The Ottoman Empire

Rated 5 out of 5 by from I learned so much in this course, especially the background to the current situation in the area.
Date published: 2020-09-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Horrible! I’ve watched the first few lectures and I’m dizzy from the avalanche of names, dates, events without any explanations of them. How GC approved this course is surprising. I have about 100 courses and this one is seriously poorly executed.
Date published: 2020-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Presenter Learned much about a subject of which I knew little.
Date published: 2020-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from lecture + visuals = many hours of great learning My wife and I are both history buffs and have been exposed to Prof. Kenneth Harl on several subjects. I am particularly fond of his use of ancient coinage for visual aids when looking at rulers of the past.
Date published: 2020-07-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mongols to NATO...what a trip! Aside from Dr Harl's rapid delivery and immense cast of characters, I found this course to be a fascinating look at a transitional time in history as well as a transitional place in the world...the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Turkey is often discounted as a not-quite-first-world country, yet it boasts of one of the most successful dominions, lasting nearly seven some ways, extending even into modern times. These lectures complement Harl's early sets, including Byzantium and Barbarians of The Steppes (also The Vikings) and help to mesh with lectures series dealing with Western European history. After listening to these lectures I have come to understand WHY the Ottoman Empire was considered the 'poor man of Europe', but understand more fully that, in many ways, its rich legacy has contributed greatly to the western civilization we enjoy today. Recommended, especially when Suleiman The Magnificent and Mehmet the Conqueror agree on a sale and coupon.
Date published: 2020-06-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a solid but unpolished history i feel like this course missed an opportunity to be truly gripping. if it had been told as a linear narrative, as a story unfolding, it could have shown what a great tale ottoman history is. instead however prof. harl takes a purely academic approach, in essence giving away the ending at the beginning of each lecture, and then bouncing around in both time and space as he recounts the details. first we’re here, then we’re there, then we’re back in the past, then we’ve leapt forward to the end. it’s perfectly possible to follow it all, but i found this unfocused presentation a little bit frustrating, and again and again i had to wonder how different the course would have been in the hands of a great storyteller. that complaint aside, you do get a solid presentation of ottoman history. i now understand the rise and fall of the ottoman empire much better than i did before, and there were several key points that transformed my understanding, such as the fact that the ottomans had been at war for years before world war I began, and they continued to be at war for years after it ended. other highlights for me included the systematic presentation of the first ten sultans, the close look at the conflict between the sultans and the safavid shahs, and the discussion of arabs in the ottoman empire. personally, i’m not a huge fan of prof. harl’s delivery, particularly in comparison with many of the newer courses which feature very polished speakers. he’s a bit too off the cuff, which i find makes for a rougher ride. i also found that he would usually not stop to explain new terminology: we just start talking about pashas and ghazis and timars without a sufficient pause to define what those are. furthermore, as is often the case in prof. harl’s courses, the guidebook varies considerably from what you get on the screen, to such an extent that it often amounts to a completely different presentation of the same material. the most disappointing part of this course was the lecture on the armenian genocide, in which the professor bends over backwards to excuse the turkish state of responsibility, ultimately refraining from even calling it a genocide. he repeatedly assumes good faith on the part of the turkish leadership; he plays both-sides-ism, as if anything the armenians did was even close to being on the same scale; he claims that all parties in WWI were committing similar atrocities; and he argues that we have to take into account that this happened in the middle of a world war, as if that were not equally true of the holocaust. at no point does he ask the obvious question, which is what did the turkish government think was going to happen if you marched hundreds of thousands of people into the middle of a desert? chillingly, his arguments could equally be deployed to excuse the japanese internment during WWII: it was wartime, the government was paranoid, states have always done this. now i’m not accusing prof. harl of arriving at this position out of any kind of ill will, but i might speculate that he’s spent more time talking about the subject with turks than with armenians. to be fair, out of 36 lectures this one was the only complete failure, but given its subject matter it was a particularly disgraceful one. now i don’t want all these criticisms to create the impression that this was a bad course: it wasn’t. it’s still a perfectly functional history of the ottoman empire, certainly more comprehensive than some, and will likely be very informative for most viewers, as it was for me. i just feel that the ottoman empire deserves a great course, and thanks to the unpolished presentation this one was merely good.
Date published: 2020-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible linsight! I am almost done watching this course and have learned so much. He is a wealth of knowledge. I own about 50 courses and the course is one of my favorites. Sometime he trips over his words but that does not detract for the information he presents. Buy a video version of this course and not an audio because he uses extensive maps of the ebb and flow of the empire. You would be lost without the video. It is a big empire!
Date published: 2020-01-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Info. Broad coverage. But some weaknesses I've read a good number of the negative and positive reviews of this course. They both have their points. My wife and I have been to Turkey several times, so we had a rudimentary familiarity with the material that Prof. Harl is covering. I can sympathize with the complaints of some reviewers who had little prior knowledge and felt bombarded with rapid-fire facts. Harl does cover hundreds of years and several continents of territory, so I suspect he felt obliged to keep moving along at a brisk clip. We didn't mind that, and over time we were won over by Prof. Harl's passion for the history he was presenting. That said, we agreed with one of the reviewers who noted Harl's pronunciation of Turkish leaves a lot to be desired. My wife and I kept looking at each other and going "huh?" as names and terms were mangled. And yes, his speaking style is rather herky-jerky and the "ums" do build up over all the lectures. I even wondered if he is mildly dyslexic as some words got turned inside out or syllables were reversed in order. A word of caution: Much of the lecture series is devoted to military history. Sultans made moves to expand the Empire, had to defend it in turn, and the helpful maps are often showing the movement of troops or ships. We wished there had been more coverage of the cultural and daily lives of the Ottoman citizens and colonies. There was a fair amount, but only that. Still, I give this 4-stars because I think we got 4-stars worth of information and engagement out of the course. We are glad we purchased and watched it.
Date published: 2019-12-09
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The Ottoman Empire
Course Trailer
Sublime Porte: Visions of the Ottoman Empire
1: Sublime Porte: Visions of the Ottoman Empire

How should one consider the vast history of the Ottoman Empire? Professor Harl sets the stage for the lectures to come with a consideration of key themes in the empire's journey from "Sublime Porte" to "Sick Man of Europe" - as well as the distorting images of Orientalism....

32 min
Seljuk Turks in Asia Minor
2: Seljuk Turks in Asia Minor

Ottoman sultans traced their origins to the Oghuz Turks of the Central Eurasian steppes, whose nomadic ways of life were transformed by Islam. Follow along as the subsequent Seljuk Turks evolve from raiders to conquerors - and spark conflict with Western Europe's religious pilgrims....

30 min
The Islamization of Asia Minor
3: The Islamization of Asia Minor

First, learn how the Seljuk sultans created an Islamic Turkish Anatolia, which would become the heartland of future Ottoman sultans. Then, explore Seljuk developments in architecture, decorative art, and religion - including domed mosques, medresses (religious schools), and "whirling dervishes."...

30 min
Ottoman Sultans of Bursa
4: Ottoman Sultans of Bursa

Meet the sultans who transformed the Ottoman sultanate into an imperial state. Among these: Orhan, who made Bursa the state's capital; Murad I and Bayezid I, who incorporated Asia Minor into the Ottoman state; and "the Thunderbolt," who forged an empire of tributaries in the Balkans and Anatolia....

31 min
Defeat and Recovery, 1402-1451
5: Defeat and Recovery, 1402-1451

The defeat of Sultan Bayezid by Tamerlane at the Battle of Angora revealed the fragile nature of the nascent Ottoman sultanate. Focus on the empire's recovery under Mehmed I Çelebi and Murad II, who made the empire into a bureaucratic monarchy and defeated the Hungarians at the Battle of Varna....

31 min
Mehmet the Conqueror, 1451-1481
6: Mehmet the Conqueror, 1451-1481

Mehmet the Conqueror made the Ottoman sultanate a leading Muslim power by 1481. In this lecture, investigate his remarkable rule, which included the conquest of Constantinople, the remodeling of the Hagia Sophia as a mosque, and the construction of the grand, walled mini-city of Topkap?....

31 min
Selim the Grim and the Conquest of Cairo
7: Selim the Grim and the Conquest of Cairo

In 1512, Selim emerged victorious from the ashes of a civil war and executed all challenges to his rule (earning him the sobriquet "the Grim"). Go inside Selim's military campaigns against Iran, Syria, and Egypt, which helped make the Ottoman Empire virtually synonymous with the "house of Islam."...

31 min
Suleiman the Magnificent, 1520-1566
8: Suleiman the Magnificent, 1520-1566

Suleiman the Magnificent presided over the zenith of the Ottoman Empire. You'll learn how, during his 46-year reign, he expanded civil bureaucracy, waged a naval war in the Mediterranean against Habsburg Spain, and also altered the imperial succession - sowing what some historians consider the seeds of the empire's downfall....

32 min
Sultans in Topkap?, 1566-1648
9: Sultans in Topkap?, 1566-1648

Turn now to a period of decline, most notable for the emergence of the harem as a powerful political institution. Meet sultans including Murad III, a patron of the arts (especially miniaturist painting) and Ahmet I, an ineffective 13-year-old who presided over the "Sultanate of Women."...

32 min
The Sultan-Caliph and His Servants
10: The Sultan-Caliph and His Servants

Ottoman sultans played two roles: as sultan/warrior and as the caliph of Sunni Islam. Here, unpack the role of the sultan in the Ottoman Empire, including his relationship with the ulema (religious experts), his central administration (called "the Porte"), and with his viziers....

31 min
Timariots, Peasants, and Pastoralists
11: Timariots, Peasants, and Pastoralists

Between 1500 and 1800, the Ottoman Empire spread across more than 1 million square miles - but economic activity varied from region to region. Discover how groups like pastoralists and the Muslim gentry (timariots) played their own critical roles in the drama and resiliency of the rural Ottoman economy....

31 min
Trade, Money, and Cities
12: Trade, Money, and Cities

Trade was vital to the Ottoman Empire - as well as a cause for its decline from "Porte" to "Sick Man of Europe." Trace some of the empire's most prominent trade routes, including the iconic Silk Road, as well as the British penetration of Ottoman markets in 1838....

31 min
Arabs under the Ottoman Caliph
13: Arabs under the Ottoman Caliph

For 300 years, Ottoman Sultans ruled the majority of Arabs. How did "the Porte" successfully administer the diverse Arab provinces under its control? How did "the Porte" respect Islamic traditions? Why were the Arabs so loyal to the empire up until the early 19th century?...

31 min
Christians and Jews under the Porte
14: Christians and Jews under the Porte

Under the Ottomans, Christian and Jewish subjects were classified as dhimmi ("people of the book") and were afford legal protection and the right to practice their faith. Explore daily life in some of the Christian and Jewish communities (millet) scattered across the empire....

31 min
Sunni Islam and Ottoman Civilization
15: Sunni Islam and Ottoman Civilization

Go deeper inside the details of Ottoman civilization. Among the topics you'll explore are the transformation of Turkish into a new literary language; the importance of calligraphy and miniaturist painting; intellectual developments in history and geography; and, finally, the cultural influence of the Sufis....

31 min
Ottoman Constantinople
16: Ottoman Constantinople

What was Constantinople like under Ottoman control? Professor Harl shows how the empire became a veritable paradise among Muslim cities, with markets and mosque complexes, social activities and public spaces, and the grandeur of Topkap?, which you'll see through the eyes of French Ambassadors sent in 1536....

33 min
The Sultan at War: The Ottoman Army
17: The Sultan at War: The Ottoman Army

Sultans between the reigns of Murad II and Mehmet IV commanded one of the finest armies in Eurasia. Discover how the Ottoman imperial army matched Europe's best, how money was raised to meet the rising costs of war, why the Ottoman army suffered decisive defeats, and more....

31 min
Sultan and Shah: Challenge of Safavid Iran
18: Sultan and Shah: Challenge of Safavid Iran

The Ottoman Sultan and the Safavid Shah clashed frequently over strategic lands between the two civilizations. First, learn why Safavid Iran was the religious and ideological rival of "the Porte." Then, examine five major wars the Ottomans waged against their rivals between 1514 and 1722....

31 min
Sultan and Emperor: War in the West
19: Sultan and Emperor: War in the West

Visit the empire's northern border in Europe to explore its military clashes with the West. Why was fighting in Central Europe so indecisive? Why did the Long-Turkish War prove so embarrassing for three sultans? How did "the Porte" come to ease tensions with the Habsburgs after 1605?...

31 min
Sultan and Venice: War in the Mediterranean
20: Sultan and Venice: War in the Mediterranean

Learn why Ottoman success at sea in the 1500s stemmed from Suleiman's strategic vision and the skills of his admirals. Along the way, you'll investigate Suleiman's war against Venice, the Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and battles with another European naval power: Portugal....

32 min
Koprulu Viziers and Imperial Revival
21: Koprulu Viziers and Imperial Revival

Professor Harl reveals how a dynasty of Grand Viziers and bureaucrats rescued the Ottoman Empire from factions and court intrigue, then guided the empire through various crises between 1683 and 1699, helping to end the ruinous war against Venice, as well as end political instability within the House of Osman....

31 min
The Empire at Bay, 1699-1798
22: The Empire at Bay, 1699-1798

In this lecture, learn why the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz is a turning point in Ottoman history - another that marked the empire's steady decline into the "Sick Man of Europe." Central to this lecture: the Ottoman military's engagement with a powerful new Christian foe: Catherine the Great....

32 min
Napoleon Invades Ottoman Egypt
23: Napoleon Invades Ottoman Egypt

France's occupation of Egypt from 1798 to 1801 compromised the restoration of Ottoman rule in the country. And, as you'll learn, Napoleon's invasion also marked the first instance of the Muslim Middle East's encounter with modernity and political reforms based on the principles of the French Revolution....

31 min
Crisis: Muhammad Ali and Balkan Nationalists
24: Crisis: Muhammad Ali and Balkan Nationalists

Learn how Muhammad Ali exploited the confusion in Egypt after Napoleon's departure and, in 35 years, became the first successful Muslim ruler to transform Egypt into the literary and intellectual center of the Arabic-speaking world. Also, consider several Serbian and Greek revolts that rocked the Ottoman Empire....

31 min
Tanzimat and Modernization, 1839-1876
25: Tanzimat and Modernization, 1839-1876

First, examine how the reforms of professional ministers led by Mustafa Re?id Pa?a ushered in a massive reorganization (Tanzimat) of both the Ottoman State and Ottoman society. Then, consider how Tanzimat widened divisions within Ottoman society and failed to make the empire a member of the Concert of Europe....

31 min
Defeat and Retreat: The Sick Man of Europe
26: Defeat and Retreat: The Sick Man of Europe

How did the Crimean War vindicate the reformers of Tanzimat? Why was the Treaty of Paris a strategic victory for "the Porte"-that came at a high price? What impact did the empire's catastrophic defeat during the Russo-Turkish War have on its future with the Concert of Europe?...

34 min
The Sultan Returns: Abdul Hamid II, 1876-1908
27: The Sultan Returns: Abdul Hamid II, 1876-1908

On December 23, 1876, Sultan Abdül Hamid II proclaimed the first Ottoman constitution. Eleven months later, it was suspended, along with its Parliament. Go inside this period of continued reform, which tied "the Porte" to an alliance with Germany and ultimately led to Sultan Hamid II's downfall....

32 min
Constitutional Reform, 1908-1913
28: Constitutional Reform, 1908-1913

Turn now to the Second Constitutional Period, which raised hopes for imperial recovery and reform but ended with the domination of power by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). Thus emerged a shadow government that became an unintended dress rehearsal for future one-party dictatorships....

32 min
War in Libya and the Balkans, 1911-1913
29: War in Libya and the Balkans, 1911-1913

Discover why the Ottoman government was ill-prepared for both the Italo-Turkish War and the First Balkan War. Experience its stunning defeat by the improbable alliance of Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria. Learn why the Treaty of Constantinople almost assured the outbreak of another Balkan war....

33 min
The Road to World War I
30: The Road to World War I

Using recent research (based on Russian and Ottoman archives), learn why the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War. What role did the defeats of 1911-1913 play in the road to war? Why did Ottoman ministers negotiate favorable terms with Germany in exchange for entrance into the war?...

31 min
The Empire at Total War, 1914-1916
31: The Empire at Total War, 1914-1916

Though it entered the First World War enthusiastically, the Ottoman Empire was not prepared for total war. In this lecture, focus on the empire's offensives against the Russian Caucasus Army and the Suez Canal, as well as its struggle against an impending British invasion in the Dardanelles....

31 min
Ottoman Collapse, 1916-1918
32: Ottoman Collapse, 1916-1918

By 1916, the Ottoman Empire was fighting for its very survival. Professor Harl reveals the impact of the Russian Revolution on the war, the steady deterioration of the empire over the course of the fighting, and the army's ultimate collapse, which came suddenly and unexpectedly, in late 1918....

32 min
Mustafa Kemal, Ataturk
33: Mustafa Kemal, Ataturk

Meet the "father of the Turks": Mustafa Kemal. By following his life and career, you'll come away from this fascinating lecture with a well-rounded understanding of how he came to play such a decisive role in the modernization of Turkish civilization and the creation of the Turkish Republic....

32 min
Casualties of War and Ethnic Cleansing
34: Casualties of War and Ethnic Cleansing

The best estimate is that a total of 800,000 Armenians died between 1915 and 1921. In this powerful lecture, examine why the destruction of the Armenian community has come to be seen as the first in a series of similar events that would wreak havoc on the 20th century....

32 min
The Emergence of the Turkish Republic
35: The Emergence of the Turkish Republic

Under Mustafa Kemal, Islamic tradition was seen as an obstacle to joining European civilization. How did Kemal and the Turkish Parliament approach the daunting task of transforming the imperial heartland into the Turkish Republic? How are Turks today wrestling with their Ottoman legacy?...

32 min
Nation-States, Islam, and the Ottoman Legacy
36: Nation-States, Islam, and the Ottoman Legacy

Conclude with an insightful look at how the legacy of the Ottoman Empire still influences the Middle East - and will continue to do so in the future. Each of the empire's successor states, you'll learn, has its own perceptions of this legacy, and its own lessons learned from history....

32 min
Kenneth W. Harl

We will be looking largely at archeological evidence and analysis done by anthropologists because we are operating largely in a world without writing.


Yale University


Tulane University

About Kenneth W. Harl

Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has earned Tulane's annual Student Body Award for Excellence in Teaching nine times and is the recipient of Baylor University's nationwide Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teachers. In 2007, he was the Lewis P. Jones Visiting Professor in History at Wofford College. An expert on classical Anatolia, he has taken students with him into the field on excursions and to assist in excavations of Hellenistic and Roman sites in Turkey. Professor Harl has also published a wide variety of articles and books, including his current work on coins unearthed in an excavation of Gordion, Turkey, and a new book on Rome and her Iranian foes. A fellow and trustee of the American Numismatic Society, Professor Harl is well known for his studies of ancient coinage. He is the author of Civic Coins and Civic Politics in the Roman East, A.D. 180-275 and Coinage in the Roman Economy, 300 B.C. to A.D. 700.

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