Making Sense of Modern Turkey with Jeremy Seal

This year the Turkish Republic marks its 95th birthday, which makes it a very young nation, but it is a land liberally scattered with ruins from the Neolithic, Persian, Greco-Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras, which amounts to a past as ancient and storied as any.

Jeremy Seal

The travel writer Jeremy Seal has been transfixed by this country which he has been exploring, and evoking in numerous travel articles and books, for more than thirty years. This talk is a personal overview which draws on a deep first-hand experience of the country.

From 1923, under the overriding influence of the revered national founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the new state embarked on a radical reinvention, severing its Ottoman heritage to emerge, it was hoped, as a fully-fledged European nation. That’s an ambition, to judge by recent events, which looks doomed to failure...


From the time Jeremy first explored Turkey's vast back-country as a young teacher in the 1980s, he sensed first-hand the depth of traditional reaction to the radical vision of the zealously secular ‘Kemalists’. In three of his books – he is currently deep at work on another – Jeremy has been exploring Turkey’s story as a means of gaining a better sense of the national identity than that peddled in the official version.

In a wide-ranging talk Jeremy will consider Turkey’s predicament from different perspectives, including the redeeming importance of hospitality in Turkish culture, entrenched religiosity, national pride, and such startling historic events as the proscription in 1925 of the national hat – the fez. He will also look at leaders who have increasingly contested Ataturk’s vision, not least the current president, Recep Tayip Erdogan, and what this means for the country.

 Jeremy Seal

Jeremy Seal was born in southern England in 1962, read English Literature at the University of Exeter, and is the author of five works of non-fiction:

A Fez of the Heart (1995), The Snakebite Survivors’ Club (1999), The Wreck at Sharpnose Point (2001), Santa: A Life (2004), and Meander (2012). His current project, provisionally entitled A Coup in Turkey, continues his preoccupation with Turkey. Jeremy's Amazon page.

Jeremy contributes to various travel sections including the Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times and The Australian. He runs a website, Somewhere Wonderful which is a resource for independent travellers to Turkey. Over the past five years he has also been working as a cultural guide and now leads his own holidays to Turkey.

Jeremy lives in Bath with his wife and two daughters.

Book Cover, A Fez of the Heart

“A Fez of the Heart is arguably the best portrait of contemporary Turkey currently available in English. It is also extremely funny.” William Dalrymple

Joanie Gorman