As the author of this well written book states, most studies of World War I concentrate almost solely on the trench warfare in France and Belgium, and to some degree on the battles in the East between Germany and Russia. Not a lot has been written about what many people at the time considered "a sideshow", and that is the war between Britain (and France to some extent) and the Ottoman Empire in both Mesopotamia and the Sinai area, including the Suez canal. There are works that cover Gallipoli, but that's about it..Books and movies relate the story of "Lawrence of Arabia", but that's only a small part of what happened.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire more than lived up to its name as "The sick man of Europe". The Great Powers were waiting and almost salivating at the prospect of being able to carve up the Empire's territory when it finally expired. The author makes a good case that this fall didn't have to happen, but was precipitated by the Young Turk government (and particularly the Three Pashas) getting involved in the war when there was absolutely no reason to do so. Neutrality would have served that country much better, and history could have been profoundly changed, possibly for the better (but that's debatable).
The book takes the reader through the major campaigns in the Middle East, and also in the border area with Imperial Russia, which led to the wholesale massacre of Armenians by the Turkish government (a charge they still deny to this day). There has been quite a bit written on the Armenian situation, and I've read a few of these books, which are pretty gruesome and graphic.
The focus of the book is the clash between Britain and the Ottoman troops, and it shows that, though the average Turkish soldier was as brave fighter, he was done in by lack of materiel to prosecute any sustained action. There were some good Turkish leaders, particularly Mustafa Kemal, who later united a shattered country, and earned the name "Ataturk", meaning `father of the Turks".
It's a book that brings to light many things about a small part of that Great War that most people are ignorant of, and it fills that niche quite well.
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About the reviewer
Frank J. Konopka (frankiethek)
I'm a small town general practice attorney in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania. Books are my passion, andI read as many of them asI can. Being the President of the local library board for over … more
Daniel Allen Butler is the bestselling author of many books, including“Unsinkable”: The Full Story of RMSTitanic (1998);Distant Victory: The Battle of Jutland and the Allied Triumph in the First World War(2006); andThe First Jihad: The Battle for Khartoum and the Dawn of Militant Islam(2007). He lives in Culver City, California.