- What’s On
In the autumn of 1921 King Constantine of Greece visited Izmir and Eskisehir, both of which cities were then under Greek occupation. “It is extraordinary how little civilized the Turks are… It is high time they disappeared once more and went back into the interior of Asia whence they came,” he wrote. The king was, of course, simply echoing the views of preceding generations of eminent European liberal intellectuals and politicians, but history had already made a fool of him. By the time of Constantine’s visit, Turkish nationalist forces had won the Battle of Sakarya and halted the Greek offensive against Ankara. Within a year the Greek armies would be swept out of Anatolia. Instead of the partition which Greece and its British and French allies had planned for Turkey at the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, the Turks would set the terms of the eventual peace treaty at Lausanne in July 1923.
This story has been told many times before but it is still relevant in our day, partly because the successors of the Turks’ opponents in the early 20th century are still campaigning against them – and with notable success, as Turkey’s stillborn EU accession talks demonstrate. There have been many books before on the Turkish War of Independence and its aftermath, but this one stands out for its combination of remarkable freshness, conciseness and scholarship.
“Lloyd George’s ill-advised policy”, as Mango calls it, arose directly from the fact that Western policy-makers and the Western general public were out of touch with reality where Turkey was concerned because they listened to irredentist nationalisms and their supporters. With the War of Independence, along with the defeats at Gallipoli and Kut al-Amara, reality reasserted itself – though, as Mango notes, at “an immense price in human suffering”.
His book ends with Sir Horace Rumbold, the British High Commissioner in occupied Istanbul, leaving for the Lausanne conference, muttering about the Kemalists as “Asia versus Europe”. Comments on blogs in British newspapers today are still doing the same. Some people never learn, but those wishing to inform themselves on the origins and nature of modern Turkey could do no better than to begin with this excellent short book, possibly the author’s last, or so he says, but certainly one of his finest.
When eaten raw as a salad, turnips are shredded or thinly sliced like radishes. Their distinctive mustardy bite, which cleanses the palate, makes them excellent company for rich meats and fish. Cooking however, transforms the starch in the turnip, giving it a mellow taste.
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In September 2009, six travellers set out on horseback to retrace the early part of the route taken in 1671 by the Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi on his way to Mecca.
Spirited impressions of Ottoman Istanbul in the 16th century from a mischievous Danish artist and an acerbic Flemish envoy.
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