This semester I joined the honors reading group that discussed the book “The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East” by Eugene Rogan. The group met together every Wednesday for nine weeks and discussed many interesting aspects of the chapters we had read. It was a great privilege to have Dean Ray from the Honors College moderate the sessions. Students from various majors were joined by a common interest in analyzing history and its impacts on modern societies. The book served as excellent material allowing us to learn and remember key points critical to the time period in which the events are set.
The book primarily focused on the time period from the late 19th century up to the end of World War I when the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist. One of the most appealing aspects of the book to me personally was the genuine Ottoman view of the events that were unfolding. Whereas we usually think of World War I as nothing compared to the international scale of the one to follow, we often forget about the significance of the confrontations in Africa, the Middle East, and Anatolia. In fact, what we do mention about the Great war is largely influenced by the American and Western viewpoint. I think Eugene Rogan did a great job of maintaining a neutral position in describing what happened. He also made sure to connect military records from both sides of the battle to a greater political and cultural context whenever possible. This alone added great value to what otherwise might be a simple recounting of military history.
As a Mechanical Engineering major, I often have to try hard to balance my classes with other activities in which I am interested. However, I believe that studying history is a great way for me to take a break from analyzing moments and forces on physical objects. While in high school, I had many great teachers who gave me an interest in history. Alongside the many scientific principles I learned before college, I was able to also gain a genuine appreciation of history as a benefit to modern society. Reading about our past is appealing in that it allows us to draw our own conclusions about a particular event or series of related events.
With the semester drawing to a close, I hope to continue to seek out opportunities like this group where ideas flow freely and everyone is eager to learn. The passion of history I was able to build upon has made my diverse path in my education possible as I seek to not focus solely on my engineering classes. I find that with limited time, it is all the more important to build a solid foundation for my education which consists of knowledge from various disciplines. I see the time that I dedicate to other activities as equal if not more important than the academics related to my major. When I come back to OU after a year abroad, I will be sure to find another reading group to join!