Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Age of Empires

Imperialism, much like smoking, has seen a downturn in its popularity due to its deadly side effects. Once regarded as a source of economic wealth and national pride, empire building has now become an example of being a poor neighbor - the bully on the global playground. Our new book The Age of Empires, edited by Robert Aldrich, examines the chequered history of 13 empire-builders (including the Americans). The Austro-Hungarians come off relatively well, having confined themselves to simply taking over other Europeans, but the other countries in this book spread themselves far and wide across the globe. Aldrich confines himself to a specific time period - the Renaissance to present day - which explains the absence of such past power players as the Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Mongols, Mughals, Aztecs and Incas. Overall, Age of Empires helps explain the backdrop of many of today's hot-button issues: the war in Bosnia, the economic collapse in Zimbabwe, class conflicts in Brazil and tensions in the Middle East. This is a nice overview of a specific aspect of world history, with lots of beautiful illustrations and helpful maps. It is also well-researched, with an extensive bibliography and list of notes in the back. Anyone interested in history, economics and cultural relations would enjoy reading this lovely book.

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