"In the Valhalla of past empires, the Ottomans should rank high. In actual fact few major political systems have been so consistently ignored or misrepresented." Imperial Legacy represents an attempt to right this wrong by assessing the Ottoman legacy many decades after its passing in those lands where the padishah once ruled; the editor dubs it "a collection of briefs for the court of history."

The results can hardly be gainsaid. In chapters on one arena after another -- state boundaries, administration, diplomacy, the Arabic and Turkish languages, economics, military matters, Islam, and education -- the authors show the wide, sometimes pervasive, impact of Ottoman institutions and practices. This hardly comes as a surprise, given that the empire lasted over six hundred years, but the point does emphatically need making, and a luminary cast (Halil Inalcïk, Charles Issawi, Geoffrey Lewis, Bernard Lewis, André Raymond, Dankwart Rustow) effectively does so.

Brown, professor emeritus at Princeton University, has emerged in the last decade as the Middle East's historian with the widest vision. His International Politics and the Middle East: Old Rules, Dangerous Game (Princeton University Press, 1984) is a path-breaking effort to find patterns in diplomacy over the past two centuries; and a multi-authored volume (co-edited with Cyril E. Black), Modernization in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire and Its Afro-Asian Successors (Darwin Press, 1993) ambitiously seeks to interpret the whole of modern Middle Eastern history.