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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. This accessible book provides an introduction to the history and culture of the Steppe people from which Genghis Khan emerged, and chronicles the events that led to his being named the Great Khan. Also included are sixteen biographical sketches, a wealth of annotated primary documents, five maps, an annotated timeline, a glossary, an annotated bibliography and several illustrations.
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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