course will be composed of the following elements:

  • In-class participation and preparedness (20%)

  • Presentation on a course related topic in class (20%)

  • Term paper rough-draft (10%)

  • 5000-word essay (term paper) (50%)

Students who earn a mark lower than 6 owing to insufficient participation, including the presentation, will have to sit a written examination on the subjects discussed during the course. The result will contribute 50% to the final mark.
Students who do not deliver a term paper on time will automatically fail the course.
Attendance: Students are allowed to miss a maximum of two classes, provided they have a valid reason. Students, who miss more than two classes, are required to resit the course



Reading list

A full set of selected readings can be found in the course description on Blackboard.


Through uSis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Prof.dr. E.J Zürcher


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).