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The First of the Modern Ottomans
The Intellectual History of Ahmed Vasif


Part of Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization

  • Date Published: February 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316647943

£ 26.99

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About the Authors
  • The eighteenth century brought a period of tumultuous change to the Ottoman Empire. While the Empire sought modernization through military and administrative reform, it also lost much of its influence on the European stage through war and revolt. In this book, Ethan L. Menchinger sheds light on intellectual life, politics, and reform in the Empire through the study of one of its leading intellectuals and statesmen, Ahmed Vâsıf. Vâsıf's life reveals new aspects of Ottoman letters - heated debates over moral renewal, war and peace, justice, and free will - but it also forces the reappraisal of Ottoman political reform, showing a vital response that was deeply enmeshed in Islamic philosophy, ethics, and statecraft. Tracing Vâsıf's role through the turn of the nineteenth century, this book opens the debate on modernity and intellectualism for those students and researchers studying the Ottoman Empire, intellectual history, the Enlightenment, and Napoleonic Europe.

    • Covers a pivotal period in the Ottoman Empire and the wider Middle East, allowing readers to better understand the challenges faced by the Empire at the time
    • Uses the life story of central intellectual and political figure Ahmed Vâsıf to provide a narrative backdrop to explorations of modernity in the Ottoman Empire
    • Explores important intellectual debates among Ottomans of the times, highlighting changes in a concise and easy-to-follow manner
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The First of the Modern Ottomans deserves a wide readership, not just for the past it portrays but as well for the philosophical questions that have endured into our own time.' Madeline C. Zilfi, Journal of Islamic Studies

    'Situating the historian Vasif within the revolving core of Ottoman modernity, Ethan L. Menchinger gives us a thoroughly researched and often entertaining book that uncovers the links between the Ottoman worldview, literary culture, and international power politics. This is an engagingly written, sympathetic portrait of a man at once immensely gifted and deeply flawed - an impressive work of new scholarship.' Douglas A. Howard, Professor of History, Calvin College

    'This is the return of narrative history and the genre of biography with a vengeance, but a sweet vengeance at that. Based on painstaking research in scores of manuscripts and archival documents, it tells the story of the prolific and rather odious Ottoman chancery officer and court historian, Ahmed Vasif (d. 1806) … In short, this is a coming of modern age story, which is a must-read for Ottomanists and comparativists alike.' Dana Sajdi, Associate Professor of History, Boston College

    'Although there are a few good biographies of well-known Ottoman bureaucrats and intellectuals, intimate accounts of Ottoman individuals have not proliferated in modern scholarship. Ethan L. Menchinger's The First of the Modern Ottomans is therefore a very welcome and well-executed contribution to this genre … [This is] required reading for all who want to understand the intellectual history of the period …' Hakan Karateke, Professor of Ottoman Turkish Culture, Language and Literature, University of Chicago

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316647943
    • length: 356 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 150 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Note on the text
    Dramatis personae
    List of abbreviations
    1. Out of the east: early life (c.1735–68)
    2. At war (1768–74)
    3. Years of faction and reform (1774–87)
    4. 'Honorable exile': in Spain (1787–8)
    5. At war (1788–92)
    6. Vâsıf and the new order (1792–1800)
    7. The height of fame (1800–6)
    8. Epilogue: Vâsıf as ancient and modern
    Appendix: on the authorship of the Final Word to Refute the Rabble

  • Author

    Ethan L. Menchinger, University of Manchester
    Ethan L. Menchinger is currently a lecturer at the University of Michigan. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien and Freie Universität, Berlin, and a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto.

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