Useful Enemies: Islam and The Ottoman Empire in Western Political Thought, 1450-1750
By Noel Malcolm
Published in 2019
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
I only made it about a quarter of the way through this book before I decided to put it down.
Malcolm’s main argument is that, by the mid 1600s, the Ottomans had become a pathetic shadow of their former selves. They no longer posed any real threat to Europe. However, European states found the threat of the Ottomans to be useful. Defense against the Ottomans justified religious persecution, raising taxes, military expenditure, etc… The Europeans would go as far as intentionally propping up the Ottomans in order to keep their threat alive.
There is a lot of stuff out there about the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the conquest of Constantinople, the Balkan and Habsburg wars, and the age of Suleyman the Magnificent. There is perhaps even more stuff out there about the fall of the Ottoman Empire. However, there are very few books about the long boring period after the rise of the Ottoman Empire but before its decline. I was looking for a history of the Ottoman Empire during the late 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, so I picked up this book.
This book doesn’t discuss the history of the Ottoman Empire, but rather European perceptions of the Ottomans. Like most modern historical works, it overemphasizes bias and under emphasizes understanding. The tone of writing is academic.
I could see a potential audience for this book, but it wasn’t for me.
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