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New Left Review I/23, January-February 1964


‘Genghis Khan’; ‘The Builders of the Mogul Empire’

Genghis Khan. Ralph Fox Background Books, 10s. 6d.

The Builders of the Mogul Empire. Michael Prawdin. Allen & Unwin, 32s.

There is a picture, in Prawdin’s book, of Babur, the founder of the Mogul dynasty, sprinkling the Mongolian horse-tail standards with Kumiss. He was saluting a past which was still very much with him. Fox describes how the sweep of the Mongol armies throughout Asia ‘cleared the way for an immense series of revolutions’. Mogul rule in India, inaugurated two-and-a-half centuries after Genghis Khan, was the last of the series. For, as Fox emphasizes, the Mongol achieve5ments which ‘the decaying feudalism of the East failed to profit by (and here the Mongols themselves must bear the responsibility for their own devastations) . . . gave the impulse to a new civilization in the West’. We learn from Prawdin the importance of the matchlock in Babur’s conquests. The horse-tail standards were doomed. Babur’s grandson, Akbar, schemed with the English to obtain armaments to drive the Portuguese from his territory. Later, of course, the English brought their armaments to India with a vengeance. Fox and Prawdin chronicle rather than analyze the rise of the great Asian conquerors and the societies they created, although Fox does essay some theories about nomadic feudalism and Prawdin hints at the realities of Akbar’s policy of institutionalizing fiefs as crown territories, where revenues were collected by crown officials. Asian feudalism has still to be much more fully investigated. But Prawdin and Fox have made a start. l.r.

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L. R., ‘'Ghenghis Khan'; 'The Builders of the Mogul Empire'’, NLR I/23: £3

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