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The War of the Ottoman Succession

March 26, 2015 from 12:15pm-2:30pm EST
CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241), Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Speaker: Prof. Sean McMeekin, Bard College


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The First World War is still alive in Turkey, in a way it has not been in Europe for decades. To the extent most westerners think about the conflict, they tend to follow what we might call the "European Union" narrative, chalking it up to outmoded militarism (mostly Germanic), which produced a senseless Civil War between European nations who learned to live in peace only after an even more terrible rerun from 1939-1945.

Viewed through a Turkish lens, however, the First World War looks rather different. It was no less epic in military terms, waged on battlefields stretching from Galicia to Gallipoli, Ukraine to Arabia, Baku to Basra, the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf, the Suez Canal to the Caspian. In the broader Ottoman sphere, in fact, the European war of 1914-1918 was just one (admittedly important) episode in an ongoing struggle lasting from the Italian invasion of Tripoli in 1911 through the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and all the way to the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. The outbreak of war in Europe in August 1914, in effect, postponed the Third Balkan War, which would have almost certainly broken out between Greece and Turkey in summer 1914, until May 1919, when it resumed with a vengeance. This broader conflict is what I call the War of the Ottoman Succession.

Sean McMeekin is Professor of History at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. in History from UC Berkeley and his BA from Stanford. He has previously taught at Koç University, Istanbul; Bilkent University, Ankara; Yale University, and New York University. He is the author of The Russian Revolution (forthcoming from Basic Books, 2017); The War of the Ottoman Succession (forthcoming from Penguin, 2015); July 1914: Countdown to War (2013), reviewed on the cover of the New York Times Book Review; The Russian Origins of the First World War (2011), which won the Norman B. Tomlinson Jr. Book Prize and was nominated for the Lionel Gelber Prize; The Berlin to Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power, 18981918 (2010), winner of the Barbara Jelavich Book Prize; History's Greatest Heist: The Looting of Russia by the Bolsheviks (2008), listed for the Ed Hewett Prize; and The Red Millionaire: A Political Biography of Willi Münzenberg, Moscow's Secret Propaganda Tsar in the West (2004), along with numerous articles and book chapters. He lives in Rhinebeck, NY with his wife and two children.

A Light Lunch will be served.

RSVP: seanmcmeekin.eventbrite.com