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Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, and: The Mongols and the West, 1221–1410, and: Daily Life in the Mongol Empire, and: The Secret History of the Mongols: A Mongolian Epic Chronicle of the Thirteenth Century (review)
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Reviewed by
Christopher P. Atwood, Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire. x + 678 pp., maps, illus. New York: Facts on File, 2004. ISBN 0816046719. $85.00.
Peter Jackson, The Mongols and the West, 1221–1410. xxxiv + 414 pp., maps. London: Pearson, 2005. ISBN 0582368960. $29.00.
George Lane, Daily Life in the Mongol Empire. xvi + 312 pp. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006. ISBN 0313332266. $49.95.
Igor de Rachewiltz, trans. and ed., The Secret History of the Mongols: A Mongolian Epic Chronicle of the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols., maps, illus. cxxvii + 1347 pp. Leiden: Brill, 2004. ISBN 9004131590. $259.00 cloth; $99.00 paper.

Although the history of what David Christian has called "Inner Eurasia" may seem less than relevant to many who study Russia, being aware of steppe history and culture is of potential importance for understanding Russian history and culture.1 Russia existed in the context of Eurasian influence flows, not isolated from them. The books reviewed here can assist one in better understanding that context.

Some years ago, as a result of the number of books in my library exceeding the amount of space available to it, I decided that I would reserve my purchase of books only to those I could justify using as reference materials, especially in terms of being the starting point for research on a particular topic. That decision has resulted in a sometimes fancy justification on my part for books that technically are not reference books but that I felt I needed anyway. The books under review here are each in its own way significant achievements, and all are candidates to be considered as "reference" books (with or without fancy justification) for those interested in beginning or continuing their research on the relationship of the Mongols to Eurasian history. [End Page 431] I would like to frame this review, however, within the context of analytical-versus-descriptive reference works. The distinction is between a reference book that is meant as an introduction to the topic, and thus tends to be mainly a descriptive read-write of consensus views, and one that is meant to add to scholarly understanding of the topic through analysis of primary and secondary sources as well as of the scholarly literature.

Peter Jackson is professor of medieval history at Keele University. He is the author of The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History as well as a number of fine articles, including "From Ulus to Khanate: The Making of the Mongol States c. 1220–c. 1290," "The Dissolution of the Mongol Empire," and "The State of Research: The Mongol Empire, 1986–1999."2 The Mongols and the West is his highly touted study of the Mongol invasion of Europe and its repercussions. It has 7 maps in quarto format that are easy-to-use sharp black-and white-images, 3 appendices (one discussing whether Marco Polo traveled to China, one containing a glossary of terms used, and one with genealogical tables and lists of rulers mentioned), and a 29-page bibliography.

Jackson writes that he is concerned mainly with presenting the chronological and geopolitical history of Mongol relations with "the West," here implicitly understood to mean "Latin Christendom." He begins his study with 1221 because that is the first time that Latin Christendom hears of the campaigns of Chinggis Khan in Central Asia. He ends with 1410 because the Battle of Tannenberg in that year marks the end of the Jochid Ulus (which he calls "the Golden Horde") as the dominant power in Eastern Europe. He states that he has avoided seeing Mongol relations with the West as "some great confrontation between 'nomadic' and 'sedentary' societies." Furthermore, he writes that he has "avoided casting the phenomena ... in terms of an age-old clash of the steppe and sown" (5). The reasons for these avoidances on his part are that our sources are "overwhelmingly" those of writers from sedentary societies, so that representations of "the thought-processes of the nomadic pastoralist reach us, if at all, second hand"; and by the time of the invasion of Europe, the Mongol empire was a "hybrid," as Mongols had interacted with and "recruited representatives of the various settled...