Winner of the 2023 Albert Hourani Book Award, sponsored by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA).
Losing Istanbul offers an intimate history of empire, following the rise and fall of a generation of Arab-Ottoman imperialists living in Istanbul. Mostafa Minawi shows how these men and women negotiated their loyalties and guarded their privileges through a microhistorical study of the changing social, political, and cultural currents between 1878 and the First World War. He narrates lives lived in these turbulent times—the joys and fears, triumphs and losses, pride and prejudices—while focusing on the complex dynamics of ethnicity and race in an increasingly Turco-centric imperial capital.
Drawing on archival records, newspaper articles, travelogues, personal letters, diaries, photos, and interviews, Minawi shows how the loyalties of these imperialists were questioned and their ethnic identification weaponized. As the once diverse empire comes to an end, they are forced to give up their home in the imperial capital. An alternative history of the last four decades of the Ottoman Empire, Losing Istanbul frames global pivotal events through the experiences of Arab-Ottoman imperial loyalists who called Istanbul home, on the eve of a vanishing imperial world order.
About the author
Mostafa Minawi is Associate Professor of History at Cornell University. He is the author of The Ottoman Scramble for Africa: Empire and Diplomacy in the Sahara and the Hijaz (Stanford, 2016).
"Mostafa Minawi offers a masterful and captivating account of the lost futures and overlooked legacies of the Arab Ottoman imperial experience. Losing Istanbul teaches us how to rescue late Ottoman history from Turkish nationalist narratives and gain a much richer understanding of global intellectual and political history of the high age of imperialism."
—Cemil Aydin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"Part biography, part political geography, and part history of a truly unsettling time in the Middle East and Africa, Losing Istanbul reveals lives and intimate relationships that did not survive the Ottoman Empire into the new Turkish Republic. Mostafa Minawi has written a brilliant book—painstaking, rich, and unique."
—Eve Troutt-Powell, University of Pennsylvania
"Through their personal experiences, Minawi captures a compelling narrative about the systemic challenges that confronted this last generation of 'Arab-Ottoman imperialists.' This book sheds much-needed light on hitherto ignored interpersonal dynamics that escaped the caustic identity politics historianslong claimed had destroyed the empire. Highly recommended."
—I. Blumi, CHOICE