Review: The Mongols, Tim Newark

Rating: 4 out of 5

Mr Newark’s short but detailed summary of ‘The Mongols’ is interesting primarily because of it’s focus on Asia. Unlike the typical narrative that focusses on the Middle East and European contacts, short-lived as they were, these incidents get a short mention (well, a page plus a plate) here while incursions into Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, and India are also described. The incorporation of maps could have also helped to make the series of events clearer, though that is clearly not the focus of this work.

The primary focus of this work is the 13th century, but the origin of the Mongols, based on their own stories, is also given a place. Beyond that, the slow rise of the tribe, under Temujin, is described until the hordes ride into China and start conquering there. The Chinese expansion is given the biggest space, while after this the South-East Asian raids are also described. Towards the west, the author covers the incorporation of the Central Asian cities, the destruction of the Assassins, and the attacks against the Rus, the Mamluks, and both Hungary and Poland.

Regrettably, the last are also where the biggest mistakes I saw come into the work. The first one of these related to the illustration of Kiev, where imposing mountains were depicted in the background. The second mistakes was the Pyramids being shown in the background of the battle of Ain Jalut which took place in Palestine. These are relatively minor quibbles with the plates, but as these illustrations are the emphasis of the work, I was unhappy about it, though both choices were probably made to add dramatic effect. The rest of the plates I did enjoy, especially the ones which shows Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai clothing and equipment.

Overall, a great title with some deficiencies! It wouldn’t work as the only source on the Mongols, but it’s a great book to scroll through to understand what their life was like.

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