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The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power 1898-1918




Sean McMeekin


Allen Lane




Sean McMeekin was born in Idaho, US and educated at Stanford and UC Berkeley. He pursued his interest into various American and European battlefields as far as venturing to Russia, before settling down to teach for some years in Turkey. Since 2014, he has taught at Bard College in the Hudson Valley. He is the author of eight award-winning books. Among his books: The Russian Origins of the First World War, July 1914: Countdown to War, Stalin's War: A New History of World War II, The Russian Re...




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In a fascinating, must-read for anyone interested in Western policy-making in the Middle East, Sean McMeekin's book takes us on a tour of one of modernity's grand follies: the attempt by Imperial Germany to establish an "anti-Orientalist" empire in the Middle East through an alliance with the Ottoman Empire. The goal was to create a strategic, economic and military force that could challenge if not destroy the British Empire, then its main rival for global dominance. This is the story of Germany's plans to bring the Ottomans into World War I and then to play the jihad card against the Allies, which held most of the Muslim world in colonial thrall.

A carousel of relevant figures from WWI find their limelight spot in a detailed portrait of the time: Kaiser Wilhelm II, Max von Oppenheim, and "the Three Pashas," Cemal, Enver, and Talat, for once. But many others - friends, foes, and would-be Muslim recruits to jihad - are also well delineated. In telling the story of the Central Powers' less-than-successful recruitment of locals, from Libya to Arabia to Afghanistan, McMeekin demonstrates the fragility of this jihadist dream. And his accounts of the victory over the Allies at Gallipoli and the failure to complete the Berlin-Baghdad rail line pinpoints the impact of military skill and geopolitical givens in determining outcomes.

The Berlin-Baghdad Express is a fascinating account of western interference in the Middle East and its lamentable results. It explains and brings to life a massive area of fighting, which in most other accounts is restricted to the disaster at Gallipoli and the British invasions of Iraq and Palestine.


“McMeekin has written a powerful, overdue book that for many will open up a whole new side to the first world war, while forcing us to be less reticent in confronting indelicate matters, such as the origins of Nazi-Islamist links.” George Walden , The Guardian "An exciting book by historian Sean McMeekin, who is one of the few to have penetrated the notoriously difficult Ottoman archives, despite the crucial importance of Turkey in the First World War." Niall Ferguson , The Observer "McMeekin's learned story of death-defying secret agents, intrepid archeologists, and double-dealing sheikhs makes for wonderful entertainment... A terrific book." The Sunday Times "In addition to bringing to life a fascinating episode in early 20th-century history, The Berlin-Baghdad Express contains severa...



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