Item description for Struggle for Domination in the Middle East: The Ottoman-Mamluk War, 1485-91 (The Ottoman Empire and Its Heritage : Politics, Society and Economy, Vo) by Shai Har-El...
This two-part volume offers a comprehensive account of the conflict between the Ottoman and Mamluk Empires. Part One explores Ottoman-Mamluk relations from their inception in the middle of the 14th century to the laying of the foundations of the conflict in the second half of the 15th century. Part Two offers a detailed description of the actual war of 1485-91, and analyzes it from various angles including military, economic, and diplomatic. Based largely on Ottoman, Mamluk and Italian primary sources--documentary and narrative--the volume helps to understand the second and final war between the Ottomans and Mamluks in 1516-17, which resulted in the downfall of the Mamluk Empire and the firm establishment of Ottoman power in the Middle East.
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Studio: Brill Academic Publishers
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 6.75" Height: 10" Weight: 1.35 lbs.
Release Date Mar 1, 1995
Publisher Brill Academic Publishers
ISBN 9004101802 ISBN13 9789004101807
Reviews - What do customers think about Struggle for Domination in the Middle East: The Ottoman-Mamluk War, 1485-91 (The Ottoman Empire and Its Heritage : Politics, Society and Economy, Vo)?
A refreshing overview of Mamluk and Ottoman relations Dec 4, 2005
Starting with the reign of Sultan Mehmed the conqueror (1451-81), the Ottomans (whose economic, military, and political power was on the rise) began to pursue a policy of imperialism. Combining this strategy with constant expansion through military conquests, the Ottomans sought to acquire more power and simultaneously, affect a favourable change in the distribution of that power in the region with the ultimate goal of establishing a worldwide empire. In contrast, the Mamluks (whose power was in constant decline) pursued a policy of status-quo-they sought to keep power and maintain the distribution of power that already existed. Moreover, unlike the Ottomans, the Mamluks' main instruments for preserving the status quo were alliances, as well as patron-client relationships with buffer principalities on the frontier. Eventually, there arose a conflict between the two powers, one in which the Ottomans always took the initiative and sought through offensive measures to increase their power at the expense of the Mamluks. Beginning in territorial competition, this conflict resulted in a direct opposition marked by two wars, the penultimate of which is the subject of Shai Har-El's impressive Struggle for domination in the Middle East.
In his preface, Har-El laments, "Mamluk history in general is still a barren field of research" and that, "historians working within the Oriental tradition have often avoided a conceptual inquiry into the history of relations between states, concentrating rather on the nation-state as the central focus of analysis" (xi). He attributes this to the "relative abundance of source material on states in comparison to the paucity of information on their foreign relations." Written under the auspices of Professor Halil Inalcik, Har-El's book thus not only fills a great void in modern scholarship on the history of southeastern Anatolia, but it also provides an excellent overview of diplomatic and military relations between the Mamluk and Ottoman states. The book is divided into two parts: the first half is devoted to Ottoman-Mamluk relations from their inception in the middle of the fourteenth century up to the outbreak of the first war, and the second half to the actual war itself.
In part one, Har-El goes into great depth to make the reader understand the roots and patterns of the conflict, especially by analyzing the underlying causes that exacerbated the hostility and culminated in the first war. The introduction begins with a description of the administrative and military organization of the Mamluk Anatolian frontier, followed by a presentation of the Ottoman-Mamluk confrontation over the frontier principalities of Karaman and Dulkadir, which triggered a series of events that lead to the first war. The second part comprehensively (and according to the author, accurately) reconstructs the various stages of the war and studies it from four different perspectives: the strategy and policy of the two powers, the military engagements, the impact of the war on the domestic life of the Mamluk state, and the related struggles in the diplomatic arena.
In the introduction, Har-El begins by discussing features of medieval diplomacy. Surprisingly, this deceptively basic discussion turns out to be quite important in understanding the Mamluk-Ottoman conflict. After the rise of Islam in the seventh century, Anatolia became a frontier for the Arab Islamic Empire, and later, of the `Abbasid caliphate. It was only in the eleventh century that the Turkish Seljuk sultans succeeded in breaching the barrier (after the battle of Manzikert in 1071) and pushed the barrier to western Anatolia. After the disintegration of the Seljuk Empire in the thirteenth century, a series of small principalities were established, the Ottoman principality being one of them. At that time, the Mamluk Empire, whose territory extended into southeastern Anatolia, was the most powerful state in the Muslim world. However, over the span of the next century, the Ottoman dynasty established itself as a rival empire comprising a vast territory in the Balkans and the whole of Anatolia up to the Taurus Mountains and the Euphrates River-for the first time, its Eastern boundary was in direct contact with the Mamluk Empire.
To offer a better analytic framework, Har-El has developed an ingenious method of considering each frontier zone as "subordinate systems," wherein a pattern of intern-state politics in a given region is subordinated to the bi-bloc international system. He identifies the Anatolian system as unstable, one in which the relations between its members were marked by aggressiveness in the purposes and means of conflict, and by constant territorial changes. To this end, Har-El identifies five devices employed by the Ottomans and the Mamluks to maintain or disturb the balance of power between them: "divide and rule, spheres of influence, intervention, alliances, and buffer zones." In particular, the establishment of a buffer zone between the two empires was a prerequisite for stability in the Anatolian system. However, the gradual reduction in the number of lesser powers, and the eventual disappearance of the buffer zone removed the essential conditions for stability and made the system more penetrable, consequently bringing the two powers into conflict.
Also in the introduction, Har-El delves into the principles of Intra-Muslim Conflict Relations, with an excellent explanation on the development of how the shari'a came to allow for jihad in intra-Muslim (or as he prefers to call it, "internal") wars. The basics of patron-client relationships as a method of statecraft are covered, and the sources for the first war are not only richly documented, but also discussed at great length despite their not being critically discussed (it is also not clear why Har-El chose to discuss his material so late in the introduction). The majority of his sources are narrative literature, particularly chronicles, though he concedes that a "major problem encountered in using this material is the traditional copying of one chronicler from his predecessor's works, which necessitates much comparison and collation" (18). In addition, Har-El has also made much use of various historical handbooks, including biographical dictionaries and bureaucratic literature, as well as travel accounts.
Keeping in line with his theoretical framework as mentioned above, Har-El focuses extensively on the buffer principalities of Dulkadir and Ramadan. This includes a detailed history of the principalities, their military organization, a discussion of their districts, and defensive perimeters. Furthermore, rather than simply attributing the decline of the Mamluks with the Timurid invasions at the turn of the fifteenth century, Har-El explains how demographic, economic, political, and military causes combined not only to weaken the regime, but also to seriously undermine its defensive systems. For example, because of the decline of their power, the Mamluks left their long coasts defenceless and open to attack by the growing Ottoman navy. In fact, except for a few isolated instances, there is no mention in the chronicles of a Mamluk fleet.
With the disappearance of all major fortresses on the Syria-Palestinian coast, the vulnerability of the Mamluk Empire to naval attacks became even greater. In fact, in part two when Har-El discusses the war, it is surprising to read how the Mamluks prevailed despite their odds and weaknesses. Thus concludes part one, with a survey of the five years preceding the outbreak of war, during which strained relations over the frontier region were exacerbated by the support given by the Mamluk sultan to Jem, the brother and rival of the Ottoman sultan, Bayezid. While the first part of the book was heavily based on Mamluk sources, the second part of the book balances this bias by presenting a detailed account of the war based largely on Ottoman sources. Furthermore, not only does it cover the military history of the campaigns, but also the repercussions of the Ottoman-Mamluk rivalry on European diplomacy.
Har-El describes the 1488 battle between the Mamluk and Ottoman armies in detail and supplements it with well-illustrated maps, as well as figures and tables explaining the artillery, formations, composition, and other aspects of both the armies (and navies). As a result, it is unsatisfactory to read him describe the war in the concluding chapter as "a series of campaigns in which the Ottomans repeatedly occupied Cilicia and lost it to the Mamluks, who won the military encounters but were unable to follow up their victories because of internal and financial problems" (192)-this attempt to simplify what so far had been presented as an extremely complex situation throughout the book comes off as unwelcome and unappreciated.
The book is shoddily edited-there are glaring spelling errors (khilafa is spelled "hilafa" ), grammatical errors, and awkwardly constructed sentences. In addition, there are other technical mistakes: two minor examples include the author making gaza the fifth pillar of Islam (65) when he clearly meant sixth, (casting doubt on his knowledge on Islam is unreasonable) and biographical dictionaries (23) are transformed into bibliographical dictionaries. Furthermore, while there are numerous other illustrations besides maps in the book, these seem to have been added without any purpose, almost as an afterthought to fill space. For example, there are illustrations from the nineteenth century depicting Mamluk life ("A Mamluk in Full Armour" ), yet we cannot be sure of their accuracy because of the apparent anachronism. However, one cannot let these errors detract us from the quality of the rest of the work, because ultimately, building upon a wealth of contemporary and secondary sources, Har-El has produced a magnificent work of military history that is clearly and methodically presented.