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The Mongols are often associated with the arts of warfare and annals of horror, but a more realistic association would be their contribution to international trade and cultural exchange during the medieval age. Thematic chapters, biographical sketches, a glossary, maps, illustrations, and selected primary documents provide fresh insight on a regretfully underexamined period.
The legacy of the Mongols has often been associated with their contributions to the arts of warfare and annals of horror. A more realistic association would be their contribution to international trade and cultural exchange. Spawning an empire ranging from Persia to China, Genghis Khan united a nomadic warrior culture that had lived with their agrarian neighbors through controlled and limited extortion. It was a society whose leaders waged successful war and increased the tribe's prosperity. But the Mongols also understood it would serve their purposes to maintain commerce and agriculture, and to cultivate the arts in order that the luxuries they coveted would be all the more readily available. It was to this end that, after the first decades of destruction and rampage, the Mongols' policy changed to one of cooption and governance. The Mongols became effective cultural brokers as they forced, urged, bribed and coerced the movement of artists and artisans, scientists and scholars around their empire.
Thematic chapters provide an accessible overview of the Steppe people from which Genghis Khan emerged, and chronicle his ascent as the Great Khan, as he subdued enemies and then conquered lands to the east and west. Following are excellent overviews of the founding and cementing of Mongol rule in China—the Yuan Dynasty—and Persia, centered in Iran. A concluding chapter provides a fresh perspective of the Mongol empire and makes clear the relevance of this vast and influential period to the contemporary world. Useful endmatter for students and researchers includes sixteen biographical sketches of figures ranging from Yuan Dynasty founder Qubilai Khan to famed Italian merchant and traveler Marco Polo. A score of annotated primary documents provide immediate access to the issues of the period through the eyes of the people living through them. Five maps, an annotated timeline, a glossary and annotated bibliography and several illustrations round out this engaging and valuable resource.
|Introduction : historical overview|
|Ch. 1||Overview of the steppes||1|
|Ch. 2||The fall and rise of Temujin (1167-1206)||13|
|Ch. 3||Chinggis Khan : the world conqueror||29|
|Ch. 4||China and the founding of the Yuan dynasty (1260-1370)||45|
|Ch. 5||The Mongols in Iran : the Il-Khanate||55|
|Ch. 6||History repeated||77|
|Ch. 7||The legacy : China and Iran||83|
|'Ata Malik Juwayni||103|
|Gregory bar Hebraeus Abu al-Faraj||104|
|Bolad (Po-lo) Aqa||108|
|The Juwayni family||113|
|Rashid al-Din al-Talib Fazlallah Hamadani||121|
|Jalal al-Din Rumi, Mawlana||122|
|Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman||125|
|Nasir al-Din Tusi||127|
|1||A brief description of the Tatars appearance||132|
|2||Grigor of Akanc's history of the nation of archers||135|
|3||Friar Carpini and the Mongols||136|
|4||Chinngis Khan on wine||142|
|5||Chinngis Khan's spiritual adviser, Ch'ang-Ch'un||143|
|6||The Armenians of Cilicia, Southeast Anatolia||145|
|7||Vardan, a spiritual adviser to the Queen||148|
|8||Marco Polo at the court of Qubilai Khan||151|
|9||The Nerge, or chase||157|
|10||The hunt as witnessed by Friar Oderic||159|
|11||The Nerge and rubruck||161|
|12||The travels of the Franciscan Friar Oderic||161|
|13||The fall of Baghdad||165|
|14||The earthly paradise of the assassins||167|
|15||Friar Oderic of Pordenone||170|
|16||The death of the Caliph Musta'sim||171|
|17||Nasir al-Din Tusi's account of the fall of Baghdad||172|
|18||Kirakos and the fall of Baghdad||174|
|19||Grigor of Akanc's account of the fall of Baghdad||178|
|20||Aftermath of the siege of Baghdad||179|
|21||The battle of 'Ayn al-Jalut in 1260||183|
Posted February 23, 2014
A comprehensive and engaging book covers the entire Mongol Empire, with special attention paid to the Ilkhanate. There are three parts to the book, the first is a basic outline of the history of the Mongols, the second is a novel collection of biographies, and the third is a compilation of translated passes from primary sources. George Lane studied under David Morgan, and parts of the book read like a critical response to Morgan's own theories, so I recommend reading Morgan's The Mongols before tackling this one. The tone is dryer than Jack Weatherford's book on the Mongols, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, and more scholarly. It's fine for what it is, but this book is more comprehensive than the standard introductory text and may not be for students who are completely unfamiliar with the history of the Mongols
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Posted January 24, 2012
This book is poorly conceived, badly written and so filled with errors of fact and interpretation that it might take another book of equal length to chronicle them all. It's a shame that the field of Mongol history attracts so many incompetent hacks (Timothy May being another one) because it is a vitally important area for study with profound implications for understanding the developmnent of the modern world. Unfortunately lame comparisons of George W. Bush to Hulegu are neither accurate nor worthwhile and serve only to encourage students to make similarly ridiculous and uninformed analogies. Dr. Lane should perhaps have spent less time adventuring and more time studying his subject.
The problems begin in the introduction, where the author ignorantly states that there is no standard system of transliterating Chinese. In fact there has been a standard system developed in the PRC since the 1950s and regularly used in academic circles since 1980. It's called Hanyu pinyin and is quite easy to master if one takes the time. True, there are other systems (most notably Wade-Giles), but pinyin is common enough now that it's used in pretty much all academic texts. So the author's assertion that names for peoples or places changed is just wrong. It's the Xi Xia (Western Xia) George! Not that difficult...Things are made worse by the fact that Lane isn't even consistent in his rendering (often misrendering) of terms and names and jumbles up romanization systems like a confused first semester undergraduate.
The majority of the text is based almost entirely on secondary materials and evinces barely the slightest knowledge or current debates and issues in the field. It is written at about a 10th grade level and contains more oversimplifications than your typical college level world history text. The author's knowledge of the Mongol realm outside of the Ilkhanate is weaker than if he had just read a bunch of Wikipedia articles. Consider, for example, the frequent references to the Great Wall of China, which did not exist in its present form during the Mongol era. Nor does he bother to mention the spirited debate in the academic community about the veracity of Marco Polo's story and the argument that he never in fact went to China. Coverage of the Central Asian khanates and the Golden Horde is also lacking.
Moreover, there's nothing new at all in here about Genghis (Chinggis) Khan or Mongol rule. One would be better served reading the enjoyable popular biography by Jack Weatherford.
The biographies at the end are only marginally useful because of their haphazrd coverage. No explanations are offered for why these individuals were selected and no gloss is provided by the author with respect to highlighting their particular significance. Academics can figure this out, of course, but students will be left scratching their heads. The same can be said for the translated primary documents at the end. While they are nice to have, more in the way of analysis and introduction would be very heplful. The annotations in the bibliography are so terse as to be useless.
In summation, I made the mistake of trying to use this book for a college class, based on some apparently misinformed positive reviews. Don't make the same mistake!
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