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Tribute paid to Dr Andrew Mango

Andrew Mango pic

10 July 2014

The distinguished scholar Dr Andrew Mango, the UK’s leading specialist on modern Turkey who completed his undergraduate degree and PhD at SOAS, University of London, sadly passed away earlier this week.

Dr Mango read his undergraduate degree in the late 1940s studying Arabic and Persian, and in 1955, wrote his PhD thesis on ‘Studies on the Legend of Iskandar in the Classical Literature of Islamic Persia, with special reference to the work of Firdawsi, Nizami and Jami’.

His SOAS studies in Arabic and Persian enhanced his knowledge of Ottoman Turkish – essential for his work on Atatürk (John Murray, London 1999), seen as the definitive political biography of the founder and first President of the Turkish Republic. He was closely involved with the Modern Turkish Studies programme at the School, particularly in the late 1980s and 1990s. He frequently lectured at SOAS, and his books, particularly Atatürk and The Turks Today (John Murray, London 2004) remain required reading for postgraduate students of Turkish Studies at SOAS today.

Dr Mango was born in Istanbul in 1926 of a British father and a Russian mother. Although French was spoken at home, Greek was still a major language in the former Turkish capital. Andrew was a talented linguist and arrived at SOAS fluent in four languages as well as Turkish.  

His working career was largely spent in the BBC, where he was Head of the Turkish Service from 1958-72. He was promoted to oversee Turkish, Greek and other south European (and eventually French) broadcasts until his retirement in 1986.  

After his retirement Dr Mango devoted his time to writing, lecturing and broadcasting - in different languages - about the country. He was a household name in Turkey and received a number of honorary doctorates. Dr Mango was also one of the signatories condemning the violence during the Gezi demonstrations, which was published in an open letter to the Turkish Prime Minister in The Times last July.

Speaking on behalf of the Centre for Ottoman Studies at SOAS, Dr Yorgos Dedes, Senior Lecturer in Turkish said: “The loss of Dr Andrew Mango is a very sad occasion for Turkish studies. He was a famous alumnus and faithful friend of SOAS. His achievements were remarkable, particularly his excellent work on the Persian (and Turkish) Alexander Romances. He remains an inspiring model for many.”