Book Review: The Grand Turk: Sultan Mehmet II - Conqueror of Constantinople and Master of an Empire


by John Freely

New York: Overlook Hardcover, 2009. Pp. xix, 265. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $33.50. ISBN: 978-1-59020-248-7

In this biography, the first in English in decades, Prof. Freely (Bosporus University), author of Light From the Ea st , Inside the Seraglio, and nearly 40 other works, mostly on Turkey and and the Turkish nation, explores the life, works, and complex personality of Mehmet II, among the greatest of Ottoman sultans. 

Coming to the throne in 1451 at 19, Mehmet quickly proved himself brutal and treacherous, brilliant and talented.  Taking Constantinople in 1453, and thus ending the thousand year old Byzantine state, he continued to expand his empire until his death in 1481, just after gaining a beachhead in Italy, by which time he earned the sobriquet “The Conqueror.”  Freely fits the man into his times and culture, essentially seeing him as a Renaissance prince, arguably, albeit unsaid, one in the spirit of Machiavelli's "Prince", while throwing light on the nature of the Ottoman state and the Balkans in the fifteenth century, generally neglected areas of European history, and the inter-relationship between Islam and Christendom.

Worth reading for those interested in war, peace, art, and statecraft in the Renaissance, in history of the Islamic world, or the history of the Turkish nation.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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