UW-Madison mourns Turkish history expert Kemal Karpat

The Emeritus Distinguished Professor of History will be remembered for pioneering the study of late Ottoman history, as well as for his generosity to the department.

Kemal H. Karpat, the former chair of Ottoman and Turkish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Emeritus Distinguished Professor of History, passed away in Madison, Wisconsin, on February 20, 2019, at the age of 96. On February 25, 2019, there was a state funeral in Istanbul under the auspices and attendance of the Turkish President, and Karpat is laid to rest at the Fatih Mosque graveyard, the burial site of sultans and select Ottoman and Turkish dignitaries.

A giant figure in the field of Ottoman and Turkish History, Karpat was the recipient of numerous awards for his scholarship: the Presidential Medal of Honor by the Turkish Government (2016); an Honorary Award from the Turkish Grand National Assembly (2009); the Medal of Independence from the Romanian Government (1978); Awards of Excellence and Honorary Memberships from the Turkish Academy of Sciences (1996, 2014) and from the Turkish Historical Society (2006); the Medal of Scholarly Excellence from Bucharest University (1978); and honorary doctoral degrees from Ovidius University (1993) and Babes-Bolyai University in Romania (2015).

Professor Karpat, who pioneered the study of late Ottoman history, focused on the period’s great ideological legacies: the rise of ethnic nationalism and of Islamic political discourse. In both cases, his emphasis on the socioeconomic roots of intellectual change influenced a generation of scholars. Karpat also wrote extensively on more recent Turkish history, with noteworthy works on Turkish foreign policy, Turkish migration and on the “squatter settlements.”

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