book: After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 | John Darwin ...
After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000
, 2009 - 592 pages
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is an interesting and ambitious book. It offers a great deal of information about the world's history of the past 600 years, appearing based on my basic knowledge, to have been carefully researched. I looked forward to reading it every day, and I wished there were more than the 500 pages when I was finished.
However, Darwin seems to use the book to grind one or more axes. His unofficial thesis was that the West is greatly overrated and most historians are schmucks. It becomes tiresome to be told what you have read, particularly when you have not read what you are accused of having read. I had the feeling that I had stumbled into an argument between a grad student and his advisor, who is now retired. More significantly, it compromises the book. Darwin repeatedly asserts that the non-Western nations possessed greater dynamism than they have been given credit for having, yet the book is a basically a story about the development of the military and economic dominance of the West. In the end, it almost seems to mock the Afro-Asian societies that he tries to celebrate.
Most people are at least acqainted with the achievements of the non-Europeans, and he would have done well to either look at what allowed Europeans to dominate the world, or to look at the needs of Africans and Asians that they met allowing them to become dominant.
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Winner of the 2008 Wolfson History Prize for excellence in historical writing.
, the Ottomans, the Mughals, the Manchus, the British, the Japanese, the Nazis, and the Soviets: All built
meant to last forever; all were to fail. But, as John Darwin shows in this magisterial book, their empire-building created the world we know today.
From the death of Tamerlane in 1405, to America?s
to world “hyperpower,? to the resurgence of China and India as
Tamerlane is a grand historical narrative that offers a new perspective on the past, present, and future of empires. John Darwin is a university lecturer and a fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford. Britain?s preeminent scholar of global history, he is the author of Britain and Decolonization, The End of the British Empire, and Britain, Egypt and the Middle East. The death of the great Tatar emperor Tamerlane in 1405, writes historian John Darwin, was a turning point in world history. No other single warlord, raiding across the steppes, would be able to unite Eurasia under his rule. After Tamerlane, a series of huge, stable empires were founded and consolidated—Chinese, Mughal, Persian, and Ottoman—realms of such grandeur, sophistication, and dynamism that they outclassed the fragmentary, quarrelsome nations of Europe in every respect. The nineteenth century saw these empires
vulnerable to European conquest, creating an age of anarchy and exploitation, but this had largely ended by the twenty-first century, with new Chinese and Indian super-states and successful independent states in Turkey and Iran. This account challenges the conventional narrative of the “Rise of the West,? showing that European ascendancy was neither foreordained nor a linear process. Indeed, it is likely to be a transitory phase. After Tamerlane is a vivid and innovative history of how empires rise and fall, from one of Britain?s leading scholars. “Undoubtedly a great work, a book that goes truly global in chronicling the history of one of our abiding concerns: the pull and limitations of absolute power.?—St. Petersburg Times “Most shifts in the balance of power between empires came about through what Darwin calls ‘unique conjunctures? (p. 58), or luck, rather than as the result of any ‘progressive? trend . . . the whole history of empires from the fifteenth century on has been ‘far more contested, confused and chance-ridden? than the current ‘legend? has it (p. x). That is Darwin's main theme . . . Those who want their history to be neat and tidy, and to furnish them with more definite answers and advice, will be disappointed with this book. But is not that all to the good? . . . The prime role of the genuine historian is to show how complex history really is. That may seem a modest service; but in fact it is a vital one. It is what Darwin does superbly well here, in a vast-ranging, brilliantly stimulating and wonderfully written book. Its chief virtue is the fresh light it sheds on so many aspects of modern imperial history—for the general reader, at least. Obviously most of its points will be familiar to the specialists whose work it acknowledges . . . Armed with an impressively wide reading among these authorities, unfettered by any single ‘theory,? and demonstrating the kind of empathy toward other cultures and civilizations that has been a feature of ‘imperial? history in the two older English universities for some years now (unexpectedly, one might think), Darwin presents all sorts of things in new ways.?—Bernard Porter, Emeritus University of Newcastle, The American Historical Review
"[Darwin] gives us world history on the grand scale, equipping his readers with the knowledge and insights to make their own assessment of what is coming next. If only his book could find its way into the right hands, it might also serve to make the world a less dangerous place."—Tim Blanning, The Sunday Telegraph (London)
“Marvellously illuminating . . . Darwin sustains an intricate thesis with enormous panache.?—The Independent (UK )
"A wonderful and imaginative addition to the select library of books on world history that one really wants to possess, and dip into, for ever . . . It is rather wonderful to doff one's hat to a historian who can range across time and space, giving the reader continual cause for pause, in the way that Darwin has done."—Paul Kennedy, The Sunday Times (London) “A work of massive erudition . . . overturns smug Eurocentric teleologies to present a compelling new perspective on international history.?—Maya Jasanoff, The Guardian (UK) “Undoubtedly a great work, a book that goes truly global in chronicling the history of one of our abiding concerns: the pull and limitations of absolute power.?—St. Petersburg Times
"Outstanding title! . . . In the centuries following the last great nomadic empire of the Central Asian conqueror Tamerlane (1336–1405), the nature of political conquest and empire underwent a series of complex and profound transformations across Eurasia, and then across the globe. Darwin (Oxford) traces these developments and illustrates how they combined to shape the contours of the modern world. In engaging this theme, the author employs a more global perspective than most. He argues that the 'rise of the West' was neither a foregone conclusion nor unique. Rather, it was a convoluted process built upon long-established Eurasian traditions of empire. Darwin's elegantly written and richly detailed analysis covers the collapse of European primacy in the mid-20th century and the resurgence of China, India, and Russia to the imperial fore today. The volume is broad in scope yet well researched and cogently argued; it deserves a place among the very best that world history has to offer. Illustrated with 23 useful, original maps. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."—S. C. Levi, Ohio State University, Choice magazine
“Was Europe's domination of the modern international order the inevitable rise of a superior civilization or the piratical hijacking of an evolving world system? A little of both, and a lot of neither, this ambitious comparative study argues—because world history's real center of gravity sits in Eurasia. Historian Darwin contends that an ascendant Western imperialism was a sideshow to vast, wealthy and dynamic Asian empires—in China, Mughal India, the Ottoman Middle East and Safavid Iran—which proved resistant to Western encroachment and shaped the world into the 21st century. Europe's overseas colonial empires as well as the expansions of the United States across North America and Russia across Siberia—was not inevitable, but rather a slow, fitful and often marginal enterprise that didn't accelerate until the mid-19th century. Darwin analyzes the technological, organizational and economic advantages Europeans accrued over time, but shows how dependent their success was on the vagaries of world trade (the driving force of modern imperialism, in his account) and the internal politics of the countries they tried to control. Nicely balanced between sweeping overview and illuminating detail, this lucid survey complicates and deepens our understanding of modern world history.?—Publishers Weekly “An elegant and brilliant survey . . . Global history as something more—much more—than the story of the West?s domination of the Rest.?—Paul Kennedy, author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
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