Review: The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes, Kenneth W. Harl

Rating: 4 out of 5

I really enjoyed this one — there was a lot of in depth knowledge, and the steppes have not been my speciality in any way thus far. If there is anything for me to throw against this, then there were some lapses in coverage insofar as I am aware — although perhaps because they don’t qualify as either “barbarians”, “empires”, or “of the steppes”.

In specific, I would have liked to hear about the Manchus in more detail as well as about the internal strife in the Commonwealth and the Russian lands caused by the Cossacks. However, the coverage granted was mostly concerned with first the Hunnic peoples, then the Turkish tribes and lastly the Mongols. It slightly looked as if the author had tried to fit everything into a neat story, but the generic premise of this series worked well.

It is also clear that the author’s fascination with China and the barbarian-civilised conflict led him to focus more on that topic. As it is a brilliant theme to ponder on, I cannot fault him that at all — matter of fact, it’s quite possibly the main take-away message. The strong become weak, and are replaced by people who were quite like them to begin with.

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