Work Title: After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire Since 1405
Work Author(s): John Darwin
9 illustrations, 23 maps, 575 pages, Hardcover $34.95
Reviewer: Joe Taylor
The British freetraders of the early nineteenth century imagined globalization---or the global colonialism that was then practiced by European states---as a great social panacea that would distribute the earth's resources and promote harmony among nations. John Darwin's After Tamerlane might be seen as a history of the process, albeit non-linear and turbulent, of globalization. And Darwin argues that the freetraders have so far been wrong. At the end of this exhaustive Global History of Empire Since 1405, he compares the "Eurasian Revolution" of the late eighteenth century, which saw the emergence of the industrialized economies of Europe, with the current "extraordinary moment" in world affairs that has come about since the fall of the Soviet empire and the movement toward free markets in China. Darwin shows that patterns of trade, migration, and conquest---the rise and fall of empires---have not "homogenized" the world (as the freetraders predicted), but have generally kept its nations diverse and resistant to outside interference. He adds that globalization, and the industrial capitalism that has been its distinguishing feature for the past two hundred years, has wrought uneven benefits upon both citizens and subjects. Except where support and detail are abundant, Darwin distances himself from generalizations, easy answers, and popular theories. His stance is generally neutral and his tone is scholarly and dispassionate, but his voice rings with authority. John Darwin is an Oxford fellow and renowned global historian. His previous books, Britain and Decolonization, The End of the British Empire, and Britain, Egypt and the Middle East, establish him as an expert on modern British imperial history. But here he broadens his focus to the competitive empire-building that occurred over the past five hundred years in Eurasia, which he calls the "center of gravity" of modern history. Darwin foregoes a Eurocentric or Western view of "smiling fields and bustling towns," or of progressive European states acting upon a passive, less-than-civilized outer world. He consistently refuses to associate the West with "modernity" or "progress," unless genocide, slavery, fascism, or the denial of voting rights for women can be considered modern...