Islamic Gunpowder Empires: Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals By Douglas E. Streusand

Great read!!! Douglas E. Streusand Very clear and useful as a source. Douglas E. Streusand Douglas Streusand's Islamic Gunpowder Empires is a very nice book, an interesting read, especially about a topic that many western and American readers are unfamiliar with.The concept of 'gunpowder empires' comes from William McNeil's The Pursuit of Power. The introduction of gunpowder, artillery and muskets gave the armies of early adopters a great advantage over their less developed rivals. This was particularly important in the swath of Islamic territories from Turkey to Northern India, where the dynastic regimes of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals were attempting to establish their authority against the nomadic and tribal groups that had traditionally contested power in the region.Streusand's task is much greater than just to explain the military dominance for these dynasties. They were relatively long lived empires, and their military dominance explains only part of their longevity and authority. Their early adoption of firearms was a foundation of their regimes, but not the foundation. Governing structures, ideology, the character of the ruler, social, political and economic adaptation to complex environments, all played a role in establishing and maintaining the empires. He looks for the similarities between the empires, but isn't afraid to point out where their are dissimilarities and discontinuities. Indeed, one of his cases, the Safavid regime in what is now Iran, really failed to carry out completely the changes that the Ottomans and Mughals succeeded with, and in the end collapsed after a relatively short regime.Don't read this book expecting it to be full of battle descriptions and purple prose. This is a scholarly work and written in a scholarly style. Its straight forward and a bit dry in places, but is informative and interesting on a topic that the general reader may find they know little about.I liked this book, and I would recommend it as an introduction to any one interested in this time period roughly from 1500 to 1730 and this topic. He provides a very nice bibliography for anyone who wants to follow up with detailed analysis of particular empires or topics. Douglas E. Streusand This is a pretty dense read, but Streusand makes some good points in comparing these three empires (Ottomans, Safavid, and Mughals). I didn't really care for the structure of the book, as each chapter gives a long, confusing history of an empire, followed by for focused studies of politics, society, and culture. Many hugely important events get glazed over, while less important ones seem over emphasized. Much of the analysis and conclusions seems to be left to the reader. This book is helpful in understanding and comparing these empires, but it is not going to do all the work for you and many readers may be left feeling a bit unsatisfied. Certainly lays some groundwork, but could have been structured in a logical and helpful way. Douglas E. Streusand I know of one other book, The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals that covers the same territory. I mention that only to state that I am not familiar with that book by Stephen Dale and you may want to look at it before you decide which to buy.I used the Kindle version of Streusand's book. It is pretty well Kindlized. The footnotes work as they should; taking you effortlessly back and forth to the text. The publisher has not taken the time to paginate the electronic version so you have to find your way around with the Kindle numbers.There are several useful scholarly apparatus some of which need to be better Kindlized. There is a very useful glossary indicated by the use of italics in the text but you have to jump back and forth from the glossary via the Kindle numbers.There is a good chronology and a dynastic table for each empire which was helpful to refer to now and then. Streusand includes a bibliographic essay which is an excellent guide to further books to read/study.The work itself is straight forward. Each empire is introduced with a brief narrative of the main political and military events. Then each empire is examined for ideology, for military strategy and organization, for economy, for religion and for the ways that all these facets of each empire responded to the stresses of their competition among themselves or with various European powers.I am currently reading a narrative history of the Ottomans by Finkel. She is a wonderful, lucid writer but I found that I understood her much better having come to her book fresh from Streusand's.I knew very little about any of these empires. I now feel like I can begin to study all three. All in all, a quick and very useful read.I would be curious to hear from someone who has read both this books and Dale's as to their relative merits. Douglas E. Streusand

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