Review: Genghis Khan, Jack Weatherford

Rating: 5 out of 5

I really enjoyed this, mostly due to Mr Weatherford’s perspective in putting himself in the shoes of the people he is describing. Too many historians never give credence to the actual difficulties which would have been in the minds of the people they are describing due to their distance from what they are describing. The author’s description of why the visit to the Khan’s original homeland was helpful is, in that way, an eye-opener and one which should be emulated. Continue reading “Review: Genghis Khan, Jack Weatherford”

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”. Continue reading “Review: The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes, Kenneth W. Harl”

Review: Prisoners of Geography, Tim Marshall

I recently read Tim Marshall’s ‘Prisoners of Geography’, and this short post here is meant to be a brief look at some points within there that I disagreed with.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Overall, the book is written in a very poetic style — too much so for what it should be like for the topics considered. What is more important, however, is the cluttering of bad phrases and inadequate comparisons which do no justice to the book. Continue reading “Review: Prisoners of Geography, Tim Marshall”

On How Mr Asimov Was Correct

I am sure that Isaac Asimov was right about a number of things, and not the least amongst these is his portrayal of General Bel Riose. Previously, it has been widely know that it can find proof in Belisarius but I saw a similar instance in the Chinese histories. Namely, while reading ‘The Tatar Whirlwind’ I found note of a Ming General, Yuan Chonghuan.

This Yuan Chonghuan was executed by the Ming Emperor when the Jurchen enemies started rumours of how the General would betray the Emperor. While none of his previous actions had done anything to substantiate these rumours, the Emperor feared for his life and position — and that fear quickly allowed General Yuan to see the last sunrise of his life.

Belisarius, as we well know, was not executed but rather retired from public life after becoming too prominent for Justinianus to like him. In any case, the situation is practically the same.

There are certainly a number of other commanders who can fit into this category, but rather than look for more of the same, I’ll present a metaphor that I found in the chapter in ‘The Tatar Whirlwind’:

“Since antiquity, have there been instances in which military men have been able to perform meritorious service while there have been powerful officials at court?”
— Ryotaro Shiba, ‘The Tatar Whirlwind’, p. 443

How close and similar is this to Mr Asimov’s in-universe explanation to why the Empire’s Bel Riose would not defeat the Foundation:

“Look at the situation. A weak general could never have endangered us, obviously. A strong general during the time of a weak Emperor would never have endangered us, either; for he would have turned his arms towards a much more fruitful target. … It was the success of Riose that was suspicious. So he was recalled, and accused, condemned, murdered. ”
— I. Asimov, ‘Foundation and Empire’, p. 85

In other words, what Mr Asimov wrote in the ‘Foundation and Empire’ has a number of parallels in history, and they all substantiate what he thought of. Surely, that was the case before I knew of Yuan Chenghuan, but I was personally rather pleased at finding another example of the same.

The logic behind the actions has clearly stayed the same, but the feeling that I had when I read that part in ‘The Tatar Whirlwind’ was… of literature making its way into life. And I knew well that General Yuan had lived a three centuries before Mr Asimov. Yet, it all was more alive: Bel Riose and Yuan Chenghuan breathed anew, if only for a second in my mind.

Those two could probably talk of so many things…

Lily and Bread

“If you’ve got only two pennies left, buy a loaf of bread for one and a lily for the other.”

— Chinese proverb

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