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Harvard University Press
The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power

The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power

by Sean McMeekin
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The modern Middle East was forged in the crucible of the First World War, but few know the full story of how war actually came to the region. As Sean McMeekin reveals in this startling reinterpretation of the war, it was neither the British nor the French but rather a small clique of Germans and Turks who thrust the Islamic world into the conflict for their own political, economic, and military ends.

The Berlin-Baghdad Express tells the fascinating story of how Germany exploited Ottoman pan-Islamism in order to destroy the British Empire, then the largest Islamic power in the world. Meanwhile the Young Turks harnessed themselves to German military might to avenge Turkey’s hereditary enemy, Russia. Told from the perspective of the key decision-makers on the Turco-German side, many of the most consequential events of World War I—Turkey’s entry into the war, Gallipoli, the Armenian massacres, the Arab revolt, and the Russian Revolution—are illuminated as never before.

Drawing on a wealth of new sources, McMeekin forces us to re-examine Western interference in the Middle East and its lamentable results. It is an epic tragicomedy of unintended consequences, as Turkish nationalists give Russia the war it desperately wants, jihad begets an Islamic insurrection in Mecca, German sabotage plots upend the Tsar delivering Turkey from Russia’s yoke, and German Zionism midwifes the Balfour Declaration. All along, the story is interwoven with the drama surrounding German efforts to complete the Berlin to Baghdad railway, the weapon designed to win the war and assure German hegemony over the Middle East.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674057395
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 09/15/2010
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Sean McMeekin is Assistant Professor of International Relations at Bilkent University in Turkey.

Table of Contents

List of Maps xi

List of Abbreviations xiii

A Note on Names and Translations xv

Prologue: The View from Haydarpasha 1

I The Vision

1 The Kaiser, the Baron and the Dragoman 7

2 Berlin to Baghdad 32

3 Young Turks and Old Caliphs 54

II The Prophet Armed

4 A Gift from Mars: German Holy War Fever 85

5 The War for the Porte 100

6 The First Global Jihad: Death to Infidels Everywhere! (Unless they be Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Americans or - possibly - Italians) 123

III Adventure in German Jihad

7 Parting the Red Sea 141

8 An Austrian in Arabia 153

9 Showdown at the Suez Canal 166

10 Gallipoli: From Disaster to Triumph 180

11 The Blood of the Prophet 191

12 The Shia Stratagem 201

13 To the Gates of India 209

IV Boomerang

14 Trouble on the Baghdad Railway 233

15 The Reluctant Mahdi 259

16 Iranian Implosion 275

17 Betrayal in Mecca 288

18 The Holy War Devours its Children 301

19 Consolation Prize? The Race for Baku 318

Epilogue: The Strange Death of German Zionism and the Nazi-Muslim Connection 340

Notes 367

Bibliography 413

Acknowledgements 427

Index 431

What People are Saying About This

Norman Stone

Sean McMeekin has written a classic of First World War history... superb and original.
Norman Stone, author of World War One: A Short History

George Walden

McMeekin has written a powerful, overdue book that for many will open up a whole new side to the first world war, while forcing us to be less reticent in confronting indelicate matters, such as the origins of Nazi-Islamist links.
— The Guardian

Donald M. McKale

A seminal work that demonstrates for the first time that Imperial Germany's jihad strategy in World War I-- exploiting pan-Islamism in the Middle East to stoke the fire of native Muslim revolts against the British and against Russia-- played a crucial role in German plans to win the war. Now students of the 'Great War' will no longer be able to dismiss the German 'holy war' strategy as merely peripheral. There is much to be learned in this superb work about the recent past and today in the Middle East.
Donald M. McKale, author of War By Revolution: Germany and Great Britain in the Middle East in the Era of World War I

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The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Shrike58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this account of the shaky marriage between Berlin & Constantinople during the Great War, and the German effort to unleash a jihad against the Entente powers, McMeekin is at his best when he talks about the pack of German Orientalists who were the operators at the cutting edge, and how this fit in with the stresses the Germans had with the Young Turks.Where McMeekin does himself no favors is with his epilog, where this book goes somewhat off the rails in terms of trying to draw links between the pseudo-jihad concocted as a tool of Second Reich power politics (with the notorious Grand Mufti al-Husseini as the main point of connection) and the political Islamism of today; to me, at the very least, this gives Kaiser Wilhelm II too much blame and not enough to Arab political activists. McMeekin really should know a little bit better, as he did a fine job beforehand of demonstrating how the assorted Muslim leaders that the European powers were attempting to bribe were quite happy to take the money and continue just what they were going to do anyway; why should this have been any different during World War II? It also skips over the small matter of the failed modernization politics of the Cold War, which to me are the real roots of contemporary Islamism.McMeekin's further accusation that Max von Oppenheim (one of the prime German activists) is a prototype of the modern "self-hating" apologist for Third World tyranny begs some questions about just what McMeekin's politics are, as such loaded terminology usually raises my hackles, but I gather that he's sympathetic to the Young Turks and their secularizing successors in Post-Ottoman Turkey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very Good book overall. You can tell that McMeekin really did his research. It seems that he either couldn't get go into detail as much as he wanted to or had trouble paring down the book because it seems to be moving around a lot. Also numerous times in the book an event or person is mentioned in passing but we are told to look to another part of the book to fully illuminate the subject. This made me feel like the author had trouble with organization. Also I know it could of been considered out of the purview of the subject matter but I would have liked a little more information about what effect if any the German relationship had on the transformation of the Ottoman Empire into the Turkish republic. Overall though it was a great read, I really did enjoy the not well known story about Turco-German relations leading up the and during the first world war.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago