This short series is presented by the BBC correspondent Rageh Omaar. The first episode is currently on BBC iplayer
. Most Westerners will have heard of the Ottoman Empire
, but by the same token few will be aware of its full extent, that it lasted for six hundred years and spanned three continents, not simply that eternally troubled corner of the globe known as the Middle East.
In this first episode, Omaar demystifies some of the lesser known aspects of the Ottoman Empire. For one thing, although it was far from egalitarian, it was possible to rise through the ranks. For another, the Court of Henry VIII was far from the only place where intrigues were conducted, Islamic leaders had plenty of their own, including murder.
The Ottomans were originally nomads on horseback, but, says Omaar, a knowledge of their rise and fall is essential to understanding what is going on in that part of the world today. If nothing else, the Western powers should have given a little more thought to how they redrew the maps of the region in the wake of the Great War.
The viewer will also see some spectacular examples of Islamic art and architecture in this series. There may have been no civilisation worthy of the name in most of Africa, but the Ottoman Empire was second only to the British Empire
, and in many ways just as beneficial to Mankind