Lord Kinross, an authority on the Middle East, freshly poses the question of how a little Moslem principality on the edge of Byzantium became a long-lived empire, and shows how, as heir to the Arab Enlightenment, the Turkish military apparatus was able to rule as well as conquer territory. No mere raiders and plunderers, 14th-century Ottoman sovereigns fostered administrative and technological skills through a centralized state, at a time when Europe and its fragmented nobility were in collapse. The Turks gradually swallowed the Balkans and northern Africa; ultimately, in 1453, their modern artillery captured Constantinople; then the Sultans began to repopulate the Byzantine center, import the Italian Renaissance, construct a meritocracy, and expand commerce. However brutal or lascivious, these rulers were educated, politically shrewd men who reached the height of their power through 16th-century alliances with anti-Hapsburg Europeans. Beaten back from the gates of Vienna in 1529, the Turks' decline was clinched by a subsequent lack of leadership, Kinross asserts, and by the 1700s they were virtual pawns unable to help Napoleon's restructuring of Europe. Thereafter the narrative, initially enlivened by anecdotes from Gibbon, winds down as chunks of empire disappear, Britain sets Russia against the Turks, Armenians are massacred, and ""the last fateful phase in the decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire"" sets in with Turkey's gamble on an Axis alliance in WW I. A well-balanced narrative with the important collateral virtue of sidelights on European history from an unfamiliar angle.