Based on the humble beginnings of the nomads that brought the world Genghis Khan, this is a an absolute gem that tracks the fateful footsteps that literally changed the world. After reading one or two of other history texts/guides I was sceptical that this would be any different to the other stuffy takes on history. Imagine my surprise when I found this book to be easy to understand and almost light-hearted, Marshall wasn't content in dumping loads of facts onto the reader. Instead, he broke it down to give a more rounded picture of the pesonalities he was discussing, which was refreshing! Another thing that struck me was that Marshall was happy to roll around in the Mongolian traditions trying very hard to explain Genghis Khan's motivation, his true genius of building an army out of scratch.
Don't be fooled though, into thinking that this book is just about Genghis Khan. It is, but it focuses just as much on the iconic man's legacy - changing the world as we knew it. He was quite literally a storm from the East terrorising the nations of the world but Genghis Khan also left heirs that provided dynasties to countries such as China and India. Admittedly, a step down from his original ambition of being 'the Supreme Ruler of the Universe'! A must read for history buffs.
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At first, let me refer to the book introduction, as I am not a native English speaker and I think it does a far better job in describing the book content than me. "In the middle of the thirteenth century ... there emerged from the East a vast empire that eventually spanned the breadth of Asia. ... This book dramatically describes how the Mongol Empire was forged under the banner of one of the greatest generals in history - Genghis Khan - and ruled by men who, just a generation before, had been simple nomadic tribesmen. It tells some of the greatest military conquests in history, and brings to life such characters as the great Khubilai Khan who unified China and became patron of the art before the Empire disintegrated in the fourteenth century. The scope of Mongol conquests astounds the imagination. The Mongol armies swept out of the Eastern steppes, conquering all before them: China, Persia, Russia and Eastern Europe all came under Mongol rule. Just forty years after they had crossed the River Danube, the Mongols were launching an invasion of Japan. Out of the breathtaking military success, there developed a sophisticated imperial government that brought stability to Asia, encouraged religious and racial tolerance, and fostered international trade. Storm from the East describes how, through the expansion of Empire, the East confronted the West, shattering forever the West's Eurocentric view of the world. The Mongol Empire shaped the political contours of modern Asia and, in the process, created the idea of one world for the first time in history. Illustrated throughout in colour, Storm from the East will transform our image of 'nomadic barbarian' into one of amazement at the extraordinary achievements of the Mongol hordes". Now, my personal opinion goes here. This quite nicely written and richly illustrated with maps and colour pictures book deserves a good reader. It has fairly detailed account of history of Mongol Empire and tries to show the Mongol way of thinking, which is a big plus. I especially like it that the book tells the reader (English speakers) it was the Mongols that opened East to the West and vice versa, for the first time. It was the energy of Mongols that inspired and led to great many discoveries, including Americas. I think the writer is not so familiar with Mongol life style, because I, as a Mongolian, could point out several minor errors in the book. But these do not affect the nature of the book and I would recommend this book to everybody who has decided not to ignore the history, no matter whose.
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Having watched the excellent BBC series on 'Genghis & Sons' in the early 90's I was hooked on all things 13th Century Mongol and purchased this incredible book. By reading this book you fully realise the impact and legacy that this small nation of illiterate nomadic horseman had on Asia and the rest of the world. Did he exist? There is barely a mention of him in Western Education but, from a historical perspective, no single man has had such a profound effect on the world ( excepting those of a supernatural persuasion ) than Genghis Khan. What he achieved, with a little help from Subedie, is incomparable ( slaughter aside though we've had plenty before and since )and he created the greatest land empire ever. The 2 huge 'Ifs'. What if his heir, Ogadai had not had a premature death with Europe and Christendom at the mercy of the Mongol armies at Budapest? What if Genghis's other son Mongke,the Great Khan immediately after Ogadai, had not had a premature death just as Heluga with the 300,000 strong Mongol army and allies were about to crush the Mamelukes in Egypt. The irony is is that Khan isnt even a Moslem name but is now widely used and revered in the Islamic world. Moslems suffered horrendously against the Mongol armies. There is a smaller if, though a big one from a Japanese persepective, 'What if there wasnt a storm that smashed the invading armada of Kublai Khans ( grandson to Genghis ) army as they were about to land in Japan.
Without the 'ifs' the Mongols achievements are truly breathtaking anyway and 'westerners' really should get to know the most famous and successful conqueror, of such humble beginning and background, the world has ever seen. Their ruthlessness, cunning, adaptation and eagerness to learn made the Mongols the greatest conquerers the world has ever seen.
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Another excellent book from the BBC, providing a short but informative account of the Mongols. As the title suggests this history is told mainly from a European point of view, I imagine to the Chinese the Mongols were a storm from the West.
Robert Marshall writes in a very clear and readable style, and the narrative describes events in chronological order making it easy to follow. He does not go into too much detail about the culture and history of the Mongols themselves, but concentrates on their military conquests and the effect this had on world history.
The book does however suggest that Marshall is something of an admirer of the Mongols, a view which is hard to justify. In one part he argues that the Mongols were not just savage barbarians, then goes on to describe how they were responsible for killing more than 50 million people in their conquests.
Overall though this is a quick accessible history book which provides a great introduction and summary of the subject. Anyone studying medieval history would do well to read a copy to get a better understanding of how this vast empire joined East and West together for the first time.