The Ottoman Road to War in 1914: The Ottoman Empire and the First World War

Publication Year



Why did the Ottoman Empire enter the First World War in late October 1914, months after the war's devastations had become clear? Were its leaders 'simple-minded,' 'below-average' individuals, as the doyen of Turkish diplomatic history has argued? Or, as others have claimed, did the Ottomans enter the war because War Minister Enver Pasha, dictating Ottoman decisions, was in thrall to the Germans and to his own expansionist dreams? Based on previously untapped Ottoman and European sources, Mustafa Aksakal's dramatic study challenges this consensus. It demonstrates that responsibility went far beyond Enver, that the road to war was paved by the demands of a politically interested public, and that the Ottoman leadership sought the German alliance as the only way out of a web of international threats and domestic insecurities, opting for an escape whose catastrophic consequences for the empire and seismic impact on the Middle East are felt even today.

  • A major contribution to the history of the First World War and the Middle East
  • Based on previously unused sources including contemporary Ottoman books, journals and newspapers
  • Will appeal to military historians and historians of the Ottoman Empire

    Table of Contents

Introduction: pursuing sovereignty in the age of imperialism
1. The intellectual and emotional climate after the Balkan wars
2. 1914: war with Greece?
3. The Ottomans within the international order
4. The Great War as great opportunity: the Ottoman July crisis
5. Tug of war: Penelope's game
6. Salvation through war?
Conclusion: the decision for war remembered.

Reviews and Endorsements

“What Aksakal offers is a meticulous analysis of the factors that induced the political leaders of the Ottoman Empire to enter the war on the German side in October 1914.” Erik-Jan Zürcher, Diplomacy and Statecraft

“In this new study, Mustafa Aksakal demonstrates with authority that the general apprehension of dissolution and partition that drove Ottoman officials in 1914 derived from the disastrous Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 … and was based on a plethora of very real threats and secret negotiations leading up to the Ottoman signing of the alliance with Germany on August 2, 1914.” Virginia Aksan, Insight Turkey

“Overall, this work is an impressive and very valuable contribution to our understanding of the relationship between Germany and the Ottoman Empire, as well as their respective foreign policies, on the eve of the First World War.” -Emre Sencer, H-German

“This brilliant analysis sets out to answer two questions: why did the Empire go to war and why did it side with the Central Powers. It examines the intellectual milieu of the era, the specific problem of a war with Greece in 1914, the foreign policy imperatives, the reaction to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the formation of the alliance with Germany and, finally, the uneasy relations with Germany after the alliance was formed....This study gives historians a much needed corrective to the view that the Empire should only be seen as a puppet of Germany.” -Contemporary Review

“..well organized and well written volume is extensively researched...” -Alexander M. Shelby, Journal of Military History

“This is a worthwhile book...It does an excellent job of illuminating a relatively dim corner of history.” -Thomas E. Ward, Military Review

Series Title
Cambridge Military Histories
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge and New Yrok