Reviews

The Circassian: A Life of Esref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special Agent by Benjamin Fortna

The Circassian: A Life of Esref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special AgentFReviewed by İrem Gündüz-Polat

The Circassian is a successful attempt in two ways. Firstly, Fortna’s chronological design of the account allows the reader to follow Eşref’s different activities step by step. Each chapter covers a mission, a war, or a specific case. This helps the author to create a holistic account. The book is informed by Fortna’s detailed knowledge of the context and the world around his subject. The second strength comes from Fortna’s management of an array of sources, which include the diary of Pervin (Eşref’s second wife), archival material from several countries, personal letters, travel accounts, encrypted telegrams, and secondary literature. The author is scrupulous in his use of primary sources.

Kuşçubaşızade Eşref (d. 1964) is probably one of the most complicated and elusive figures in the transformation period spanning the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the Republic of Turkey.

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