Andrew Mango : biography
Andrew James Alexander Mango (born 1926 in Istanbul (Constantinople) :When the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, the capital was moved to Ankara, and Constantinople was officially renamed Istanbul in 1930. is a British author who was born in Turkey as one of three sons of a prosperous Anglo-Russian family. He is the brother of the distinguished Oxford historian and Byzantinist Professor Cyril Mango. Mango’s early years were passed in Istanbul but in the mid-1940s he left for Ankara and obtained a job as a press officer in the British Embassy. He moved to the United Kingdom in 1947 and has lived in London ever since. He holds degrees from the University of London, including a doctorate on Persian literature. He joined the BBC’s Turkish section while still a student and spent his entire career in the External Services, rising to be Turkish Programme Organiser and then Head of the South European Service. He retired in 1986.
Writings on Turkey and Atatürk
Mango abandoned his early intention of becoming an academic, finding his career at the BBC congenial. He also wrote copiously in his spare time, publishing books and pamphlets on Turkey of which Turkey (1968) and Discovering Turkey (1971) are the most important. In addition he wrote a large number of shorter articles and working papers for British and American thinktanks on Turkey and its strategic role. He has also written for many years an annual review of major western studies of Turkey for the academic journal, Middle East Studies.
The high point of Mango’s career as an author, however, came after he retired from the BBC in 1986 when he was commissioned by the British publishers, John Murray, to write a new biography of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The aim was to replace the earlier biography written by Lord Kinross who, though enthusiastic about Atatürk, had not actually been able to read Turkish sources himself.
Mango spent five years working on the biography, using Turkish printed sources though not archival material. It has been claimed that his biography of Kemal Atatürk constitutes the definitive account among many other works and "reveals the long suppressed darker aspects of its subject, showing us a far more complex personality than we had seen before."; note: article requires registration/purchase.
He presents Atatürk’s life within the broad framework of the future of the Ottoman lands at the beginning of the twentieth century and the question of the nature of the new Turkish state. Like earlier biographers of Atatürk, Mango gives a highly detailed account of the events at Gallipoli and the Turkish War of Independence (1919–1923) and as a result the final decade of Atatürk’s life when he was attempting to transform Turkey into a western-style nation is somewhat compressed. The biography has in general been warmly received and is now regarded as the standard life of the founder of the Republic.
Mango’s next work, The Turks Today had a more mixed critical reception. He argues that Turkey has now become a modern urban metropolitan industrial society and that the gap with western Europe is closing fast. Mango, in line with a number of economic forecasters, suggests that by the middle of the present century, Turkey will rank in the middle of OECD group in terms of per capita income and because of its size will thus have become a major economic power. Turkey is already the sixth largest external trading partner of the European Union. Mango disagrees with those who believe that political Islamism is a danger in Turkey, comparing its role to that of the Christian church in Victorian England. A number of reviewers also commented that the book contained too many statistics to make an easy read. To its admirers, the Turks Today is viewed as the best single volume account of Turkey at the opening of the 21st century. However, critics charge that Mango glosses over many controversial issues in this book, for example questioning the validity of claims regarding the Armenian genocide, political repression of other minorities, and similar issues.
In 2005, Mango published Turkey and the War on Terrorism, a medium-length study of terrorist movements in Turkey and their international links, arguing that the problems with which the West is grappling since 9/11 have been faced by the Turks for many years.