The Berlin Baghdad Express

Sean McMeekin, assistant professor in the International Relations Department, has recently published his second book, titled The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power (Harvard, 2010). McMeekin's work has attracted the attention of some giants in the field of twentieth-century history for his well-researched and fascinating book exploring the "crucial importance of Turkey in the first world war."

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 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 allegations, 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.

The Berlin-Baghdad Express has been extensively reviewed in the U.S. and U.K. press, including, The Independent, Literary Review, The Observer, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal. According to TWSJ: "In addition to bringing to life a fascinating episode in early 20th-century history, The Berlin-Baghdad Express contains several timely lessons and cautionary tales. Purchased loyalty is worthless. Western countries may possess superior military force, but they are outwitted time and again by diplomacy as practiced by Muslim leaders. Lastly, there is no such thing as global Islamic solidarity-jihad is an expedient, not a belief system."

McMeekin, who is a brand-new father, has been a member of the Bilkent faculty since 2002.