Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

The Tectonics of Turkish History

Fri, October 4, 2013 | SAC Legislative Assembly Room (2.302)

3:00 PM

Turkish Studies Lecture Series
A lecture by Carter Vaughn Findley, Ohio State University


Who are the Turks?  The answer differs vastly, depending on whether we start from today's Turkey and look back, or whether we start with their origins in what is now Mongolia and look forward.

Do the Turkish peoples even form a coherent category?  The answer differs vastly, depending on whether we look at their languages (which are very much alike), environmental adaptations, religions, or physical features. (There is no determinant "racial" identity at all).

What about their pre-modern history was most significant?  One way to answer is to start with the paradox that nomadic peoples always resist state authority, and yet all across Eurasia, the Turks and their cultural cousins, the Mongols, took leading roles in empire building.

What about their modern history is most significant?  The most significant fact here is that the Turks of Central Asia lost sovereignty, while the Ottoman Empire retained its sovereignty.  The Ottomans developed the Islamic tradition of state formation, which evolved into the twentieth century.  By comparison with other Muslim-majority polities, the unique course that the Turkish republic has since taken reflects its historical antecedents as much as the choices made by its modern leaders.

Carter Vaughn Findley is Humanities Distinguished Professor in the Department of History at the Ohio State University. He is the author ofThe Turks in World HistoryOttoman Civil Officialdom: A Social Historyand Bureaucratic Reform in the Ottoman Empire: The Sublime Porte 1789-1922. He is a past president of the World History Association and the Turkish Studies Association.

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