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Philip Mansel

Philip Mansel is a historian of France and the Ottoman Empire, courts and monarchs. He was born in London in 1951 and educated at Eton College, where he was a King’s Scholar, and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Modern History and Modern Languages. Following four years’ research into the French court of the period 1814-1830, he was awarded his doctorate at University College, London in 1978.

His first book, Louis XVIII, was published in 1981 and this - together with subsequent works such as Paris Between Empires 1814-1852 (2001) - established him on both sides of the Channel as an authority on the later French monarchy. Six of his books have been translated into French.

Philip Mansel has published a number of books of history and biography, mainly relating either to France or to his other main area of interest, the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East: Sultans in Splendour was published in 1988 and Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire 1453-1924 in 1995. Philip Mansel’s latest book, Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (John Murray), was published in 2010 and Aleppo: Rise and Fall of a Syria’s Great Merchant City was published in 2016. Four of his books on Ottoman history have been translated into Turkish.

He has contributed reviews and articles to the International Herald Tribune, The Spectator, The Guardian, English Historical Review, Cornucopia and The Times Literary Supplement. In 2012 he was given the London Library Life in Literature award. He has lived in Istanbul, Beirut and Paris.

Philip Mansel’ latest book is ‘King of the World: The life of Louis XIV’ (2019). He is currently preparing ‘The Power of Courts’, a study of 19th-century monarchies.


  • Paradox of paradise

    From Issue 66
  • Diplomatic secrets: the Ottoman document case

    From Issue 65

    A must for stylish travellers, the Ottoman document case carried state secrets as well as intimate messages. A show of these covetable objects at the Sadberk Hanım Museum captivates Philip Mansel

  • A Grand New World

    The Balyans: Architects to the Sultans

    From Issue 64

    Palaces, mosques, churches and the essentials of empire – the Balyan family’s creations epitomise the golden age of 19th-century Istanbul. A new book by Büke Uras reveals the exquisite drawings and supreme organisation behind their landmark edifices – including one that mercifully got away. By Philip Mansel

  • Saved by the royal bed

    The Ottoman Exile of a Swedish King: Part I

    From Issue 63

    Defeated by Russia in 1709, Charles XII of Sweden took refuge with the Sultan. Confined to camp, the King sent out Cornelius Loos, his military draughtsman, to capture the wonders of the Ottoman Empire. Only 50 of the drawings Loos brought back survive – rescued from beneath the King’s bed during a riot. Philip Mansel dives into a splendid book on Loos’s eye-opening work

  • Behind palace doors

    From Issue 62

    The most important visual record of life at the Topkapi is the magnum opus of an enigmatic dragoman, Mouradgea Ignatius d’Ohsson (1740–1807). Philip Mansel introduces a new book that rescues from obscurity both Mouradgea and the sumptuous illustrations he commissioned

  • The dynasty writes back

    From Issue 60
  • Painting his way into history

    At home with the last Caliph

    From Issue 34

    The dashing Abdülmecid Efendi was the last member of the Ottoman dynasty to hold court on the Bosphorus. This enlightened, sophisticated man with a passion for painting, son of a Sultan and cousin of the last Sultan, spent two brief years as Caliph. But in 1924, the caliphate was abolished and Abdülmecid left the city his family had captured five hundred years earlier for exile in France. His paintings, abandoned in the very studio of his house on Çamlıca Hill where he had created them, are a remarkable pictorial legacy of the last days of empire. By Philip Mansel. Photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg

  • A Farewell to Empire

    Yıldız, the last Ottoman palace

    From Issue 52

    Philip Mansel introduces the fin-de-siècle world of Abdülhamid II, the last Ottoman ruler to wield real power. On these pages we explore the ‘earthly paradise’ he was later forced to abandon: Yildiz Palace, its park and mosque

  • City of Books

    From Issue 51

    Philip Mansel explores the first volume of the Ömer Koç Collection – ‘Impressions of Istanbul: Voyage to Constantinople 1493–1820

  • Prince on Tour

    From Issue 49

    Philip Mansel on the future Edward VII’s Ottoman expedition

  • Lesley Blanch: My Life on the Wilder Shores

    From Issue 37

    She has long lived in France, but Turkey has inspired ‘pangs of longing’ since her first visit in 1946. The celebrated author of The Wilder Shores of Love and The Sabres of Paradise, talks to Philip Mansel about a life of adventure and the landscape of the heart

  • Enthralled by the East

    The Lure of the East: British Orientalist Painting

    From Issue 40

    Istanbul exhibits British Orientalist paintings

  • A Dutch Treat

    From Issue 47

    As Turkey and the Netherlands celebrate 400 years of fruitful trade with a series of spectacular exhibitions in both countries, Philip Mansel, author of a new history of the Levant, reflects on the curious role of the Dutch at the Sublime Porte.

  • Eastern Overtures

    From Issue 19

    War and Peace: Ottoman Relations in the 15th to 19th centuries’, an exhibition at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul, 1999. For 500 years the Polish elite was obsessed with all things Ottoman. Yet a brilliant exhibition celebrating this passion went sadly unnoticed. Philip Mansel reports.

  • The Sultan’s Chalet

    A guesthouse for the emperor

    From Issue 22

    The world’s grandest chalet was built by Abdülhamid II for the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1889 and was a powerhouse of political activity in the final years of the empire. Today the house in the grounds of Yıldız Palace, on a hill in Istanbul, is all but forgotten. Philip Mansel treads softly through its silent halls. Photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg

  • Eastern Enlightenment

    From Issue 41

    Philip Mansel on the Topkapı’s show ‘Selim III: Reformist, Poet, Musician’

  • The House of Osman

    From Issue 21
  • Shots of empire

    A new book on Vassilaki Kargopoulo

    From Issue 23

    A new book on Vassilaki Kargopoulo: Photographer to His Majesty the Sultan. By Philip Mansel

  • Cavalcade of Colour

    From Issue 28
  • Painter in the Palace

    From Issue 30

    The pictures that fired Europe’s imagination with their visions of Istanbul and the Ottoman court returned to the city for the first time in more than 250 years. Philip Mansel looks at the extraordinary paintings of Jean Baptiste Vanmour

Buy the latest issue
Issue 66, December 2023 Turkey’s Centenary Issue
£ 15.00

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