The Revolution of 1908 in Turkey. By AYKUT KANSU. Leiden: BRILL, 1997. Pp. xi + 341.
This book sets out "to criticise the conventional approaches in writing modem Turkish history" with particular reference to the 1908 revolution, which the author would like to establish as "a fundamental turning point in Turkish history" (p. 25). In an introductory chapter that sets out the author's views on the historiographical and theoretical problems associated with the Young Turk revolution and the events leading up to it, Kansu argues passionately for the need to re-examine the period with a critical eye toward the influences of Kemalism and modernization theory. Five subsequent chapters cover in narrative fashion the period from the tax revolts of 1906 to the elections of 1908, including the unrest leading up to the revolution, the events of the revolution of 1908 itself, the transition from the old to the new regime, the opposition created by the new government, and the elections of 1908. Two lengthy and heavily footnoted but useful appendices list the members of the Ottoman House of Representatives (Meclis-i Mebusan) and the Senate (Meclis-i Ayan) from 1908 to 1912.
Kansu, who teaches in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, states in the acknowledgements that this book represents approximately one-fifth of his 1990 Ph.D. dissertation, and a recent announcement from Brill indicates that a second volume covering the period from 1908 to 1913 is on its way. Clearly Kansu has a lot to say and, if this book serves as an indicator, we can expect a major attempt at redefining this period.
The present volume is perhaps best considered as two separate parts. The more theoretical introductory chapter stands apart from the rest of the text; its bibliography, for example, is given on its own and there is, furthermore, little attempt to bridge the gap between these two largely disparate parts. Taken on its own, the first chapter is a provocative assessment of modern Turkish historiography and the place of the 1908 revolution in it. Kansu's style is lively and on the whole quite readable, but some may find his tone occasionally given to stridency and exaggeration.
Kansu's main thesis is that the events of 1908 amount to a major revolution, indeed a watershed in Turkish history, and that the historiography of the period needs to be altered to accept the importance of 1908. Kansu seems to...