Depicting the Late Ottoman Empire in Turkish Autobiographies: Images of a Past World, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Depicting the Late Ottoman Empire in Turkish Autobiographies

Images of a Past World, 1st Edition

By Philipp Wirtz


176 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2017-03-16
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The period between the 1880s and the 1920s was a time of momentous changes in the Ottoman Empire. It was also an age of literary experiments, of which autobiography forms a part. This book analyses Turkish autobiographical narratives describing the part of their authors’ lives that was spent while the Ottoman Empire still existed. The texts studied in this book were written in the cultural context of the Turkish Republic, which went to great lengths to disassociate itself from the empire and its legacy. This process has only been criticised and partially reversed in very recent times, the resurging interest in autobiographical texts dealing with the "old days" by the Turkish reading public being part of a wider, renewed regard for Ottoman legacies.

Among the analysed texts are autobiographies by writers, journalists, soldiers and politicians, including classics like Halide Edip Adıvar and Şevket Süreyya Aydemir, but also texts by authors virtually unknown to Western readers, such as Ahmed Emin Yalman.

While the official Turkish republican discourse went towards a dismissal of the imperial past, autobiographical narratives offer a more balanced picture. From the earliest memories and personal origins of the authors, to the conflict and violence that overshadowed private lives in the last years of the Ottoman Empire, this book aims at showing examples of how the authors painted what one of them called "images of a past world."

Table of Contents

Note on transliteration, dates and names



I Why write Autobiography?

II Origins, Backgrounds and Beginnings

III Presenting Ottoman Childhoods

IV Education: Reminiscences of School

V End of Empire: Revolution, Unrest and War

VI Post-Ottoman Autobiography for Western Audiences

Conclusion: Remembering lost Ottoman Worlds

Appendix: Glossary of Key Authors



About the Author

Philipp Wirtz studied the history, languages and cultures of the Middle East in Frankfurt am Main, Bamberg and London. He holds a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and teaches Middle East history at SOAS and the University of Warwick.

About the Series

Life Narratives of the Ottoman Realm: Individual and Empire in the Near East

As a consequence of the political developments following World War I, the Ottoman Empire has been treated by a great number of historians above all as an intrinsic part of Turkish national history. Although the academic community has recognized that the Ottoman Empire was, in fact, multiethnic and multicultural, this recognition has too rarely been translated into scholarly practice. This is due in large part to the fragmentation of Ottoman studies into various academic disciplines that only infrequently communicate with one another: as examples, Turkish-language literature predominantly produced by Muslims is treated by Turkish Literature experts and Turkologists in the West; Ottoman Ladino literature falls within the purview of Romance studies; the empire’s Greeks are studied within the field of Byzantine and Hellenic studies; and so on.

This publication series aims to bring all of these perspectives together in a historically specific and responsible way by providing a key publication platform for scholars aiming to study the narrative sources of a vast geographic region, stretching, at times, from Bosnia to the Yemen, in its full complexity as a multilingual and multiethnic Empire.

For further information about the series please contact Michael Greenwood at [email protected]


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Modern / General