Saturday, January 4, 2014

After Tamerlane

At nearly 600 pages, this is not a light read.  Spanning the past 600 years, and the entire globe, it also covers a lot of space and history.  If you don't find history interesting, this is most certainly not the book for you. On the other hand, if you think that history is fascinating, this book contains a great deal of it: it covers the rise and fall of empires around the world since the fall of Tamerlane.  That's a long time, and the book is not restricted to Europe; indeed one of the things I liked most about it is the coverage of Africa and especially Asia.

It breaks down and discusses, in detail, a lot of what happened in India, Iran, and what was the Ottoman Empire over the years, as well as China and Japan, and how all of them interacted, in turn with the European nations.  It turns out that the "Europe dominates the world" story is pretty simplistic and requires a lot more detail and nuance to give a good account of what happened where, and when.

While not a page-turner, it's written fairly well, and I found it easy to make progress.  As above, I greatly enjoyed some of the coverage of the world outside of Europe.  I've got a reasonably decent grasp of European history, but am well aware that there are critical parts of the "old world" like China and India that I know precious little about, and this book helps fill in some of those gaps.

As the book concludes:
But if there is one continuity that we should be able to glean from a long view of the past, it is Eurasia’s resistance to a uniform system, a single great ruler, or one set of rules. In that sense, we still live in Tamerlane’s shadow – or, perhaps more precisely, in the shadow of his failure.

No comments:

Post a Comment