Fifty years ago, Oxford University Press, under the auspices of the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House), published Bernard Lewis’s The Emergence of Modern Turkey. I read it at the time and was enthralled. I was about to live and work in Turkey and it furnished my mind with a comprehensive and comprehensible framework within which I viewed the country of my hosts and employers. While I was on that first visit to Turkey I travelled to the countries of the Arab Middle East. My own absorption in the region has continued ever since. I worked for many years in Arab countries, learnt the language and translated contemporary Arabic texts; I read, listened, observed, reflected and occasionally wrote on the history and politics of the region. Over the years I read most of Bernard Lewis’s other work, and about every ten years I reread The Emergence of Modern Turkey. As I read and reread this last work I became increasingly irritated by it until I finally threw my copy at the wall in exasperation. I have since bought another copy with an introduction to the third edition which is revealing and, I think, justifies my disillusion.

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

Access our entire archive of 350+ articles from the world's leading writers on Islam.
Only £3.30/month, cancel anytime.


Already subscribed? Log in here.

Not convinced? Read this: why should I subscribe to Critical Muslim?

Elsewhere on Critical Muslim: