Douglas Howard

Douglas Howard


  • B.A., History, Western Michigan University
  • M.A., History, Indiana University
  • Ph.D., Uralic and Altaic Studies, Indiana University


I and my three sisters were raised by a military officer father and educator mother, at air force bases and other places across the U.S. and abroad. The experience gave me an enduring appreciation for pluralism and cross-cultural and interfaith encounters.

When I am not working, or even when I am, I like to listen to music, especially Paul Simon and world music of all kinds. I also like to play the piano and write music, watch Detroit Tigers baseball, and sip strong coffee. My wife Sandy and I have four terrific adult children, and we have just become grandparents.

Academic interests

My research field is the history of the Ottoman Empire. I have published a few articles on how the Ottoman feudal cavalry worked, and on Ottoman scribes and the literary genre called “Advice for Kings.” My book on the history of Turkey from antiquity to modern times just came out in a second edition. At Calvin I teach courses on early world history, Middle Eastern societies, India, and U.S.-Middle East relations.

I recently completed a years-long book project, with the publication of A History of the Ottoman Empire. In the book I write about how humans cope with calamity, suffering, and the passage of time, using the main theme of the Ottoman worldview. The book was released in January 2017.

I'm also working on a critical edition and English translation of a seventeenth-century Ottoman “Advice for Kings” treatise. I and a Hungarian colleague, Géza Dávid, who spent summer 2014 at Calvin on a Fulbright fellowship, are collaborating on this project.

Every other year I organize and teach a wonderful off-campus interim course in Turkey. 

Read Doug Howard's posts on Historical Horizons, the history department blog.

Research and scholarship


Articles and Book Chapters
  • “From Manual to Literature: Two Treatises on the Ottoman Timar System.” Acta Orientalia 61 (2008): 87-99.
  • “Genre and Myth in the Ottoman Advice for Kings Literature.” In The Early Modern Ottomans: Remapping the Empire, edited by Virginia Aksan and Daniel Goffman, 137-166. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  •  “It Was Called ‘Palestine’: The Land, History, and Palestinian Identity.” Fides et Historia 35/2 (Summer/Fall 2003).
  • “Ottoman Administration and the Timar System: Sûret-i Kânûnnâme-i ‘Osmânî Berây-i Tîmâr Dâden.” Journal of Turkish Studies 20 (1996): 46-125.
  • “Historical Scholarship and the Classical Ottoman Kanunnames.” Archivum Ottomanicum 14 (1995/96): 79-109.
  • “With Gibbon in the Garden: Decline, Death and the Sick Man of Europe.” Fides et Historia 26 (1994): 22-37.
  • “Ottoman Historiography and the Literature of ‘Decline’ of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.” Journal of Asian History vol. 22, no. 1 (1988): 52-77.
  • “The Historical Development of the Ottoman Imperial Registry (Defter-i hakanî), Mid-Fifteenth to Mid-Seventeenth Centuries.” Archivum Ottomanicum vol. 11 (1986 [1988]): 213-230.
Review Essay
  • "Understanding Muslim Spirituality." Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought (May 2011).
  • "Mixed Message." Books and Culture (May 2010): 19.
  • “Three Recent Ottoman Histories” for Turkish Studies Association Journal 28/1-2 (2004 [2008]): 52-57.

In the news

Childhood Lure Leads to Compelling Historical Work

After years of intensive research, Douglas Howard has published an intriguing and unique history of the Ottoman Empire.

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