February 17th, 2008

reading, activism, writing

Book #6: After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire Since 1405, by John Darwin

Tamerlane, an Asian conqueror in the mold of Genghis Khan, died in 1405 after he had conquered a hugh swath of Eurasia. But he was the last of the "Steppe" Emperors and after him many of his holdings consolidated themselves very differently.

In his book, After Tamerlane, Darwin swings through 500 years of world history at blinding speed--approximately one year per page. His assertion, that histories of the world, written with a Euro-centric slant, completely underestimate the strength, resilience, dynamism, and longevity of the rest of the world, is a solid one.

The Americas, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand weren't simply sitting around waiting for an industrially and "morally" superior Europe to "civilize" them.

Darwin discusses the long history of each region, before, during, and after Europe's often brutal interventions. The topics here are sweeping and unfortunately the overview is a bit too distant. But if you want to get the big picture and fill in the details later, this book is filled with enough ideas for further study. It could give any history reader fodder for the rest of their life.