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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch!
This is a very ambitious book. It tries to examine the rise and fall of global empires over 500 years. The concentration is on the Ottoman, Mughal, Safavid (though quite slim on them), China, Japan, France, Britain, USA and Russia - with much briefer mention of other European powers such as the Dutch, Germans (Nazi Germany is given some page space) and the Beligians...
Published on 6 Sept. 2007 by Grand Dizer

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fast Forward thru 600 years
I must admit I was sold on the hype and bought the book on the title which must have been a publishers wet dream to hook fools like me. What you get is close on 500 pages purporting to be on the rise and fall of empires since 1400. You have to question John Darwin's sanity (or his desire for money) taking on this publishers brief (by the look of it) because 500 pages to...
Published on 17 Jan. 2013 by K. N. Tole


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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch!, 6 Sept. 2007
This is a very ambitious book. It tries to examine the rise and fall of global empires over 500 years. The concentration is on the Ottoman, Mughal, Safavid (though quite slim on them), China, Japan, France, Britain, USA and Russia - with much briefer mention of other European powers such as the Dutch, Germans (Nazi Germany is given some page space) and the Beligians. Despite its great ambitions I think the book succeeds.

One way to describe this book is to call it the political version of Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel (but only for the last 500 years). Like GGS it looks into why certain states/nations/empires rise and why do others fall. GGS looks into the natural reasons and is detatched from political considerations (which is one of the many things that makes GGS so original). After Tamerlane concentrates far more on the political side and in this the author shows an impressively wide and deep knowledge.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars East to see why this book won awards, 30 Jan. 2013
By 
atticusfinch1048 - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (Paperback)
It is easy to see why this is an award winning look at empire and it is not limited to just the European empires, and its breadth covering six hundred years of history yet readable without being overloaded. It helped give me an insight to the spread of empires and how they are nothing new and what and how different cultures managed or lived through them.

There are no assumptions made in the book and does not take the view that the West would always become dominant. This is a wondeful book if you want a clear and consise vew of global history and it is worth reading. This book is the opposite of Nial Ferguson who says Britain created the modern world, Darwin argues that all empire building created the world of today its good and bad, and that no empire was meant to last forever.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fast Forward thru 600 years, 17 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (Paperback)
I must admit I was sold on the hype and bought the book on the title which must have been a publishers wet dream to hook fools like me. What you get is close on 500 pages purporting to be on the rise and fall of empires since 1400. You have to question John Darwin's sanity (or his desire for money) taking on this publishers brief (by the look of it) because 500 pages to cover 600 years of empires building and crumbling throught the world!! is some mighty task that necessarily has to involve a lot of skimping and fly-bys. Still, he's an Oxford Fellow of Imperial and Global history so he must know what he's doing.

By page 100 we are not only up to 1560 but have included a large chunk on the nature of empire building and the distribution of power in the pre-Colombian world (a decent enough discussion as it happens). That covers Islam, Russia, China, early Portugese investigation, early Iranian and North Indian. By p150 the Mughals have been and gone. And by p200 we're up to 1800 pretty much and talking global trade and Industrial Revolutions world-wide.

You get the picture. Its broad. Its vast. Its fast. bang bang bang.

Now my views. Throughout this book, Darwin in my view changes his position and his arguing strategy to suit his case. He uses exceptions to prove his rule and then decides well...'that can't be the case because of THESE exceptions'. In other words Darwin cuts his cloth to suit his tastes and his argument/thesis. He's taking on race, creed, colour, religion and ideology over 600 years for god sake. Its just way way too broad a brush stroke for this. From page 250 onwards - half the book we are talking about the 20th century.

In fact after you've whizzed all the way through to the late 20th century, he gives us a final chapter to take stock. Whilst railing against grand straight-line theory of history, Mr Darwin appears to have given us, bar his yes-but-no-but-yes's throughout the book, precisely that in order to be able to make some accommodation of 600 years of human development.

Particular things:
I found the flash through the Spanish colonization of Central and South America precisely that - a flash through which is rarely referred to later other than stating that its production of gold and silver and use of slave labour was fundamental in increasing the pace and value of later colonizations and empire building - so you think it might have been important then enough to have covered it in better detail. But no, the production of silver in China, which is referred to often is considered more important.

More often than not, given the emphasis on the 20th century (half the book as noted above) there is little emphasis or analysis of political structure and ethos or how this defined various attempts at empire building and crumbling. What there is of it is really quite infantile and somewhat contentional.

References. Other places and people have pointed out that the majority of sources cited and presumably used are European and most are in English.

But did I enjoy it? Well it DID make me think and my copy is now written through with pencil marks, underlinings, NO!!!!!s and footnotes of my own. So it did make me think and engage. and that's what a good book should do.

So if you want a broad view then give it a go. But take it in with scepticism and questionning and be prepared to go and find individual histories of these empire building episodes. This is a 'modern' type book. It will never replace studied single subject histories but these 'rapid-racethroughs' appear to be gaining in popularity as the dumbing down continues at pace.

Perhaps the last chapter should have been on the Rise and Rise of the Empire of Dumbdown.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly wide-ranging rereading of the history of empire, 26 April 2007
By 
D. Winchester "atomic83" (Bushey, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
1492, Chris Columbus sailed the ocean blue. And so Europe conquered the world.

Or so we have been taught. What we've all forgotten (or ignored) is that there were other world powers. Before the British Empire, before the United States, there were the Ottoman, Chinese and Islamic empires that lasted far longer and had more influence than anything Europe produced.

Tamerlane was the last world-conqueror, a violent inheritor of Genghis Khan, whose empire ranged from Iran to China to Moscow. After his death in 1405, his empire fell apart and the modern world as we know it began to form. Princes in Muscovy began to take control of their neighbours; China's accelerated cultural progress began to stagnate; and Europe's sea-worthy nations began to extract wealth from their overseas conquests.

AFTER TAMERLANE is a fabulously balanced and wide-ranging revelation of world history of the past six hundred years, written by one of our preeminent historians. John Darwin is a true star. Up to now he has been too busy making other historians famous; now it's his turn. AFTER TAMERLANE reveals the seeds of the modern world; read this if you want to understand what fawned today's world events.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study, 20 May 2011
By 
Carl (U.K. & U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (Paperback)
John Darwin's `After Tamerlane' is an impressive, extensively researched work that covers six hundred years of world history focusing on the Eurasian landmass.

The central argument attacks the idea that the rise of the `Western' world was inevitable owing to superiority in the fields of technology, economics, ideologies, and culture etc. This idea is proven without any doubt to be a flawed and invalid position. Darwin highlights that until the latter stages of the 19th Century the societies and cultures outside of Europe were just as advanced, in some cases even more so, and more aggressive in the will to build empires and dominate others; points Darwin convincingly argues. At this point, European control of the "outer world" and the Eurasian landmass became more and more certain due various factors; most notably the instability of the non-European great states, and the lack of cohesion within the smaller societies to withstand European expansion. The history of the pre-modern world is not the history of European domination and superiority.

Up until Chapter 8, the book provides an amazing insight into the development of the various regions of Eurasia (Europe, the Middle East, India, and the Far East) from 1400 to roughly 1900 showing how societies in each zone developed and how they compared to one another. One of most important points being that up until the last two hundred years or so, in general, the presence of Europeans had marginal effect on local affairs outside of Europe: Europeans were at the mercy of the local authorities not the other way around (An example of this can be seen in the early days of European trade with the east; an extensive network of naval trade routes was already established between the Middle East and the Far East by the time of the European arrival into the Indian Ocean, and Europeans only played a small role in that trade network until the 19th Century.).
Chapter 8 and beyond brings the reader into the last century to the present: detailing the events of the two world worlds, decolonisation (a further point argued is that the violence that was seen during this period owed much to local ethnic and religious divides along with problems imposed by previous non-European empires as much as the problems imposed by the Europeans themselves), the Cold War, and the rise of the United States as the world's only super power; posing questions on how long will America's position last.

While overall this is an excellent work and the overarching points well argued, I feel that there are some flaws. At times the prose seems complicated for the sake of being complicated, granted yes it is an academic work but I feel that the need to re-read sections over and over to understand the point being made or the need to consult a dictionary every few minutes hinders accessibility for even a student of history use to some heavy reading. The final sections of Chapter 8 and beyond also springs to mind, Darwin seems to go from logical arguments to being somewhat melodramatic in places. While the point of how the balance of power and wealth shifted across the Eurasian landmass over the last 600 years is well argued, the focus on Tamerlane as a starting point and the final chapter (the conclusion) being named `Tamerlane's Shadow' seem somewhat baffling; granted Darwin has to start somewhere (and if the book is about the transfer of wealth and power across Eurasia, detailing the rise of fall of empires attempting to assert their influence over most of the landmass then why not start with Alexander the Great, Rome, or even Genghis Kahn? Granted adding on another 500+ years of Eurasian history may have been completely impractical.) but it does seem that while attempting to show the non-European side of the picture of the various Eurasian empires, the book starts out at a time when the Europeans started to move beyond Europe and created their first empires in the Americas (the downfall of the various South American empires seems to get little mention compared to the loss of the Thirteen Colonies).

Regardless of these few, in my opinion, flaws, this work is an excellent study and well worth the read to provide one with a new appreciation for the various empires and cultures that existed across the continent and how they handled themselves and developed over six hundred years; in addition to painting a new, more balanced, picture of Europe's role in world history. Finally the book comes with an extensive bibliography and further reading list that is invaluable and an excellent resource.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview, 14 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (Paperback)
This book provides a really good overview of global history in the last 600 years. Analysing the reasons for the rise and decline of each empire, Darwin puts history into a global perspective that is so often overlooked by other historians.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars study material, 6 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (Paperback)
Needed to purchase this for prep work for the final module of my degree. So far so good but probabaly not something I would have purchased if it wasn't advised
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Depth, 19 Sept. 2014
This review is from: After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (Paperback)
The book was in good condition. It is a very heavy book and it takes time absorbing all the information. But all in all a very well analysed piece of research.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Darwins Origins and Lifes of Empires, 23 April 2009
By 
S Wood (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (Paperback)
John Darwin has a bitten off a fair chunk of history with his book on the Rise and Fall of Global Empires 1400-2000; the title of the book "After Tamerlane" seems, as other reviewers have suggested, to be a gimicky hook to attract customers.

The book itself starts off well, it covers the Moghul, Ottoman and Chinese Empires with admirable balance aswell as the European Empires. It doesnt stoop to pontificating on the inferiority of Islam or any other nonsense of that sort. With any book that covers such a broad era (basically the history of the world over the last 6 centuries) there is going to be simplifications and generalisations, but the lack of specifics is sometimes frustrating and a few questionable facts and judgements seem to creep into the book.

This only increases as the book reaches the 20th century, the choices the author makes seem somewhat doubtful. Kenya is covered more than Algeria, the parts on Vietnam would give you the impression it was a client of China and the War in Vietnam is barely covered at all; at one point he states that the Soviet Union supported the Greek Communists (totally wrong) and gave the nod for the North Korean invasion of South Korea (did they?). Its in the last century that it seems to lack direction and developments in the last twenty years with regards to say Iraq, Southern and Central America, Afghanistan are strangely absent. The picture it gives of the "U.S. Empire" is particularly blurred, and the book doesnt seem to be particlarly strong on economic or social aspects of empire in so far as what it meant for the Imperialised and Imperialiser.

In all, a fairly average book - I found Clive Pontings World History or for the 20th century his Progress and Barbarism: World in the Twentieth Century to be more thought provoking and both cover a wider range of issues; if you are interested in the post-war world a good introduction would be T.E.Vadneys The World Since 1945: A Complete History of Global Change from 1945 to the Present (Penguin history).

So not particularly reccomended, which is not to say there are not good sections within it particularly early on when his attempts to be evenhanded are admirable and his historical analysis seems reasonable, but I felt the 20th Century part which is roughly a third of the book is nothing much to write home about. Very average and doesnt live up to the hype.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb history, but sharper thesis needed, 9 April 2009
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This review is from: After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (Paperback)
A book with a title like this could have gone in a clearer direction. Tamerlane was a savage butcher, seen in his parting gift to Isphahan in Iran - a pyramid of 70,000 skulls. But After Tamerlane we have the global, mainly maritime empires - the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Ottomans, the Safavids, the Mughals, the Russians, the Manchus, and later the French, and then the British, with the greatest empire the world has ever seen. This was challenged by the Germans and the Japanese, with their cruel war empires. And after their defeat, the world was first dominated by two empires - the USA's and the Soviets, and since 1989, by one: America. So the story line could have been - there's lot of cruelty with nomadic tribal marauders like the Mongols, but with sensible imperialism there has generally been more stability and prosperity, unless the fault lines between the empires erupt as they did in 1914. But though, as Nial Ferguson has shown in his brilliant, `How Britain Made The Modern World', this is a perfectly valid thesis (imperialism good; tribalism bad), Darwin does not have such a focused aim. And that is a bit of a problem. What we have is an extremely competent telling of the story of world history since 1400 with the emphasis that it is about empires, not those dreaded `ethnic groups'. And he does a great job in showing there was nothing inevitable about the rise of the West, as well as looking at the reasons (mainly to do with intellectual freedom) why the West did ultimately come to dominate. But after nearly 500 pages of pretty detailed narrative, where it was easy to lose the main picture, you rather want a punchy, `this is where we should go now' conclusion. It's not there. There is a very thorough summary, where again it's easy to get lost and the only conclusion is that history has shown that it is not possible for one imperial system, like Tamerlane's, to rule Eurasia, let alone the Far West and Far East. There's nothing wrong with this, but it does not shed much light on where we are today. How much better it would have been if Darwin had used his enviable grasp of imperial history to deliver an easy to understand message: history is about empires (so forget all the liberal twaddle about the rights of ethnic groups); benign empires provide prosperity and security, i.e. more human happiness; hence the crucial importance of a. establishing empires, spheres of law and order b. crushing anarchy and c. diplomacy between empires to stop fault lines (e.g. Taiwan for China and the USA) turning into wars. Here is a vision, and what is needed is the history to show that this works; a detailed analysis of what ruins imperial orders; and most importantly of all, how the vision of empires can be restored again in our generation.
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