Saturday 1 October 2022

The Ottoman Army of the Napoleonic Wars, 1784-1815

I am always quite excited when I obtain a copy of anything new from Bruno Mugnai, and this was to be no exception. The Ottoman Army of the Napoleonic Wars 1784-1815 is No. 93 in Helion’s splendid ‘from Reason to Revolution 1721-1815’ book series and it is an absolute cracker! My knowledge of the Ottomans effectively fizzles out somewhere in the earlier part of the eighteenth century and reawakens in time for the Crimean War so this book fills a much needed gap and the author has produced an interesting, well researched, written and presented treasure trove of information. 

The Ottomans were effectively on the periferey of the Napoleonic Wars, but as an empire were at war for pretty much the entire period covered by this book, be it putting down numerous rebellions, not just in the far corners of the empire but in its very heart, fighting the French (and later the British) in Egypt, and the seemingly never ending conflict with the Russians and Austrians. This period was a struggle for survival in many ways and saw major changes in the empire and in the army which had significant and mostly detrimental socio and economic implications for the sultan.

At getting on towards 400 pages this is a hefty book and is an in depth and clearly well researched and scholarly piece of work. It is broken down into four main chapters, covering an introduction and scene-setting chapter, a detailed explanation and analysis of the Sultan’s armies, looking at the varied troop types such the famous Janissaries, the Sipahi, and the various specialists, then the numerous provincial and auxiliary troops, the Egyptian army and the ‘New Model’ Ottoman army. There are also interesting sections on the officer corps, finances, supply and logistics.

We then get taken through the various campaigns the army was involved in between 1784 and 1815, as they were kept very busy putting down rebellious subjects across the empire or fighting largely loosing battles against the various western armies (Russians, Austrians, French, British). Again the level of detail is great, especially for the fighting against the Russians and Austrians which is a particularly fascinating subject.

The final section covers the dress, weapons and equipment and banners of the army. Again a well thought out and presented section with everything one might wish to know, including details of their campaign dress.

Bruno has produced some beautiful full colour plates of troops and banners and the rest of the book contains masses of contemporary black and white illustrations, photographs of surviving weapons and equipment and some detailed maps.

I have to say quite unreservedly that Bruno has done it again, and if anyone wanted a single definitive book covering the subject then this is the ‘go to’ publication without doubt.

Sadly (?) this means I shall have to complete the last remaining Napoleonic Ottoman units stuck in the box of doom at some point. Oh dear…….

ISBN 978-1-915070-48-7 , 390 pages.


  1. I it is an excellent book and I’d easily say the definitive text on the subject so far. However the lack of an index is a definite drawback. Whilst I get why helion uses cheap paper and their books aren’t the best physical quality, thus is one of definitely want in hardback. It will be consulted a lot.

    1. I have just received my copy and wholeheartedly agree with Colin's excellent review and his view of Bruno's work in general. Ditto I agree with the last comment about the use of thin paper on softbacks of this page count! Looks like I'm not alone in being prepared to pay for hardbacks in cases like this. However, probably in the minority, as I note that Helion's policy appears to be moving away from HB all together. Ray Boyles