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Erik-jan Zurcher

Professor emeritus Turkish Studies

Prof.dr. E.J. Zurcher
+31 71 527 2727

Erik-Jan Zürcher is professor emeritus. He is primarily interested in the period of transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey (roughly: 1880-1950) and in the role of the Young Turk generation/movement in this process. After a period in which he studied the political history of the period, he gradually became more interested in its social history as well. In his view the key to an understanding of the emergence of modern Turkey lies in linking the processes of forced migration, war, the imperial legacy and nation building.

More information about Erik-jan Zurcher


Erik-Jan Zürcher (1953) was awarded his MA in Middle East studies at Leiden University in 1977 and his Ph.D. at Leiden University in 1984. From 1977 to 1997 Zürcher worked in the Catholic University of Nijmegen (now: Radboud University), first as a lecturer of Turkish, later as a senior lecturer in History of the Middle East. From 1989 to 1999 he headed the Turkish department of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. From 1993 to 1997 he held a private chair of  Turkish History in the University of Amsterdam. Since 1997 he has held the chair of Turkish Studies in the University of Leiden. In 2008-2012 he was general director of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. From 2012 to 2015 he was affiliate professor at Stockholm University.

His main research interest is the political and social history of the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic. He made his mark with two studies on political contestation in the early republic, The Unionist Factor (Leiden: Brill, 1984) and Political Opposition in the Early Turkish Republic (Leiden: Brill, 1991). His Turkey. A modern history (first published in 1993 but substantially revised in 2004 and 2017) is widely used as textbook in universities in the U.S.A., the U.K, the Netherlands and Turkey. It has also been translated into nine languages. Zürcher has written or edited twelve books on the social and political history of the late Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Another research interest is the comparative history of military recruitment and employment, on which he has recently (2013) published a 685 p. volume called Fighting for a Living. The most recent book publication is Islam and Jihad in World War I (Leiden UP, 2015). All books have been published in Turkey in translation. The most important 50 publications are accessible online through https://www.academia.edu/

Zürcher has been an invited guest lecturer or visiting professor at SUNY Binghamton, Louisville KY, OSU Columbus, Minneapolis, Oxford (St. Anthony's), London (SOAS and LSE), Durham, Manchester, Bamberg, Munich, Bochum, Naples, Paris (EHESS), Basle, Berne, Zürich, Louvain, Ghent,  UC Berkeley, Istanbul (Koç, Bilgi) Ankara (Bilkent) and Padua. In 2008 he gave the Hamilton Gibb memorial lecture at Harvard University. In 2003-4 Zürcher was actively involved in consultations on Turkey's accession to the European Union, among other things by writing the expert opinion for the Dutch EU presidency on the question whether Islam would be an impediment toTurkish accession. In June 2005 he was awarded the Medal of High Distinction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey. In 2016 he returned this medal in protest against the persecution of academics and publishers in Turkey. In 2006 – 2007 he was involved in the founding of a Dutch Institute of Higher education in Ankara (NIHA) and a Turkey Institute in The Hague. For the last fifteen years he has commented regularly on current affairs Turkey to Dutch and international media and been involved in briefings for the Dutch government and business world.

In 2008 he was elected a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). He was a member of the National Unesco Commission of the Netherlands in  2011-2017, and has served on the jury of the Koç Prize for Turkish History (2014) and the Heineken Prize for History (since 2016). From 2018 to 2020 he is academic director of the Leiden Institute of Area Studies.

In Leiden Zürcher has so far been principal advisor for 21 successfully defended Ph.D. theses and is currently advising on eight more. He has been external examiner at the EHESS (Paris), INALCO (Paris), SOAS (London), University of Utah (Salt Lake City) , St. Anthony’s College (Oxford), Clark University, and Bordeaux University. He is currently a member of the editorial board of the following journals: International Journal of Middle East Studies Middle Eastern Studies International Journal of Turkish Studies Mülkiye Türkiyat Mecmuası

PhD Supervision


  1. Hülya Küçük. Defence: 17 May 2001. Thesis:  The Role of the Bektashis in Turkey’s National Struggle Bektashi. Published by E.J. Brill as The Role of the Bektashis in Turkey’s National Struggle.
  2. Sytske Sötemann. Defence: 9 September 2004. Thesis: ‘Yahya Kemal Beyatlı. Turkse poëzie in de Vroege Twintigste Eeuw.’ Unpublished
  3. Vangelis Kechriotis. Defence: ? November 2005. Thesis: ‘The Greeks of Izmir at the End of the Empire a non-Muslim Ottoman Community between Autonomy and Patriotism.’ Unpublished
  4. Umut Azak. Defence: 2007. Thesis: Myths and Memories of Turkish secularism (1923-1966’ Published by I.B. Tauris as Islam and Secularism in Turkey.
  5. Sena Karasipahi. Defence:  20 June 2006. Thesis: Strange Fruit: ‘Muslim Intellectuals as Products of Kemalist Modernisation.’ Published by I.B. Tauris as Muslims in Modern Turkey.
  6. Annemarieke Stremmelaar. Defence:  7 February 2007. Thesis: ‘Justice and Revenge in the Ottoman Rebellion of 1703.’ Unpublished
  7. Özgür Mutlu Ulus. Defence: 18 December 2007. Thesis: 'The attitudes of the radical left in Turkey towards the army (1960-1971).’ Published by I.B. Tauris as The Army and the Radical Left in Turkey.
  8. Ismail Hakkı Kadi. Defence: 3 December 2008. Thesis: ‘Natives and Interlopers: Competition Between Ottoman and Dutch Merchants in the 18th Century.’ Published by E.J. Brill as Ottoman and Dutch Merchants in the Eighteenth Century.
  9. Pınar Yelsalı. Defence: 19 February 2009. Thesis: ‘Modernization and Gender regimes. Life Histories of the Wives of Turkish Political Leaders.’ Unpublished.
  10. Alex Lamprou. Defence:18 November 2009.  Thesis: ‘Between Central State and Local Society. The People’s Houses Institution and the Domestication of Reform in Turkey (1932-1951).’ To be published by I.B. Tauris
  11. Doğan Cetinkaya. Defence: 26 May 2010. Thesis: ‘Muslim Merchants and Working Class in Action: Nationalism, Social Mobilization and Boycot Movement in the Ottoman Empire 1908-1914.’ Published by I.B. Tauris as The Young Turks and the Boycott Movement.
  12. Ismail Çağlar. Defence: 22 January 2013. Thesis: ‘Good and Bad Muslims. Real and Fake Seculars. Center-Periphery Relations and Hegemony in Turkey through the February 28 and April 27 Processes.’ Unpublished.
  13. Dorothe Sommer. Defence: 8 January 2013. Thesis: ‘Unity is Strength. Masonic Lodges in Ottoman Syria with Special Focus on Tripoli and al-Mina (1860-1908).’ Published by J.A. Allen as Freemasonry in the Ottoman Empire.
  14. Nicole van Os. Defence: 31 October 2013, Thesis: Feminism, Philanthropy and Patriotism: Female Associational Life in the Ottoman Empire.’ Based on published articles.
  15. Merlijn Olnon. Defence: 8 January 2014. Thesis: ‘”Brought under the Law of the Land” The History, Demography and Geography of Crossculturalism in Early Modern Izmir, and the Köprülü Project of 1678.’ To be published by Brill.
  16. Emre Erol. Defence: 9 September 2014. Thesis: ‘Capitalism, Migration, War and Nationalism in an Aegean Port Town: The Rise and Fall of a Belle Epoque in the Ottoman County of Foçateyn.’ To be published by IB Tauris.
  17. Nikos Christofis. Defence: 3 February 2015. Thesis: ‘From Socialism via Anti-Imperialism  to Nationalism. EDA – TİP: Socialist Contestation over Cyprus.’
  18. Sevgi Adak. Defence: 12 February 2015. Thesis: ‘Kemalism in the Periphery: Anti-Veiling Campaigns and State-Society Relations in 1930s Turkey’.
  19. Engin Kılıç: Defence: 11 June 2015. Thesis: ‘The Balkan War (1912-1913) and Visions of the Future in Ottoman Turkish Literature’.
  20. Buket Cengiz.  Defence: 13 June 2017. Thesis: ‘‘Non Istanbulites”of Istanbul. The Right tot he City Novels in Turkish Literature from the 1960s to the Present.’
  21.  Çiğdem Oğuz (cotutelle Bosphorus University, Asım Karaömerlioğlu) Defence: 13 June 2018. Thesis: “The Struggle Within: “Moral Crisis”on the Ottoman Homefront During the First World War.”


  1. Selim Ahmetoglu: Trabzon in the aftermath of the constitutional revolution of 1908 (expected defence date January 2019)
  2. Zeynep Şarlak (cotutelle  Parijs, Ahmet Insel) The development of the security state in Turkey (expected defence date June 2019)
  3. Onur Ada: Competition for resources within the Kemalist single-party state
  4. Ömer Koçyiğit: Ottoman reactions to Mahdism and Wahhabism
  5. Uğur Derin: The discourse on internal and external enemies in Turkey
  6. Amed Gökcan: Ezidis in the late Ottoman Empire
  7. Remzi Cakirlar: The links between the Parti Radicale in France and Young Turks and Kemalists: comparisons and connections.

Professor emeritus Turkish Studies

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies


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