Military Education and the Last Ottoman Generation

Episode 311

hosted by Nir Shafir and Reem Bailony

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For much of the twentieth century, military officers have been the most successful political operatives in Middle East politics. In this episode we explore the conditions that gave rise to these figures from their schooling to the disingenuous colonial politics of the interwar mandates. Our guest, Michael Provence, speaks to us about the overlooked the military schools in the late Ottoman Empire that drew in an aspiring middling class of rural Muslims, quite different from the urban and urbane classes that attended the civil schools, and molded them into loyal imperial subjects. We then explore how these men navigated the complex politics of the post-war Middle East as the world that the empire they had championed for so long fell apart around them.

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Contributor Bios

Michael Provence is Associate Professor of modern Middle Eastern history at UCSD. He is the author of The Great Syrian Revolt (2005), and The Last Ottoman Generation and the Making of the Modern Middle East (May 2017).
Nir Shafir is a historian of the Middle East whose research examines the intersections of knowledge production, religious practice, and material culture in the early modern world. He curates Ottoman History Podcast’s series on history of science in addition to being one of the co-founders of, a website that explores the archives and libraries of the Islamic world. He is an assistant professor of history at UCSD.
Reem Bailony is currently the American Druze Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Georgetown University. Her book manuscript tentatively titled, Transnational Rebellion: The Syrian Revolt of 1925-1927, uncovers the critical role Syrian-Lebanese migrants played in defining and shaping the anti-colonial rebellion.

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Episode No. 311
Release Date: 7 April 2017
Recording Location: UC-San Diego
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: Baglamamin Dugumu - Necmiye Ararat and Muzaffer; Egil Daglar Ustunden Asam - Viktoriya Hanim; Harmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi; Istanbul'dan Ayva Gelir Nar Gelir - Azize Tozem and Sari Recep
Special thanks to Kara Güneş for permission to use the composition "Istanbul"
Images and bibliography courtesy of Michael Provence


The Ottoman Tribal School (Aşiret Mektebi) in Istanbul, c1895 (Source: Library of Congress)
The former Ottoman Tribal School in Istanbul, renovated as apartment buildings, 2006 (Photo credit: Michael Provence) 

At left: a student of the Ottoman tribal school. At right: the same student, dressed in modern military uniform Source: Library of Congress

Select Bibliography

Bailony, Reem, "Transnational Rebellion: The Syrian Revolt of 1925-1927," Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 2015.

Deringil, Salim, The Well-Protected Domains : Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire, 1876-1909, (London: 1998).

Fortna, Benjamin, Imperial Classroom: Islam, the State, and Education in the Late Ottoman Empire (Oxford: 2002).

Somel, Selçuk Akşin The Modernization of Public Education in the Ottoman Empiure, 1839-1908: Islamization, Autocracy and Disipline, (Leiden: 2001).

Parsons, Laila, The Commander: Fawzi al-Qawuqji and the Fight for Arab Independence 1914-1948 (New York: 2016)

Pederson, Susan, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford: 2015).

Weber, Stefan, Damascus: Ottoman Modernity and Urban Transformation, 1808-1918 (Aarhus: 2009).


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