46 von 48 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
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In the wake of Jack Weatherford's extremely popular "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World," I'm guessing interest in Genghis Khan and his Mongolian Empire is reaching new heights. I must admit that I, too, was introduced into the fascinating world of the Mongolians through Weatherford's bestseller, so I owe him alot for introducing to me what I consider a new passion in life.
Weatherford's work, while being extremely well researched and well written, is extremely revisionist, and gives a very forgiving and optimistic account of Genghis Khan, his predecessors, and their abilities. Weatherford takes great pains to combat the traditional stereotypes of Genghis Khan and the Mongolians as barbaric, mass-murdering hordes. At the same time, I feel that since for many people Weatherford's book will be the very first people read about the Mongols, alot of people will get an impression of the Mongols that is a little too favorable and optimistic, and this is where David Morgan's "The Mongols" comes in.
"The Mongols" is, in a word, sober. On one hand, it definitely breaks away from the precedent set by medieval scholars in viewing Genghis Khan and the Mongols as purely forces of wanton destruction. Whenever Morgan evaluates a primary source, which he does often, he takes great pains to weed out any political motivations to skewer numbers and accounts that existed at the time, of which there were many. This means that Morgan never overestimates Mongol detruction, but he doesn't underestimate it either, which what Weatherford seems to have done, basing his book on select sources. I therefore recommend "The Mongols" as a good, middle-of-the-road source for establishing the historical events of the 12th to 13th century. When reading "The Mongols," one always gets a sense that Morgan is a level-headed, unbiased thinker, which is the perfect type of historian necessary for a period as tumultuous as the years of the Mongolian Empire. It's a good followup to "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World," together the two books give an good picture.
Additionaly, since this book is part of "The Peoples of Europe" collection, this book includes a special focus on the Mongols interactions with Europe, including both direct interaction in the invasions of Russia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe, and indirect interactions in the forms of the emmisaries, missionaries, merchants, and diplomats that were excanged between the East and the West. Much to my surprise, being a part of "The Peoples of Europe" series did not exclude a very thorough and extensive coverage of Mongol activity in Persia, Central Asia, and China, so when viewed as a whole, Morgan's work is still a very complete coverage.
27 von 34 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Robert J. Crawford
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This is a very academic introduction to the Mongol people and more particularly, the empire founded by Genghis Khan. Written at the undergraduate level, it provides the basics as well as a sense of the state of the field, i.e. what is known, what is not, and what needs to be done. It is workmanlike in tone, but to put it mildly, very dry.
The beginning seemed designed to turn off all but the most determined reader. It is a scholarly overview of the original sources on the Mongols. While this is very interesting - to read them in the original it would require knowledge of Chinese, Persian, Turkish and Arabic at a minimum - the place for it is an afterward, or even footnotes, not 30 pages of turgid prose, that is, if you want to spark interest in a lay reader rather than count on academic obligation to get through it.
The same is true of the conclusion, which is an overview of scholarship since 1985, i.e. when the first edition was published. There you get served the dullest array of academic controversies, many of which are choices of emphasizing one interpretation over the others, e.g. were the Mongols really as brutal as their reputation or did they bring good to those they governed? An essential question, but the way that it is presented in unspeakably boring and reeks of intellectuals taking a stand in order to develop interpretations (however silly or unrealistic) in order to advance their careers. Indeed, that this is tacked on as a final chapter rather than integrated into the text is a sign of laziness if you ask me. There is no wrapup, but instead this stilted and rambling discussion of who is saying what at the moment.
That leaves a scant 150 pages for all of the historical information on the Mongols. As such, it is very thin gruel, stripped of any storytelling or feeling for how things were in the 13th and 14th century. It is threadbare and flavorless, if essential, reading.
Genghis Khan arose from the nomadic steppe peoples North of China. He raised a great army with a core of ur-loyalists he kept as his bodyguard, otherwise he mixed the people of various tribes. The Mongol warriors' principal strength was their cavalry, which was capable of great coordination and flexibility on the field. Each knight had approximately 5 hourses in tow, in keeping with their nomadic lifestyles on the plains. This was also a limitation, of course, in that they had to find food for them. The difference, it seems, is that Genghis was not only after plunder, but was interested in tax revenues from conquered peoples (in particular the Chinese in the North) and even allowed local elites most of the power to administer in their stead, paying tribute while keeping their prestige, etc. This kind of cooptation is similar to the Romans (without the cultural assimilation component). Upon his death in 1227, he left a vast empire to be divided by his sons, who ruled more or less separately to 100 years, either ejected by collapse or absorbed into local elites.
The legacy of the Mongols remains controversial. Like conquerors of that time, they were extremely brutal, killing entire cities if they refused to capitulate without fighting. While they were impressed with both Persia and China, where they copied their civilizations, they destroyed or melted down many artifacts and irreplacable libraries such as those in Bagdad. They tolerated local religions, eventually adopting the Muslim religion to replace native shamanism, nestorian christianity, and buddhism. Their organizational genius may also have been copied by the Ottoman Turks. Like all empires, their collapse was quick when it occurred - disunited, warring between khanates, and far from supply lines and their cultural sources.
I am glad I read this book, but continually felt disappointed at its mediocre writing and airing of obscure academic controversies. Recommended tepidly.
6 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
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Morgan writes an academic book of 13th century Mongolian history, culture and building of their societal infrastructure in 1986. Avoiding the titillating slash, burn, rape and pillage aspects of their conquests, a popular depiction of the Mongolian Yellow Horde, his scholarly topics give an insider's view of Medieval Mongolian society, politics, warfare, taxation, communications, laws, and adoption of conquered peoples' technology, culture and religion.
The first illustration is a 2-page spread, Map 1 (of 3 maps) of The Mongol Empire (pxii-xiii) providing an eye-catching beginning, which stretches from Korea to Italy, and emphasizes a central grayed patch of the subjugated Middle East south of the Black to the Aral Seas. The book includes 33 b&w illustrations about 1/2-1 page each, 12 pgs of references, and a 12 pg index in the original 1986 edition (reviewed). The second edition appears to be a briefly re-edited original and adding a final Chapter 9, "The Mongol Empire since 1985," about 20+ pages, unread.
It is amazing that they did this all on horseback, an indigenous part of 13th century Mongolian culture. Siberian and Mongolian peoples have a non-materialistic culture reflecting the resource-limited landlocked region. It is amazing that this was a family-owned enterprise and its Fall was exacerbated by not building a firmer and broader governmental base of infrastructural strength and succession. For example this period included a new adoption of a written formalization of the Mongolian language (p10) (like Arabic) and conversion from a Shamanistic religion towards Islam (p44). Included is the dispersal of Mongolian bloodlines (Chap6) begetting the Cossack, Tatar and Turkic peoples and expansion of the Islamic and Moslem religions adopted from Persia in modern-day Iran.
Morgan's book is a very good read that will broaden and deepen one's understanding on how the Asiatic Mongols created a vast empire, which enslaved more than half of the world's population, during a fundamentally important century in world history. His book's admitted limitation (p6) is his lack of fluency in Eurasian and Middle Eastern languages, so he is inherently limited to English translations and their biases.
Thus his book is limited to compiling previously published works, unfortunately not really getting inside the heads of the Mongolian leadership and uncovering and interpreting the whys and wherefores of their culture and motivation. Even after perusing the 6th Century BC Chinese Sun Tzu, "The Art of War," one is still left with an unsatisfied curiosity and understanding. Perhaps a more intimate multicultural, multidisciplinary anthology on this topic will be researched and written in the future.
The Rest of the Story
The 13th century was an exciting Renaissance era of the High Middle Ages in Medieval Europe. Innovative examples were the start of non-secular universities of higher learning and adoption of the magnetic compass, gunpowder, and printing on paper technologies. Surgical medicine and mechanical clocks was invented at the time and engineers started harnessing super-human/animal power using windmills, belts and gears with machinery. Gothic art and architecture was started at this time with building fortified castles for protection and roads for trade, not war (Roman).
Later in the 14th Century, Eurasia's Black Plague killed off half of its population, a wasting systemic immune disease caused by bacterium in fleas spread by rodent hosts, originally carried by the Mongolians (p133). The spread of this disease was exacerbated by long periods of war, climatic change, crop failures and subsequent famine in conquered China and Europe. This self-limiting event effectively ended the Mongolian empire.
Even with fast horses and a nomadic society with armies of half million (p88) and their supply lines, it is hard to imagine crossing the formidable cold, high deserts of current Central Asia. Serious consideration of recent work in Palaeo-Climatology is needed to believe a century of successful Mongolian conquest. Unbeknownst to the author, a much more favorable lush grass steppes existed 700-800 years ago. Now referred as the Medieval Warm Period, the geologic record in Northern Europe coincides with a peak in solar activity named the Medieval Maximum (1100-1250). Also there is a fundamental Milankovitch theory on cyclic climatic change due to the earth's eccentric orbit and tilt wobble.
The climatological Jet Stream across Central Asia follows a southeasterly direction from the Eurasian Arctic towards the Mongolia and Tibetan plateaus, bringing much more rain to the Middle East and Central Asia, further enhancing the nomadic life style and encouraging imperialism. Palaeoclimatolgists have shown that Central Asia, the Caspian Sea region and Altai Mountain range had "a milder, less continental climate with more precipitation approximately from the 9th to 12th centuries" by analyzing sediment cores in Lake Baikal, the deepest and largest lake in Eurasia, just north of the Old Silk Road in Siberian Russia.
Additionally, NE China was wetter during the Medieval Warm Period upon analyzing pollen cores in the Maili Bog in NE China's (Manchuria) Jilin mountainous province, indicating more monsoon rains during that 200-year period. Thus conclusively palaeoclimatogists have shown that a warmer and wetter climate existed in 13th Century Eurasia thus facilitating a great surge in a hungry, mobile Mongolian population and resulted in conquest, imperialism and world domination.
And the palaeoclimatological Little Ice Age starting in the 14th Century effectively ended the Mongolian Empire precipiated by Europe's Great Famine of 1315-1317.
From teaching in the UK, Morgan emigrated to the States and is now the senior member of a staff of three in Middle Eastern History. He has been Professor of History and Religious Studies (Islam), U Wisconsin, Madison since 1999. He was recruited to grow its Middle East studies program, the smallest part of the Dept of History, College of L&S. He was Director of Middle East Studies, 2002-6, with research interests in the history of Iran and Islamic Central Asia. With a Middle East History section having 1 TA and 5 grad students, even with the CIA's current emphasis on growing America's understanding of Middle East's language, ideology and culture, only a small dent is being prepared at U Wisconsin. BA 1966, Oxford; PhD 1977 U London, thesis: Mongols in Iran; on faculty of U London's African and Oriental Studies program for 24 yrs.