'Has the fate of the Siberian natives been similar to that of the Indians and Eskimos of North America?' the
author asks. The answer is, extremely similar, but the tale has been less told. A sad and bloody tale, and the first full
This famous book is a bit spoilt for me by his uncritical quotation of the Chinese on the Uighurs. In
Schafer's text too they are 'arrogant, haughty' and nothing else, their behaviour when in China enough to disgust a
civilized person. H...
This book is a like a bomb thrown in the steppe cause. It goes off messily, but messy's what you need,
arguably, when the cause is down and out, when you want to start a revolution. The giant prologue and epilogue are where
the genius li...
Here's an obscure book.
I hate to take a point off, but have to: the footnotes are in a riotous state, and much of the text is too. I've never
seen a scholarly book more in need of an organisational hand. Also, the actual coverage of K...
This is a crazy book too, of which I am very fond, for its originality - major originality.
I found it chaotic to read the first time, but not the second.
He has a few weird theories. I disagree madly with one or two. For me, though,...
The translation I'm fondest of: Francis W. Cleaves, who has run afoul of the majority for his attempt at a
King James Bible English. He argued that he should be archaic, like his original, and that the King James style was
A marvelous account of Mongol religion and ritual, with chapters such as 'Elegant Armour and Ancient
Trouvailles' on the shaman's costume... a title I just had to quote. True, it's about the Daur Mongols, and has stuff that
mightn't be t...
Invaluable. From an insider, and obviously, in deep sympathy with the culture. Start here.
Fantastic. Key for nomads and politics. Do, do start here, and not with, for instance, the more famous
Khazanov. One has to take sides on these matters: Salzman gives you quite a different interpretation, and me, I was glad
to have Khaza...
I have severe issues with this book. It's the standard biography of Genghis/Chinggis Khan, and how I wish that
wasn't so. On a positive note, it's stuffed full of information.
Its most egregious negative: have other people noticed this...
Am deeply fond of this book. Huc and Gabet were French priests out to convert Mongols. Don't be put off: they
have the attitude of explorers, they write a fantastic, lively travel book and they fail to make conversions. Unlike other
Wonderful, if you have an interest in ethnic groups and China, and the troubled, ambiguous history of the
foreign and foreigners in China. This book uses the word 'ambiguity' a lot, always a great sign, for me. If you're into
I threw this one in for the great title.
If you have a reason to explore the Chinese and war - war with other cultures - you'll come across this. Lots of
excitement on that academic front lately.
He has gone on to help invent Big History. He always thought big: this, perhaps more than any other book,
explains how and why the steppe was different from the start. You'd never know what's in there by the title.
I have to wish this wasn't the standard history on the Mongols. In the second edition he adds a chapter on
scholarship since 1985. Read that, and see what a change there has been in our ideas. But he has 'not tried to update the
If only this were three times the size. Has he more in store for us? His 'introductory essays' are stuffed
with new, sensible, fascinating ideas, facts, conclusions. There's a lot in the A-Z part too of great enlightenment. Can't
he do u...
The only book on the subject, guys. Grab it.
Half the book is 'political history' and half is 'aspects of cultural history'. The politics covers less than a century,
so you get to know the actors in this drama - a few amazing people. T...
These were hard to get hold of. They've been a bit bagged, too, as uneven (scholarship-wise), but I found them
worth the hassle. Large coverage of ideas: religion, science, the arts. Massive in scope, in fact.
Why hasn't this book got a galaxy of stars?
His two books on culture - cross-culture - under the Mongols have changed the arena. We're wrestling in a different arena,
since. Maybe the other one's more fun.
Here's his other one. Dear me, three stars?
Can I tempt you with this? The scholar asks, "is the image of Mongols draped in gilded cloth that would gladden the
heart of a Liberace really true?"
Questions that need an answer.
A lavish picture book that cost me way too much. Mongol Persia, and the art that resulted. Art fashions
changed with the Mongols: they liked portraiture and book-painting... gloriously illustrated books, just like this one.
Made for the historical novelist. For other people too, I guess. He wants to tell us about the 'self-
understanding of the societies discussed' - through 'self-description'. We see the society in its own terms. He says, I do
not call a ce...
The devil's advocate. Steppe politics - nobody understands it. This wants to overturn everything you think you
know. Tribal egalitarianism? - out the window. Liberty, equality - a fantasy of the observer. Look, I'm not convinced. But
It's great. About Uighur refugees after the collapse of their steppe state, and how they tried to negotiate
with China: can we come in? We've helped you in the past.
As the author makes you aware, we have most of this history from Chine...
A little hard to get through to be honest. But valuable, and pretty much on its own. The intersections of old
steppe religion (my interest, and he unearths things I haven't found elsewhere) with Islam.
A major work on Hulegu and the early days of Mongol Iran. Absolutely fascinating, and often new. It isn't
'just' the political history - it casts a wide net. I learnt a great deal about law courts and the operations of law - in
A hodgepodge of essays. Patchy - for me - but the one by Gideon Shelagh I think a quiet revolution. It's about
steppe identity, nomad ideology (uses those phrases) and concludes that the decision to go nomad was often a 'political
The only history of China for me.
For my purposes (steppe study) - he is no less than fantastic on the frontier states or conquest dynasties... right up
until the Mongols. I felt let down in that section. However, he still gets five sta...
I doubt you can do better on the topic. Sensible, stuffed with information, and not off-putting to me, who's
on the Mongols' side.
Old and obscure, but I found this quite valuable for ideas I hadn't met elsewhere.
This is a tiny little picture book, and at first sight, easy to mistake as one for the kids. But it's great.
The pictures, along with the highly intelligent captions on them, give a wealth of cultural insight. The text, while short
Written in 1900 (the Russian version) and still indispensable.
This state has an interesting history, which Ruth Dunnell has to herself in English.
This has been a must-read since it came out, because it's a book with a theory. Whether you are convinced or
unconvinced by the theory of steppe history here, you have to engage with this one. As a matter of fact I'm largely
Why do I like this one? It's an older book - the German dates from 1935, as far as I can determine; I've seen
it scorned as a less than serious contender in Mongol histories. I didn't expect much when I read it.
It has a concept of nom...
If The Secret History is what you're after, Waley only gives extracts. As he says himself, "Of The Secret
History, I have translated only the parts founded on story-teller's tales." Whatever he means by that, it's loose
Unless you can trawl through academic journals, or read French, there's so little in the way of historical
work on indigenous steppe religion. It's great to have this: a survey that pulls together the information, and tries to
Jack Weatherford is a cultural anthropologist whose speciality is tribal peoples. He has written several books
I value - 'Indian Givers', 'Savages and Civilization', 'Native Roots'. He brings to this one on the Mongols a knowledge
Not enough content... I can't help but suspect exploitation of the subject after his hit with Genghis Khan and
the Making of the Modern World, where he had a lot to say.
I like Jack Weatherford - sorry to be a downer
PS. If you're int...
Old-fashioned in a bad sense.
Sketchy - more like an archeologist's adventures - didn't strike me as specialist enough, and she leaps from
culture to culture.
Excellent, on a subject on which there are almost no books.
Three sections: Politics; Religion and Thought; Literature and Art. Heavy on the cultural side, but you can get your
history elsewhere. I like most the chapter on a poet who li...
Fascinating and very different. Mostly, it's about loyalist suicide when China was lost to the Mongols: a
study of the psychology, the cultural traits behind a fashion in loyalist suicide like nothing outside of the Romans. We
need this ...
Firsthand history - diaries, eye-witnesses - in very troubled times. Fifteen different accounts. A major siege
seen from the inside - with a massacre at the end - sticks in my head.
More about diplomacy, I thought. If you want to know about diplomacy between the Mongols and Mamluke Egypt.
Old but never obsolete. The one to go to on steppe epic: thorough, funny, not in the least old-fashioned, in a
bad way. An enjoyment to read and tells you everything you're likely to find out, unless you have other languages.
The Textbook. And worthy to be. It's just great, on every society.
I learnt about eagles - ignorant of them before, I learnt to have the awe for them I ought to. Grand
descriptions of the Altai Mountains. - That's where he goes, to find the old-style Kazakh hunters with eagles.
This is half-history, half-novel. Or history told like a novel; with extracts from the original material -
whole pages of speech from The Secret History, for example - and with picturesque chapter names such as 'Misery and
Grandeur of th...
I doubt I can be objective on this book. It was my first full-scale history of the steppe; my first real
acquaintance with the life of Jenghiz Khan, too (as spelt in Grousset). First published 1939; in print for its 'majestic
sweep and g...
'Dirse Khan came home. He called to his wife, "Come here, luck of my head, throne of my house, my sugar-
melon, my honey-melon."'
'great sorrow came over his wife; her black almond eyes filled with bloody tears'
'the boy gave the bull a...
You need that cover big-scale. It's a gilt-bronze grave mask from the steppe society of the Qidan (known as
the Liao). Better than Tutankhamen.
Aside from the pictures, the text in this book is high-standard. I learnt things about the ...
Old - 1950 - but indispensible, and militarily, beats whatever else I've read since
This is an old work from 1949. It is exhaustive and you can't do without this book, in spite of its age - it's
hard to imagine such a thorough work, heavy on my lap, being either compiled or published these days. Call me a cynic.
For Yule's notes. A treasure-house.
On the 'barbarian' dynasties Liao and Jin, created by northern tribal peoples, the Khitan and the Jurchen.
More about Liao, for Jin quickly took on Chinese culture and values. Even in Jin, though, observers from Song China noted
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