I agreed to write the history of Ottoman wars without the least understanding of the journey that would entail, and how long it would take. The project has stretched in time through the seismic shifts in world politics engendered by the war on terror. To my complete horror, I found myself writing about the British bombarding Beirut in 1840, and the folly of the Crimean War, just as Washington made the benighted decision to make war on Iraq. That historians are trapped in their own eras may well be a truism, but finding oneself reflecting on the repeated global idiocy regarding the Middle East was emotionally wrenching.

 Virginia H. Aksan