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From Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Arabic, Persian and Turkish Languages and Cultures or to the Research Master Area Studies: Asia and the Middle East, Specialisation 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 programmes and/or are not sure whether they meet the language requirement are requested to contact the convenor, Prof.dr. E.J. 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.


This course is scheduled on Fridays, 10.00-13.00 hs.

Mode of instruction

The course will start with an introductory lecture and a logistical session during which assignments will be handed out. This will be followed by four blocks of four classes each. Students are required to independently read chapters 5-12 of E.J. Zurcher, Turkey. A Modern History (second edition, 2005) by way of preparation for the course.
Each of the themes will be treated in a block of three classes of three hours each. There are four blocks. Texts will be made available for each class, and a discussion of these texts will form the basis for the presentations by one or more of the students (dependent on the number of participants). Each of the classes will be divided between a lecture by Prof. Zürcher before the break and a discussion of the readings by one of the students after the break. The readings are not meant to summarize the texts as all students are required to read these. Instead, a contrastive analysis of the texts is aimed for.

Assessment method

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

  • Participation in group discussions (20%)

  • Presentation of a paper on a special topic in class (30%)

  • 3000-word essay (term paper) (50%)
    Students who earn a mark lower than 6 owing to insufficient participation, including the presentation of papers, will have to sit a written examination on the subjects discussed during the course. The result will contribute 50% to the final mark.

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

  • Erik-Jan Zürcher, Turkey. A modern history. New edition (London: I.B. Tauris, 2005), Chapter 1-12 and Donald Quataert, The Ottoman Empire 1700-1922 (Cambridge UP, 2000). Students are required to independently read these books during the course.

  • A full set of the selected texts mentioned below will be available through Blackboard.

Block 1: the emergence of the modern state

1.1 Lecture: Towards new notions of legitimate rule
Discussion: Niyazi Berkes, The development of secularism in Turkey (Montreal, 1964), 253-288; Selim Deringil, The well-protected domains (London, 1998), 16-43.

1.2 Lecture: Incorporation – Trade, loans and investments
Discussion: Sevket Pamuk, The Ottoman Empire and European capitalism (Cambridge, 1987), 55-81; Donald Quataert, Ottoman manufacturing in the age of the industrial revolution (Cambridge, 1993),134-160; Reşat Kasaba, “Was there a compradore bourgeoisie in mid-Nineteenth Century western Anatolia?”, Review XI/2 (1988), 215-230.

1.3 Lecture: The growth of the bureaucracy and the army
Discussion: Carter V. Findley, Bureaucratic reform in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton, 1980), 113-150; Erik-Jan Zürcher (ed.), Arming the state. Military conscription in the Middle East and Central Asia 1775-1925 (London, 1999), 79-94; Yakup Bektaş, “The Sultan’s Messenger: Cultural Constructions of Ottoman Telegraphy, 1847-1880,” Technology and Culture, Vol. 41, No. 4, (2001) 669-696;

Block 2: The impact of war

2.1 Lecture: The lost provinces
Discussion: Justin McCarthy, Death and exile. The ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Muslims 1821-1922 (Princeton, 1995), 1-58; Gawrych, George W., “The Culture and Politics of Violence in Turkish Society, 1903-1914,” Middle Eastern Studies, XXII-3. (July 1986), 307-330.

2.2 Lecture: A pre-industrial state in an industrial war 1914-18 Discussion: Erickson, Ordered to Die (Westport/London, 2001), 1-49; Erik-Jan Zurcher, “Between Death and Desertion. The Experience of Ottoman Soldier in World War I,” Turcica 28 (1996), 235-258.

2.3 Lecture: The Armenian genocide Discussion: Ronald Gregor Suny, “The holocaust before the holocaust: reflections on the Armenian genocide”, in Hans Lukas Kieser, Dominik Schaller (ed.), The Armenian genocide and the shoah (Zürich, 2002), 83-100; Donald Bloxham, The Great game of Genocide, (Oxford, 2005), 69-96.

2.3 Lecture: The war continues 1918-1922 Discussion: Erik-Jan Zürcher, “Young Turks, Ottoman Muslims and Turkish Nationalists: Identity Politics 1908-1938,” in Kemal H. Karpat (ed.), Ottoman Past and Today’s Turkey (Leiden, 2000) 150-179; Halide Edib, The Turkish ordeal (New York, 1928), 3-64.

Block 3: Nationalism and nation building

3.1 Lecture: New borders, new states
Discussion: Elie Kedourie, England and the Middle East (Londen, 1987 (3e ed.)), 29-66; Paul Hemreich, From Paris to Sèvres (Columbus OH, 1974), 265-290.

3.2 Lecture: Creating the Turkish nation
Discussion: Geoffrey Lewis, The Turkish language reform. A catastrophic success, (Oxford, 2002), 40-74; Ayşe Kadioğlu, “The paradox of Turkish nationalism and the construction of official identity,” in: Sylvia Kedourie (ed.), Turkey Identity, democracy, politics (London, 1996), 177-193. Martin van Bruinessen, “Genocide in Kurdistan? The suppression of the Dersim rebellion in Turkey (1937-1938) and the chemical war against the Iraqi Kurds (1988), in: George Andreopoulos (ed.), Conceptual and historical dimensions of genocide (Philadelphia, 1994), 141-170.

3.3 Lecture: Ataturk, the founding father
Discussion: Harold Armstrong, Grey Wolf (London, 1937), 254-284; Nazli Ökten, “An endless death and an eternal mourning”, in: Esra Özyürek, The politics of public memory in Turkey (Syracuse, 2007), 95-113.

Block 4: Secularism and religion

4.1 Lecture: The legacy of positivism and materialism Discussion: Şükrü Hanioğlu, “Blueprints for a future society: the late Ottoman materialists on science, religion and art”, in: Elizabeth Ozdalga (ed.), Late Ottoman society. The intellectual legacy (London, 2005), 28-89; Şerif Mardin, Continuity and change in the ideas of the Young Turks, (Istanbul, 1969).

4.2 Lecture: The Turkish version of secularism, or: Good and bad Islam Discussion: Andrew Davison, “Turkey, a “secular” state? The challenge of description,” South Atlantic Quarterly 102: 2/3 (2003), 333-350; Erik-Jan Zürcher, Turkish secularism in a European context, in: Nimrod Goren and Amikam Nachmani (ed.), The importance of being European: Turkey, the EU, and the Middle East (Jerusalem, 2007), 131-140. Esra Özyürek, State secularism and everyday politics in Turkey (Durham NC, 2006), 125-177.

4.3 Lecture: The spectre of İrtica (fundamentalism)
Discussion: Esra Özyürek, State secularism and everyday politics in Turkey (Durham NC, 2006), 125-177; Umut Azak, Myths and Memories of secularism in Turket (1923-1966), Unpubl. Ph.D. thesis Leiden, 2007,181-226.


Through uSis

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Contact information

Prof.dr. E.J Zürcher