Thursday, May 22, 2008

The new book by Rein Mullerson on Central Asia

It seems that Central Asia inspires books that are not only long but great, in the sense of a broad compass covered with erudition. The books that have awed me and helped me understand the historic processes in Central Asia are not numerous but have provided, for me, a basic education in how to think about social processes over a long trajectory. The most notable one was Lattimore’s Inner Asian Frontiers of China, which I had to teach several times in order to have felt I comfortably had internalized Lattimore’s sense of the sweep of history. From Lattimore I learned all the more how valuable Marx is for the understanding of history. Grosset’s Empire of the Steppes is of course another awesome work. And, even though much more modest in size but no less seminal, were the several works on Central Asia [“the world island”] by Halford MacInder. Another work that few would connect with Central Asia that has given me a sense of the impact of the Central Asia “hordes” has been Marc Bloc [Feudal Society, about a medieval world that regularly prayed for protection against “the arrows of the Hungarians,” p 41]. [Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History, for all its coverage of the world elsewhere, says little about Central Asia per se.] And I am awed, even cowed, by the recent work of Djalili and Kellner, Géopolitique de la nouvelle Asia centrale: De la fin de l”URSS à l’après-11 septembre.

But the discovery of Rein Mullerson’s Central Asia : A Chessboard and Player in the New Great Game [Kegal Paul] has humbled me all the more. Mullerson displays a broad grasp of the literature of the region, including of course that in Russian, as well as a rich sophistication in the great works of the English speaking world. The price, however, is outrageous : $144.00. Such is the value of the dollar now.


Christian B said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I could only find one copy available through and it was $245 (hardcover). Thank goodness for the interlibrary loan system.

Bob said...

Thanks, Christian B:

What I don't understand is why it is so high priced. The author might as well have published the book himself. Lets hope they are coming out with a new, cheaper edition. Central Asia is not just an exotic place: it is a strategic place -- and the public needs to have access to reliable and informed information about it. Thanks for you note. RLC

Bob said...

A further comment: The copy I thought I was going to get for far too much does not exist, it turns out. So we are all out of luck. RLC