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Winner of the 2008 Wolfson History Prize for excellence in historical writing.Tamerlane, the Ottomans, the Mughals, the Manchus, the British, the Japanese, the Nazis, and the Soviets: All built empires 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 rise to world "hyperpower," to the resurgence of China and India as global economic powers,After Tamerlaneis a grand historical narrative that offers a new perspective on the past, present, and future of empires. John Darwinis a university lecturer and a fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford. Britain's preeminent scholar of global history, he is the author ofBritain and Decolonization,The End of the British Empire, andBritain, 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 fall 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 Tamerlaneis 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 sor
John Darwin is a University Lecturer and a Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford. His books include Britain and Decolonization and The End of the British Empire.
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“Marvellously illuminating…Darwin sustains an intricate thesis with enormous panache.”—Independent (UK ) “Elegant and brilliant….wonderful and imaginative…a deeply significant book.”—Sunday Times (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