Khubilai Khan's Lost Fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada. By James P. Delgado. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2008. Maps. Illustrations. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xi, 225. $20.00 ISBN: 978-0-520-26585-1
This is a multi-level work that moves between the present and the past and back again. It is interwoven with the history and culture of different periods. The main theme is the thwarted naval ambitions of the Grand Khan who controlled the largest empire in the world from the China Sea to the plains of Hungary but couldn't rule the sea against the Divine Wind--the Kamikaze. His greatest achievement was the unification of China. He was the first to make the transition from a nomadic conqueror to a sedentary ruler of a domestic economy. But the end of expansion came with the failure of his attempted overseas invasion.
The book is also about the development of ships and maritime trade in Asia from prehistoric time to today. There had long been a pattern of seagoing activity as far as India, the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Africa, but the arrival of the Mongols brought a new era of aggression. Counter to common opinion, Japan was not an isolated, unknown, closed entity. There was considerable trade with the mainland of Korea, China, and Indo China with an exchange of not only goods, but also of ideas and culture.
At the time of the main story, there were still new lands to conquer not too far away, but over water that the thundering Mongol hordes and their fabled horses could not easily cross. However, Khubilai had inherited and seized the world's greatest navy, of a size and with...