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The Ottomans

A Cultural Legacy

Diana Darke

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A richly illustrated guide to the Ottoman Empire, 100 years since its dissolution, unravelling its complex cultural legacy and profound impact on Europe, North Africa and the Middle East

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At its height, the Ottoman Empire spread from Yemen to the gates of Vienna. Western perceptions of the Ottomans have often been distorted by Orientalism, characterizing their rule as oppressive and destructive, while seeing their culture as exotic and incomprehensible. Based on a lifetime’s experience of living and working across its former provinces, Diana Darke offers a unique overview of the Ottoman Empire’s cultural legacy one century after its dissolution. She uncovers a vibrant, sophisticated civilization that embraced both arts and sciences, whilst welcoming refugees from all ethnicities and religions, notably Christians and Jews.

Darke celebrates the culture of the Ottoman Empire, from its aesthetics and architecture to its scientific and medical innovations, including the first vaccinations. She investigates the crucial role that commerce and trade played in supporting the empire and increasing its cultural reach, highlighting the significant role of women, as well as the diverse religious, literary and musical traditions that proliferated through the empire. Beautifully illustrated with manuscripts, miniatures, paintings and photographs, The Ottomans: A Cultural Legacy presents the magnificent achievements of an empire that lasted over 600 years and encompassed Asian, European and African cultures, shedding new light on its complex legacy.


'For 200 years, from the mid-15th century, the Ottoman Empire was the most powerful force in Eurasia. Yet the Ottomans remain today one of the least explored areas of global history: an almost-forgotten giant. This gorgeous, wide-ranging and utterly fascinating book is the perfect introduction to the art and architecture, as well as cultural, religious and political history of one of the important and surprising of empires'
William Dalrymple, author of 'The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company'

'Exquisitely written and lavishly illustrated, this delightful book brings five centuries of Ottoman culture to life. Diana Darke constantly amazes the reader with fascinating facts and points of relevance between the Ottoman past and the present day'
Eugene Rogan, author of 'The Fall of the Ottomans'

'A balanced voice that surpasses prejudice and fixed notions, Diana Darke seeks to bridge the two worlds of the East and West through fascinating accounts of history, art and culture with a dedicated focus on what brings us together in an era of polarization'
Marwa al-Sabouni, author of 'The Battle for Home' and 'Building for Hope'

'An opportunity to reflect on the empire from a cultural perspective, taking in topics as diverse as the surgical instruments that the Ottomans invented to the poetry penned by sultans. Sumptuous illustrations bring [Darke’s] text to life'
BBC History

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Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 17.0 cm

Extent: 288 pp

Illustrations: 149

Publication date: 29 September 2022

ISBN: 9780500252666

Contents List

Timeline 1250-1922
Introduction: A Fresh View
1. The Ottoman Psyche
2. The Commercial Spirit
3. Statecraft and Geography
4. Religious Values
5. Scientific and Industrial Innovations
6. Literary Curiosities
7. Musical Traditions
8. Medical Mores
9. Aesthetic Sensitivities
10. Architectural Identity
11. Culinary Delights
12. Home and Lifestyle
Conclusion: Lessons for the Future?

About the Author

Diana Darke is the author of Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe, which was one of BBC History Magazine’s best books of 2020 and chosen by William Dalrymple as his history book of the year. Her other books include The Merchant of Syria, My House in Damascus and The Last Sanctuary in Aleppo, as well as travel guides on Turkey and Syria.