The Berlin-Baghdad Express

The Berlin-Baghdad Express

The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power

Book - 2010
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The modern Middle East was forged in the crucible of the First World War, but few know the full story of how war actually came to the region. As Sean McMeekin reveals in this startling reinterpretation of the war, it was neither the British nor the French but rather a small clique of Germans and Turks who thrust the Islamic world into the conflict for their own political, economic, and military ends. The Berlin-Baghdad Express tells the fascinating story of how Germany exploited Ottoman pan-Islamism in order to destroy the British Empire, then the largest Islamic power in the world. Meanwhile the Young Turks harnessed themselves to German military might to avenge Turkey's hereditary enemy, Russia. Told from the perspective of the key decision-makers on the Turco-German side, many of the most consequential events of World War I -- Turkey's entry into the war, Gallipoli, the Armenian massacres, the Arab revolt, and the Russian Revolution -- are illuminated as never before. Drawing on a wealth of new sources, McMeekin forces us to re-examine Western interference in the Middle East and its lamentable results. It is an epic tragicomedy of unintended consequences, as Turkish nationalists give Russia the war it desperately wants, jihad begets an Islamic insurrection in Mecca, German sabotage plots upend the Tsar delivering Turkey from Russia's yoke, and German Zionism midwifes the Balfour Declaration. All along, the story is interwoven with the drama surrounding German efforts to complete the Berlin to Baghdad railway, the weapon designed to win the war and assure German hegemony over the Middle East. - Publisher.
Publisher: Cambridge, Massachusetts :, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,, [2010]
ISBN: 9780674064324
Call Number: 940.31 M2279b 2010
Characteristics: xv, 460 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 25 cm


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Sep 06, 2011

This book offers a detailed chronicle of the relationship between Germany and the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) around the First World War. Taking a cue from recent events, the account examines in detail the scheme by German military planners to foment an Islamic jihad from French Algeria through British India as a third front in the war. The book also explores the Germany plans to wrest the Middle Eastern oil reserves from the British and Russians. A more appropriate title for this book might have been "The Near East Front of World War One."

Contrary to its title, this book offers scant details on the finance and construction of the Berlin-Baghdad railway. The failure to complete the railroad during the war was one reason offered by the author for the failure of the Central Power's military strategy in the Middle East especially the failure to capture the Suez Canal.

For a thorough account of the Berlin-Baghdad Railway, read "Distant Ties: Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and the Construction of the Baghdad Railway" by Jonathan S. McMurray (Yale U. Press, 2008) held at UBC Library.

Author David Fraser provides a very readable, descriptive account of his travels on the railroad, with lots of technical details (was he a spy?); when the railway was only one-quarter constructed in his travelogue "The Short Cut to India: the record of a journey along the route of the Baghdad railway", 1909. This old book is available in the Simon Fraser University Burnaby Campus' Bennett Library (DR 428 F7 Lam Collection); and as a free digital download from the Internet Archive web site.


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