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After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  487 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Winner of the 2008 Wolfson History Prize for excellence in historical writing.

Tamerlane, the Ottomans, the Mughals, the Manchus, the British, the Japanese, the Nazis, and the Soviets: All built empires meant to last forever; all were to fail. But, as John Darwin shows in this magisterial book, their empire-building created the world we know today.

From the death of Tamerla
...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published August 18th 2009 by Bloomsbury Press (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,596)
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Szplug
Covering, to a degree, the timeframe and several themes popularly traversed by Paul Kennedy back in the mid-eighties with The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers , John Darwin has put together what is, in my opinion, one of the best Big Picture histories that I have ever had the pleasure to read. Clocking in a five-hundred-and-six pages of thick text, with the notes and chapter bibliographies to suitably awe the reader with the massive erudition and encompassing knowledge the British academic pos ...more
Gordon
Written by Oxford historian John Darwin, this is yet another of those grand sweeping books that covers centuries of world history. It is also one of the best works of history I have ever read. A single chapter on the history of the Middle East, for example, will give you more insight into that region than reading several years’ worth of New York Times op-eds and a pile of axe-grinding books. Likewise the Soviet Union. Or China. Or the British Empire. As vast as his scope is, Darwin does not have ...more
Adam
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 Middl ...more
Jim Coughenour
As several reviewers before me testify, Darwin has provided an impressive synthesis of world history centered on the "world empires" of Eurasia – which places the more celebrated (and reviled) careers of European imperialism in an illuminating context. Convenient points of comparison: Darwin avoids both the Eurocentric opprobrium of Mark Cocker's Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold and the triumphalism of William McNeill's classic The Rise of the West. His intellectual progenitor is the Victorian ge ...more
Øivind
I gave up on this book after a little more than 100 pages. So what made me dislike this book? To explain I will compare it to a favorite big picture history book of mine, "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers" by Paul Kennedy. What makes that book great? First, it has well defined theory, which is summed up by the term "imperial overreach". After 100 pages I don't really know what the theory in "After Tamerlane" is. I've been given a lot of reasons why the west was not yet ready to take on the ...more
Paul
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
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Dеnnis
A wonderful and pleasingly balanced take on the trajectories of world history since the XV century. I am positively impressed with the amount of space he dedicates to non-European states and affairs, making your understanding of global and regional history far more deeper and coherent. Not for nothing the book was a winner of the History Book of the Year. You may however be unimpressed with the lack of "one single reason" explanations for the rise and fall of empires and civilizations. This guy ...more
Daniel
I found AFTER TAMERLANE to be an endlessly fascinating book, but I have to confess that its scope and ambition have left me a little unsure whether I'm qualified to review it. That is, at least on such minor matters as Darwin's command of the relevant academic literature, and whether he fairly characterizes opposing viewpoints, I'm a little at a loss.

(I can say that when it comes to Darwin's treatment of American history, which I do know a little bit about, I thought his judgments were concise a
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Andrew Tollemache
i originally wish-listed this book because I thought it was about Tamerlane, but then it would have been called "During Tamerlane" I guess. Darwin lays out the narrative and causes for why the West/Europe did not really start to dominate or overpower other cultures until 200-300 years until after Columbus/De Gama. For centuries after 1492 the Chinese,Indian and pan-Asian Islamic civilizations equaled or surpassed Europe in terms of development and it was only the period from 1750-130 that saw t ...more
Sherwood Smith
A solid overview of history after Tamerlane died, a turning point chosen in part because this was the end of the massive "world island" empires, and because empire-building shifted to maritime after the 1400 years of exploration and colonization.

Darwin shifts the focus of world history to Eurasia, challenging the Eurocentric perspective on history, and also challenging (Western) concepts of modernity.

Immensely readable.
Nailya
This book nicely sums up all the more or less recent (1990s to about 2005) scholarship on the topic of 'Empires'. It's a great introduction to the subject for both students and general readers.

Unfortunately, that also proves to be the book's greatest weakness. Darwin combines this overview of very different topics with quite a forceful argument of his own. The former undermines the latter, as the details of his argument start to contradict each other. For example, was there a globalised world e
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Nick Black
really good so far!

An absolutely incredible recapping of a half-millennium's history, with a strong thesis uniting it all...the best picture of Asian and African history I've encountered up to this point, rectifying what had been disturbing gaps in my incomplete education. I've quite simply never read so fine a history attempting such broad, epic strokes. A fascinating, memorable masterpiece.
Omar Ali
An excellent overview of empires since Tamerlane. He is determined to change your perspective about many things, so there is a soft polemical feel to some of it. Very soft though. Very readable and informative.
Herman Venter
If you like history books by historians then this is a great way to get more insight into how we got the world we have today.

The book contrasts with and complements Guns, Germs and Steel. The latter is an entertaining but very biased exposition of a single idea. It reads well and makes a good case, but it does not let the facts get in the way of its advocacy.

After Tamerlane is quite readable, but it is sober and magisterial, as you would expect from a real historian at a great university.

For me
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Dan Markham
I laughed, I cried, I galloped over the Mongolian tundra on my Arabian Stallion.
Wouter de Visser
In Darwin’s Schaduw

De geschiedenis van deze wereld is er een van de opkomst en ondergang van grote wereldrijken. John Darwin’s boek After Tamerlane (2007), gepubliceerd door Penguin Books, heeft als onderwerp deze Empires. Met zijn boek weet Darwin iets wezenlijks toe te voegen aan onze kennis over Empires. Dit is deels te wijten aan de wijze waarop zijn boek is opgezet. Darwin hanteert een brede en comparatieve methode. Hij behandelt een grote reeks Empires in de periode 1400-2000. Juist door e
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Rindis
John Darwin's After Tamerlane is a look at empire making from 1400 to pretty much the current day. His beginning idea is that the Timurid state represents the last time that the age-old pattern of a vast Eurasian empire based out of the Iranian plateau played out, and he then goes on to examine the patterns of force that happened in place of this usual pattern of empire.

He effectively splits the Eurasian land-mass into four parts: Europe, Middle East, India, China, and examines what was going on
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Simon Wood
DARWINS ORIGINS AND LIFES OF EMPIRES

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 o
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Rob
This book is just purely and simply badly written.
It has a strange structure. It is a big book (592 Pages). It somehow manages to ramble but yet not be discursive. It is very much skimming the surface. But yet it does not seem to have a grand theme or theory.
It is not compelling. He is not telling a story or making interesting links or even for that matter giving some sort of insight.
As a writer John Darwin seems to have problems. His writing just does not flow. He often uses cliché. He actual
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Kevin Tole
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 lo ...more
William
"The West" is just an aberration.

Many histories profiling the rise of Europe and America in these centuries chart an unbroken accession of power that reaches new heights of progress. But the real story is more uneven and dynamic under the comparative worldview offered by John Darwin in his "After Tamerlane: the Global History of Empire Since 1405." Europe's rise to power was an accident of history, while it was no accident that Asia predominated in its many iterations of empire.

Darwin begins wit
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Malcolm
Towards the end of this sweep across six centuries of global history, Darwin sums up the problem this book addresses by pointing out that histories of modern empire are quite good at explaining Europe's success in dominating the 'Outer World' but fail for the most part to adequately account for its uneven, and for the most part failed, domination of Eurasia, and the uneven forms that 'empire' took in Eurasia itself. This summation of the problem reveals the great strength of this book, it is glo ...more
Laura Jordan
So there are microhistories, and then histories, and then macrohistories, and then MACROHISTORIES. Guess which one this is?

As much as I enjoyed this book (and as much as I was astonished by the pure range of Darwin's expertise), there were points were I felt like he was just trying to do too much and essentially skimming the surface in the process. Fundamentally, I wanted more depth, more of a story, and less of a all-encompassing Cinemascope panorama. (I know, I know, that's not what macrohist
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Lazarus
An extraordinarily ambitious book that realizes its ambitions to a remarkable degree. After Tamerlane is a 600 year history of world empires stretching from the death of Tamerlame (Timur the Lame) in 1405 to the end of the Cold War and the tidal wave of globalization that marked the end of the twentieth century.

With erudite prose that synthesizes a great deal of knowledge in the political, economic, cultural and religious realms of world history, After Tamerlane is a veritable gold mine of inf
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Maitrey
It's a staggeringly comprehensive tour through the history of the world, after the death of Timur but mainly focuses on regions of the world that have produced large Empires such as Europe, East Asia, Southern and Central Asia and now of course, North America.

Explaining how Timur was probably the last empire-builder to focus only on the trade routes of Eurasia, Darwin then shatters the myth of European pre-destiny to rule the world by proving that they had no head start till mid Eighteenth Centu
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Marks54
This is an effective ma cro history, but which I mean I long detailed history that makes a convincing case for some broad trends in the ebb and flow of world history beyond the details of particular wars or political events. There are several broad general histories around. Very few have an effective macro-historical logic that goes beyond a general summary. This book is one of them.

So what is the story? It is that when you see a time of rising globalization in the world economy - the growth of
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Andy
The book is a history of the raise and fall of global empires from 1400-2000. The Tamerlane of the title is Timur the Lame, the last great conqueror from the steppes of Central Asia, who died in 1405. After Timur, the author argues, we see the end of such nomadic empires and the beginning of the development of the modern state system.

The book focuses on the three major culture zones of Eurasia, the European (including Russia and the US), the Islamic (including the Muslim ruled states in India) a
...more
M.J.
This is a very dense book, as one might expect of a book chronicling 500 years worth of empires. It is intelligently written and makes some compelling points, but it was slow to get through the 500+ pages of tiny print, not the least because one felt the time it took to read each page -- I have read longer books that certainly did not take as long, or at the very least did not feel as though they were a struggle to be endured. The heart of this book's problem is that it reads like a dry text boo ...more
Paul
John Darwin offers a wide-angle view of "the history of global empire since 1405" in clear prose and enough detail to orient but not overwhelm. Backing up far enough to see Eurasia (instead of Europe and Asia) and its three cultural areas - west, east and south - as whole units, Darwin assembles the scholarship of the last generation or so of historians into a narrative exploring three themes: the growth of globalization, the growth of empire, and the resilience of states and cultures pressed by ...more
Maja
When reading this book I was reminded of a certain 'Friends' episode - you know, the one where Joey learns how to use a thesaurus? He wants so desperately to sound smart that he uses the thesaurus on every single word. The result: an incromprehensible text. Sort of the same thing happened here, though I don't think it was a thesaurus that John Darwin used. I have no doubt that all the words in this book came from his own head, but do think thathe was so concerned about sounding smart and intelli ...more
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Historian, currently Beit Lecturer in the History of the British Commonwealth at Oxford university, whose research interests include: The history of European imperialisms; the British empire circa 1880-1970 and the history and politics of decolonisation.
More about John Darwin...
Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System, 1830-1970 The End of the British Empire: The Historical Debate Britain And Decolonisation: The Retreat From Empire In The Post War World A Christmas Gathering: Collected Tales of Faith, Family, and Friends at Christmas

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