Tamerlane was the last of the 'world conquerors': his armies looted and killed from the shores of the Mediterranean to the frontier of China. Nomad horsemen from the Steppes had been the terror of Europe and Asia for centuries, but with Tamerlane's death in 1405, an epoch of history came to an end. The future belonged to the great dynastic empires - Chinese, Mughal, Iranian and Ottoman - where most of Eurasia's culture and wealth was to be found, and to the oceanic voyagers from Eurasia's 'Far West', just beginning to venture across the dark seas.
After Tamerlane is an immensely important and stimulating work. It takes a fresh look at our global past. Our idea of world history is still dominated by the view from the West: it is Europe's expansion that takes centre-stage. But for much of the six-hundred year span of this book. Asia's great empires seemed much more than a match for the intruders from Europe. It took a revolution in Eurasia to change this balance of power, although never completely. The Chinese empire, against all the odds, has survived to this day. The British empire came and went. The Nazi empire was crushed almost at one. The rise, fall and endurance of empires - and the causes behind them - remain one of the most fascinating puzzles in world history.
Was Europe's domination of the modern international order the inevitable rise of a superior civilization or the piratical hijacking of an evolving world system? A little of both, and a lot of neither, this ambitious comparative study argues because world history's real "center of gravity" sits in Eurasia. Historian Darwin (The End of the British Empire) contends that an ascendant Western imperialism was a sideshow to vast, wealthy and dynamic Asian empires in China, Mughal India, the Ottoman Middle East and Safavid Iran which proved resistant to Western encroachment and shaped the world into the 21st century. Europe's overseas colonial empires as well as the expansions of the United States across North America and Russia across Siberia was not inevitable, but rather a slow, fitful and often marginal enterprise that didn't accelerate until the mid-19th century. Darwin analyzes the technological, organizational and economic advantages Europeans accrued over time, but shows how dependent their success was on the vagaries of world trade (the driving force of modern imperialism, in his account) and the internal politics of the countries they tried to control. Nicely balanced between sweeping overview and illuminating detail, this lucid survey complicates and deepens our understanding of modern world history. Photos.