Mustafa Aksakal is the Nesuhi Ertegun Chair of Modern Turkish Studies and an associate professor of history at Georgetown University. His publications include The Ottoman Road to War in 1914 (2010); "Holy War Made in Germany? Ottoman Origins of the 1914 Jihad" (War in History vol. 18, issue 2, 2011); and chapters in The Cambridge History of the First World War (2014), edited by Jay Winter, and Empires at War, 1911–1923 (2014), edited by Robert Gerwarth and Erez Manela. His current research is focused on the First World War's social and political history in the Middle East.
A century after it took place, the First World War as experienced in the Middle East has remained largely unknown. Those who do remember the Ottomans typically think of them as owners of a peripheral stage where the main actors were outsiders: Germans declaring jihad, Australians and New Zealanders perishing on the Gallipoli peninsula, Sykes and Picot parceling out the Arab lands, T.E. Lawrence setting the spark for the Arab Revolt, and Lord Balfour pledging British support for “a national home for the Jewish people.” This talk shifts the emphasis to a local history of the war, one in which the Near Eastern theater, the Ottoman state, and the various Ottoman peoples become subjects in their own right.