The War with the Ottoman Empire by Jeffrey Grey – Book Review

The War with the Ottoman Empire is the second volume in The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War series. The war with the Ottoman Empire was not only a war between great empires, but was also a war of empire and the furthering of European imperial interests; its aftermath laid the foundations of the modern Middle East.

Drawing on archival records in Australasia, Europe and North America, The War with the Ottoman Empire examines the involvement of Australians in this part of the Great War and is a detailed and comprehensive historical account. It provides a fresh perspective on Australia’s contribution and place in the world as empires shifted.

World War I shattered the consensus of the nineteenth-century world and led to the disintegration of the ‘old order’. The British Empire led the charge against the Ottoman Empire in Mesopotamia, the Dardanelles, Sinai, Palestine and Syria. Despite some setbacks the Ottomans fought and resisted fiercely. Finding themselves on the wrong side of the Armistice their lands were occupied and their empire dismembered – an action that reverberates to today.

Although Australians have sentimentalised ‘Johnny Turk’, we remain largely ignorant of the Ottoman experience of the war. The Ottomans fought soldiers from Russia, France, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India and other parts of the British and French Empires. Refreshingly, The War with the Ottoman Empire strives to portray the perspectives of both sides.

Professor Jeffrey Grey is a leading military historian with an interest in contemporary warfare. He is presently teaching at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. He is a member the Army Historical Advisory Committee, a Consultant to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Series, a consultant to the 8-part television series Australians at War (2001), and adjunct senior research fellow at the Land Warfare Studies Centre.

The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War series is an accessible and scholarly account of the impact of one of the great formative national experiences in our history. Based on wide-ranging research from Australian, British and other sources, the series seeks to provide fresh perspectives and new ways of thinking about the issues, events and personalities that helped define Australia and Australians.

The War with the Ottoman Empire is illustrated with numerous photographs and several well produced and clear maps. The notes are extensive and the index is comprehensive. The font is quite small so this may make reading more challenging for older readers. Gray has also included a short bibliographical essay that evaluates the historical record of the Australian war against the Ottoman Empire. There is little doubt that this book is the most comprehensive and balanced account to date and that it will be long regarded as authoritative. This book will appeal to general readers and scholars with an interest in military history, the Great War or the Ottoman Empire.

Jeffrey Grey
Oxford University Press; 2015; 238 pp.; ISBN 9780195576764; RRP $59.95 (hardcover)

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