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From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia Hardcover – 2 Aug 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (2 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846144787
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846144783
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 396,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Meticulous scholarship ... History, as Mishra insists, has been glossed and distorted by the conqueror ... [This] passionate account of the relentless subjugation of Asian empires by European, especially British, imperialism, is provocative, shaming and convincing (Michael Binyon The Times )

One can only be thankful for writers like Mishra. From The Ruins Of Empire is erudite, provocative, inspiring and unremittingly complex; a model kind of non-fiction for our disordered days ... May well be seen in years to come as a defining volume of its kind (Stuart Kelly Scotsman )

Deeply researched and arrestingly original ... this penetrating and disquieting book should be on the reading list of anybody who wants to understand where we are today (John Gray Independent )

From the Ruins of Empire gives eloquent voice to [the] curious, complex intellectual odysseys ... of some of Asia's most educated, thoughtful men (Julia Lovell Guardian )

Fascinating ... a rich and genuinely thought-provoking book (Noel Malcolm Telegraph )

Superb and ground-breaking. Not just a brilliant history of Asia, but a vital history for Asians (Mohsin Hamid )

Lively ... engaging ... From the Ruins of Empire retains the power to instruct and even to shock. It provides us with an exciting glimpse of the vast and still largely unexplored terrain of anti-colonial thought that shaped so much of the post-western world in which we now live (Mark Mazower Financial Times )

Brilliant ... Mishra reverses the long gaze of the West upon the East, showing modern history as it has been felt by the majority of the world's population - from Turkey to China. These are the amazing stories of the grandfathers of today's angry Asians. Excellent (Orhan Pamuk )

Jolts our historical imagination ... a book of vast and wondrous learning and delightful and surprising associations that will give a new meaning to liberation geography (Hamid Dabashi (Professor Of Iranian Studies, Columbia University, New York) )

After Edward Said's masterpiece Orientalism, From the Ruins of Empire offers another bracing view of the history of the modern world. Pankaj Mishra [is] a brilliant author of wide learning ... skillful and captivating narration (Wang Hui (Professor Of Chinese Intellectual History, Tsinghua University, Beijing) )

Pankaj Mishra has produced a riveting account that makes new and illuminating connections. He follows the intellectual trail of this contested history with both intelligence and moral clarity. In the end we realise that what we are holding in our hands is not only a deeply entertaining and deeply humane book, but a balance sheet of the nature and mentality of colonisation (Hisham Matar )

Highly readable and illuminating ... Mishra's analysis of Muslim reactions is particularly topical (David Goodall Tablet )

Enormously ambitious but thoroughly readable, this book is essential reading for everyone who is interested in the processes of change that have led to the emergence of today's Asia (Amitav Ghosh Wall Street Journal )

Sophisticated ... not so much polemic as cri de coeur, motivated by Mishra's keen sense of the world, East and West, hurtling towards its own destruction (Tehelka, New Delhi )

Outstanding ... Mishra wears his scholarship lightly and weaves together the many strands of history into a gripping narrative ... The insights afforded by this book are too many to be enumerated ... Mishra performs a signal service to the future - by making us read the past in a fresh light (The Hindu, New Delhi )

[Full of] complexity and nuance (Mail Today )

Subtle, erudite and entertaining (Financial Express )

Mishra allows the reader to see the events of two centuries anew, through the eyes of the journalists, poets, radicals and charismatics who criss-crossed Europe and Asia (Free Press Journal )

A vital, nuanced argument ... prodigious (Mint )

About the Author

Pankaj Mishra is the author of Butter Chicken in Ludiana, The Romantics, An End to Suffering and Temptations of the West. He writes principally for the Guardian, The New York Times, London Review of Books and New York Review of Books. He lives in London, Shimla and New York.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 7 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have rather mixed feelings about this book. So first the plus points. The opening chapter gives an excellent, clear account of the actions of imperialists in China, India, Egypt, Iran and elsewhere, and sets the scene superbly for a good understanding of the why people in the East would view the West with suspicion and even hatred. The scholarship is excellent; Mishra is an intellectual, and gives interesting accounts of the the evolving philosophies of a range of key anti imperialist thinkers including Ghandi, Al-Afghani and Tagore in India and elsewhere, as well as Liang Qichao and Mao in China. The book is for the most part easy to read, and gives a strong sense of the alienation and indeed fury felt by many in the developing world up to the present day.

However, for me there were a number of negative points too. Although easy to read, this book has no overarching theme other than a general loathing of the West - Britain, France and the United States in particular. No action taken by the West is given any credit whatever, whereas the actions of Eastern rulers even when they have caused great suffering are brushed over as being part of the development in those countries. The only exception to this is for pro Western Asian leaders - for the author they were all despots, and their motivations were always about enriching a few, not the many. However, for the author Japanese imperialism in the 1930s brought freedom and self determination in its wake, and the Taliban brought order to Afghanistan. Never mind the horrors, and the denial of basic human rights perpetrated by those regimes. Mao comes in for criticism for his 'blunders' but praise for his anti imperialism. Pity the 'blunders' cost the lives of millions.

The scholarship is good, though highly selective.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book worth reading, if only because it allows us to see the history of imperialism as experienced by its victims.
Mishra is interested in analysing the intellectual response to Western dominance in the various forms it took from Japan to Egypt. In doing so he gives historical depth to modern day phenomena such as the Taliban, the Iranian revolution, Ataturk, the transformations of Chinese Communism etc. He sometimes understates the complexity of the situation inside the subjugated countries (e.g. I found him weak on the Ottoman Empire, which the Arabs did not see as an Islamic state but as alien rule, just as the people of the Balkans did.) Having reached a triumphalist conclusion about the "revenge of the East", however, he turns the tables on Asia, by pointing out that its liberation was achieved mostly by adopting Western ideas, and that Asia has so far failed to generate an alternative economic and social model - which is absolutely necessary in a world of finite resources.
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Format: Hardcover
The main body of the book consists of long chapters on three key thinkers Mishra picks out as indicative and influential: Jamal Al-Din Al Afghani in the Arab World, Liang Qichao in East Asia, and Rabindranath Tagore in India. He pulls out parallels and differences in their thought, puts them into context of the times they lived in, and the thinkers they engaged with, and generally gives a really good concise account (it seemed to me) of their thoughts on how Asia could resist Western Imperialism, and how their views emerged and then, in each case, evolved over time. It's quite scholarly but the blend of history, selective quotation, and explanation keeps it very readable for the general reader.

In the later chapters, he discusses what happened in Asia's relationship with the West in the 20th Century, and shows how these thinkers influenced things, where they were prophetic, and how new ideas of Asian national and ethnic identity developed. This is the really interesting part. It probably needs a book like this to understand topics which can often seems a bit impenetrable to Westerners, like the intellectual background to Mao's version of Chinese Communism, and how the Communist Party in China has changed over time to embrace Confucian beliefs. It's also really informative on the context of Indian independence which can sometimes be lost in the media's preoccupation with Gandhi as the dominant protagonist. I'm not really a very informed reader in this area and I certainly felt I had a much better grasp of these issues after reading this book, which isn't bad for a 310 page text!
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Format: Hardcover
A fascinating chronicle of the "pan-Asian" struggle against "European" and "white" domination. Unfortunately, in some ways it is a mirror of some moderately crass Eurocentric writings. To dismiss the Greek claim to western Anatolia (a centre of Greek population and culture for nearly three millennia) as "spurious" suggests a strange and limited view of Asian-ness, and the extensive mention of Islam barely hints at its historic perception - from other Asian angles - as a prepotent threat, a conqueror, massacrer, and enslaver in immense previously-Christian, Zoroastrian, and Hindu lands in Asia until European power briefly restrained it. The Japanese experience is perhaps the only area where sufficient context on inter-Asian struggle is given.

I enjoyed this book and found its comprehensive and valid view of one angle of one period of human struggle very rewarding. As promised, it gives a view of the collective experience and subjectivities of Asian peoples; it has enriched my mental model of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But it would have benefited from brief outlines of several other subjective views, vital elements of context for its main theme.
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