Heath W. Lowry

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Heath Ward Lowry (born December 23, 1942) was the Atatürk Professor of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies at Princeton University. He is an author of books about the history of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey.


Lowry spent two years (1964–1966) working as a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote mountain village Bereketli, Balıkesir Province in western Turkey before graduating from Portland State University (1966).[1] In the late '60s, he worked with scholars Speros Vryonis, Jr., Andreas Tietze, Gustav von Grunebaum, and Stanford J. Shaw at the University of California Los Angeles, where he received both his Masters degree (1970) and Ph.D. (1977).[2]

Lowry was a founding member of the Department of History at the Bosphorus University in İstanbul, Turkey, and taught there full-time from 1973 until 1980. In 1980, he co-founded The Journal of Ottoman Studies, together with Nejat Göyünç and Halil İnalcık.[3] He also served as the Istanbul Director of the American Research Institute in Turkey from 1972-1979.[4]

Lowry then took a position as Senior Research Associate at Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks Research Library & Collection in Washington, D.C. between 1980 and 1983. There, he co-directed a team of international scholars working on late Byzantine and early Ottoman historical demography.[5] In 1983, with a group of scholars, businessmen, and retired diplomats and a grant from the Turkish government, he helped establish, and became the director of, the Institute of Turkish Studies[6] at Georgetown University,[7] which provides grants to scholars working in the area of Turkish studies. During this time, he began to study contemporary Turkish politics, and taught from 1989-1994 at the U.S. State Department's National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Virginia, where his students were U.S. diplomats scheduled for assignment in Turkey.[8] He served as Course Chairperson of the Advanced Area Studies Program on Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus.[9]

From 1993 to 2013, Lowry was the Atatürk Professor of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies at Princeton University, and served as the Director of the Program of Near Eastern Studies from July 1994 to June 1997. He offered seminars on early Ottoman history and undergraduate lecture courses on Ottoman history and contemporary Turkey.[5] In 1996, Princeton was accused of allowing itself to be used by the Turkish government as a disseminator of propaganda when the university accepted a $750,000 donation from the Government of Turkey and subsequently appointed Lowry, who denied the existence of the Turkish genocide of Armenians in World War I.[2]

In 2010, Lowry became a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Bahçeşehir University in Turkey, where he directs the Center for Ottoman Era Studies. He is currently a Professor Emeritus at Princeton, and he simultaneously serves as an Advisor to the Chairman of the Bahçeşehir Board of Trustees.[5]

Scholarly reviews[edit]

In a 44-page long article published in the Journal of Ottoman Studies in 1986 (initially presented as a paper at a conference at MESA), Lowry wrote a scathing review against historian Richard G. Hovannisian for his depiction of a junior American intelligence officer in his second volume on the history of the First Republic of Armenia.[10] Though it only occupied the space of a single footnote in a 603-page book, Lowry thought the alleged mischaracterizations by Hovannisian to be so egregious as to have compromised his scholarly integrity. Lowry took issue with the favorable reviews of the book by other historians such as Firuz Kazemzadeh and Roderic Davison and charged Hovannisian with distorting facts and displaying partiality in his work. In a point-by-point rebuttal published in the same year, Hovannisian expressed surprise at Lowry's outrage and decision to single out the depiction of one individual and use it as the sole basis to discredit his research. He went on to criticize Lowry for exaggerating the scope of minor errors, misinterpreting the sources and failing to grasp nuances found in the primary source material, which in many cases agreed with what he had originally written.[11]

In 1990, Lowry concluded that Ambassador Morgenthau's Story was a record of "crude half-truths and outright falsehoods".[12] According to Yair Auron, Lowry is recognized as a principal source discrediting Morgenthau, giving "impetus to the Turkish endeavor to deny the Armenian Genocide."[13] Gilles Veinstein, late professor of Ottoman and Turkish history at the Collège de France, considered Lowry's book about Morgenthau "rather instructive."[14] Fellow Armenian Genocide denier Guenter Lewy also shares Lowry's main conclusions about Morgenthau's Memoirs.[15]


David B. MacDonald, of the Political Science department at the University of Guelph in Ontario, has labeled Lowry as one of the key deniers of the Armenian Genocide.[16] In 1985, Lowry was involved in organizing 69 academics to sign a letter expressing their opposition to official US recognition of the genocide. Lowry claimed that the death toll was the result of a combination of factors, not a intentional action to exterminate an ethnic minority.[2] The letter was then printed in the New York Times and Washington Post.[7]

Turkish ambassador incident[edit]

In 1990, psychologist Robert Jay Lifton received a letter from the Turkish Ambassador to the United States, Nuzhet Kandemir,[17] questioning his inclusion of references to the Armenian Genocide in one of his books. The ambassador inadvertently included a draft of a letter written by Lowry advising the ambassador on how to prevent mention of the Armenian Genocide in scholarly works. Roger W. Smith, Eric Markusen and Lifton also state they caught Lowry "ghosting" for the Turkish ambassador in Washington regarding the denial of the Armenian Genocide. The incident has been brought up as example of the issue of ethics in scholarship.[18][19]

Michael M. Gunter defended Lowry, asking "how was Lowry acting in any way different from how Armenian scholars and their supporters have their long-running campaign against Turkey? When looked upon in such light, the Armenian reactions to the Lowry memorandums appear petty and hypocritical."[20]

Alan Fisher, professor of History at Michigan State University and secretary-treasurer and member of the Institute of Turkish Studies board of directors, countered allegations that Lowry "had worked for the Turkish Government" in his role as executive director of the Institute, stating that Lowry had been "appointed by the board and worked for the institute" and that he in no "sense of the word 'worked' for the Turkish Government".[21]

In 1996, Lowry admitted in an interview that the letter to the Ambassador was a mistake. However, he continues to believe that the loss of Armenian life during WWI fails to fit the definition of "genocide," and that his conclusions are supported by his research. He stated that if he ever came across information that proved him wrong, he would be open to changing his mind.[2]

Princeton appointment protests[edit]

In 1995, Lifton published a article criticizing Lowry's behavior in the academic journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies.[22] In February of that year, a group of 100 scholars and writers published a denunciation the Turkish Government and Lowry in the The Chronicle of Higher Education. The signatories of the document included Alfred Kazin, Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Susan Sontag, William Styron, David Riesman and John Updike.[2]

The following year, Princeton University was publicly accused of accepting bribes to cater to Turkish propaganda, and multiple scholars protested Lowry's appointment to chair of the department. Peter Balakian, a professor at Colgate University, described Lowry's work as "evil euphemistic evasion," and organized a protest of 200 Armenian-Americans at the Princeton Club in New York City. The Princeton dean of faculty, Amy Gutmann, defended the university's actions by stating that donations do not influence the appointment process.[2]


Lowry received an honorary doctorate from the Bosphorus University in 1985. In 1986, he was awarded the TÜTAV (Foundation for the Promotion and Recognition of Turkey) Prize. He was made a Corresponding Member of the Turkish Historical Society in 1988. From 2000 to 2001, Lowry was Senior Fulbright Research Scholar at Bilkent University, in Ankara, Turkey.[9]


  • "Early Ottoman Period," in Metin Heper and Sabri Sayari (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Modern Turkey, London-New York: Routledge, 2012.
  • In the footsteps of Evliyâ Çelebi, İstanbul: Bahçeşehir University Press, 2012.
  • Clarence K. Streit’s The Unknown Turks: Mustafa Kemal Paşa, Nationalist Ankara & Daily Life in Anatolia (January – March 1921). İstanbul: Bahçeşehir University Press, 2011.
  • Remembering one's Roots. Mehmed Ali Paşa of Egypt's links to the Macedonian town of Kavala : architectural monuments, inscriptions & document, Istanbul-Kavala: Bahçeşehir University Press/Mohamed Ali Institute, 2011.
  • The Evrenos Dynasty of Yenice-i Vardar: Notes & Documents. Istanbul: Bahçesehir University Publications, 2010.
  • “The ‘Soup Muslims’ of the Ottoman Balkans: Was There a ‘Western’ & ‘Eastern’ Ottoman Empire?”, Osmanlı Araştırmaları/Journal of Ottoman Studies, XXXVI (2010), pp. 95–131.
  • In the Footsteps of the Ottomans: A Search for Sacred Spaces & Architectural Monuments in Northern Greece. Istanbul: Bahçesehir University Publications, 2009.
  • An Ongoing Affair: Turkey & I, 2008. Istanbul & Eden (South Dakota): Çitlembik & Nettleberry, 2008.
  • Defterology Revisited: Studies on 15th & 16th Century Ottoman Society, Istanbul: The Isis Press, 2008.
  • The Shaping of the Ottoman Balkans, 1350–1550: Conquest, Settlement & Infrastructural Development of Northern Greece, Istanbul: Baçesehir University Publications, 2008.
  • The Nature of the Early Ottoman State (SUNY Series in the Social and Economic History of the Middle East). Albany: SUNY Press, 2003. ISBN 0-7914-5635-8
  • Ottoman Bursa in Travel Accounts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press (Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies Publications), 2003. ISBN 1-878318-16-0
  • Fifteenth Century Ottoman Realities: Christian Peasant Life on the Aegean Island of Limnos, Istanbul: Eren Press, 2002. ISBN 975-7622-89-3
  • Humanist and scholar. Essays in honor of Andreas Tietze, [with: Donalq Quataert et al.] Istanbul-Washington, The Isis Press/Institute of Turkish Studies, 1993. ISBN 0-941469-02-6
  • Studies in Defterology: Ottoman Society in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century Istanbul, Istanbul: Isis Press, 1992. ISBN 975-428-046-0
  • The Story Behind ‘Ambassador Morgenthau's Story’, Istanbul (Isis Press), 1990. ISBN 975-428-019-3. Translated into French, German and Turkish.
  • “The Turkish History: on What Sources Will it be Based? A Case Study on the Burning of Izmir”, The Journal of Ottoman Studies, Volume VIII (1989), pp. 1–29.
  • “Halide Edip Hanim in Ankara: April 2, 1920 - August 16, 1921”, I. Uluslarasi Atatürk Sempozyumu, Ankara, 1987, pp. 691–710.
  • Continuity and Change in Late Byzantine and Early Ottoman Society [with: A. Bryer et al.] Cambridge, MA & Birmingham, England: Dumbarton Oaks & University of Birmingham, 1985. ISBN 0-7044-0748-5
  • “Richard G. Hovannisian on Lieutenant Robert Steed Dunn”, The Journal of Ottoman Studies, Volume V (1985), pp. 209–252.
  • “The U.S. Congress and Adolf Hitler on the Armenians”, Political Communication and Persuasion, Volume 3, Number 2 (1985).
  • “Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Armenian Terrorism: ‘Threads of Continuity’,” International Terrorism and the Drug Connection, Ankara: Ankara University Press, 1984, pp. 71–83.
  • “American Observers in Anatolia ca 1920: The Bristol Papers”, in Bosphorus University (ed.), Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey (1912-1926), Istanbul: Tasvir Press, 1984, pp. 42–58.
  • The Islamization and Turkification of Trabzon, 1461-1483. Istanbul (Bosphorus University Press), 1981 & 1999. ISBN 0-87850-102-9


  1. ^ Wolfgang Behn, Handbuch der Orientalistik: Bio-Bibliographical Supplement to Index Islamicus, 1665-1980 (Handbook of Oriental Studies/Handbuch der Orientalistik), vol. 2 (Brill, 2006: ISBN 90-04-15037-4), p. 458.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Honan, William H. (1996-05-22). "Princeton Is Accused of Fronting For the Turkish Government". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-06-09. 
  3. ^ "ISAM - Center for Islamic Studies". english.isam.org.tr. Retrieved 2016-06-09. 
  4. ^ Haarman, Maria. Der Islam, p.302. C.H.Beck, 2002. ISBN 3-406-47640-6
  5. ^ a b c University, Princeton. "Heath Lowry". www.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2016-06-09. 
  6. ^ Chorbajian, Levon. Studies in Comparative Genocide, p.xxxiii. Macmillan, 1999. ISBN 0-312-21933-4.
  7. ^ a b MacDonald, David B. Identity Politics in the Age of Genocide, p.121. Routledge, 2008. ISBN 0-415-43061-5.
  8. ^ "Prof. Dr. Heath W. Lowry". Turkishculture.org. Turkish Cultural Foundation. Retrieved 2016-06-09. 
  9. ^ a b "Near Eastern Studies Newsletter" (PDF). 6 (1). Princeton University. 2013. 
  10. ^ Richard G. Hovannisian on Lieutenant Robert Steed Dunn”, The Journal of Ottoman Studies, Volume V (1985), pp. 209–252.
  11. ^ See Richard G. Hovannisian, "Scholarship and Politics," Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies 2 (1985–86): pp. 169–185.
  12. ^ Winter, J.M. America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915, p.302. Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-521-82958-5.
  13. ^ Auron, Yair. The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide, New Brunswick NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2004, p. 258. ISBN 0-7658-0834-X.
  14. ^ "Trois questions sur un massacre", L'Histoire, April 1995.
  15. ^ The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005, pp. 140-142
  16. ^ David B. MacDonald, Identity Politics in the Age of Genocide: The Holocaust and Historical Representation. London: Routledge, 2008, p. 121. ISBN 0-415-43061-5.
  17. ^ Balakian, Peter. The Burning Tigris. New York: HarperCollins, 2003, p. 383. ISBN 0-06-019840-0.
  18. ^ Smith, Roger W.; Markusen, Eric; Lifton, Robert Jay. "Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide. Holocaust and Genocide Studies," 9 (1): 1–22.(Spring 1995).
  19. ^ "Armenian Genocide Cannot Be Denied," letter to the editor from Robert Jay Lifton, New York Times, June 2, 1996.
  20. ^ Michael M. Gunter, Armenian History and the Question of Genocide, New York-London, Palgrave MacMillan, 2011, p. 114.
  21. ^ Alan Fisher, "Letter to the Editor", The New York Times, May 28, 1996.
  22. ^ Smith, Roger W; Markusen, Eric; Lifton, Robert J (Spring 1995). "Professional Ethics and the Denial of Armenian Genocide". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 9 (1). 

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