MIGRATIONS, RACIAL MIXING AND THE EVOLUTION OF CULTURES
The following essay has three origins. One is my recent reading of a variety of books related to the peoples of Central Asia, including the Tarim Basin, Bactria and the steppes of Eurasia. Second is my reading of the history of ancient Japan, primarily the Jomon period. Finally there is the seemingly increasing claims of individuals (interestingly of several racial backgrounds: white, black, Asian Indian, Chinese…) claiming the superiority and purity of one race in comparison with other races. I find that in light of the history of Eurasia (and, in a broader context, of Africa as well) it is impossible for any single nationality to claim either racial purity or cultural superiority above all other nationalities. Rather, the modern face of Eurasia, from Portugal to Japan, has been formed by the almost constant contact and frequent mixing of a variety of racial, cultural and linguistic traditions.
People often imagine modern nationalities such as Chinese, German or Japanese, as consisting of relatively racially, culturally and linguistically pure, distinct people that are descended from equally distinct peoples of antiquity who developed in relative isolation. Only in the context of this view can the concept of the superiority of or even preference for racial purity be imagined. Yet there is overwhelming evidence that this view of modern nationalities is not only false today, but never was all that true even in all but the most ancient times. There are sometimes surprising links between places as far separated as Finland and Japan, Turkey and Korea. All nations evolved in the context of frequent and sometimes rapid migrations of peoples across Eurasia. The expansion of Indo-Aryans (also called Iranians or, in ancient literature, Scythians) from Central Europe to the Tarim Basin. The spread of a group called Uralo-Altaic literally from Finland to Japan. The conquest of huge areas by Alexander of Macedon or by the Mongols during and after Genghis Khan’s life. The repeated spread of Turkish groups. All of these back and forth movements of peoples have expanded trade as well as cultural, racial and linguistic links across Eurasia.
First I should clarify my usage of certain terms. The distinction of one group from another can be made based on three distinct, but sometimes overlapping criteria. First are racial traits. Ultimately this refers to genetic variations among populations of people who are to some degree geographically isolated. The most definitive measure of racial relatedness is similarity of DNA sequences. However, this is not always an easy or even possible comparison to make and can be complicated by other factors. A sort of shorthand, and somewhat inaccurate, way of measuring racial relatedness is based on physical appearance—hair, eye and skin color, shape of the eyes, etc. This method is flawed but is easy and does give some indication of the genetic relatedness of two populations.
Another criterion compares cultural traits. Cultural relatedness can, but often does not, correspond with racial relatedness. Cultural traits include things like pottery or art styles, agricultural techniques, government structure, family structure and metal technology as well as many other things. Cultural traits can spread either by expansion of a given racial group or by the influence of one group on another without genetic mixing.
A final criterion is linguistic relatedness. We tend to think of language as a defining characteristic of a nationality (witness the stupidity of Croats and Serbs fighting for racial "purity" when by all possible measures but writing system and branch of Christianity worshipped these two are identical peoples). However, historically language did not always correspond with racial or cultural identity. A conquered group could adopt the language of the conqueror or, quite often, visa versa. In many ways, language is less mutable than racial identity since language is slow to change while populations can mix within a handful of generations through intermarriage. Language groups are defined by similarity of words--particularly words for very fundamental things such as sun, mother or numbers--as well as similarity of grammer.
These three sets of criteria are not equivalent. Culture can change rapidly, within a generation or so. Other times, due to environmental factors, it can remain quite constant despite racial and linguistic variations (such as the amazingly uniform steppe culture that remained similar whether the dominant group was Iranian, Turkic, Mongol or Hun). Racial identity can change over several generations and almost always does change unless a population is geographically isolated. Languages can last with only gradual changes over many, many generations even when the other criteria change, though sometimes rapid invasions can introduce linguistic changes within a generation. Croats and Serbs are both Slavic racially and are probably indistinguishable based on DNA analysis (as far as I know this is an experiment that has never been done). They differ slightly linguistically mainly in the fact that one writes with the Latin and the other the Cyrillic alphabet, yet to hear them speak they are almost indistinguishable. But culturally, they worship different branches of Christianity, one being Catholic, the other Orthodox and along with this one can be seen as looking West (Croats favored Nazi Germany over the Soviets in WW II) while the other looks East (Russia’s current support for Serbs no matter how atrocious the Serbs act). Japanese are linguistically related to Koreans, Turks, Hungarians and Finns, are a racial mix of Chinese, Korean and possibly Malayan and Ainu genes and are culturally a mix of native, Chinese and Korean influences. And yet Japanese often claim racial purity despite these very diverse influences.
When discussing ancient cultures, the two main criteria for comparison are cultural (pottery, art, crops grown and animal species herded, etc) which leave many archaeological remains and linguistic which only leaves remains if it is written down or if it influences later languages. Only rarely, when art or when bones or well-preserved mummies show physical characteristics, can racial criteria be used and even then they must be approached carefully. So the divisions that are made are often based on distinctive cultural traits or linguistic traits. In very, very broad terms, four main original groups have had the most genetic, cultural and linguistic effects on Eurasia. Others have also influenced history but have been largely submerged in these four main ones. These groups, although they also reflect some genetic and cultural distinctions, are primarily linguistic classifications. I will use them as groupings that may originally have been distinct in all ways, but, as I will show, have also been in contact, and hence influenced eachother in all ways since ancient time. These four groups are the Semetic-Hametic group, the Indo-European group, the Uralo-Altaic group and the Sino-Tibetan group.
The Semetic-Hametic linguistic group includes modern Hebrew, Arabic, various Ethiopian languages, Coptic and Berber languages and also includes ancient Egyptian. It is generally thought to have originated as a distinct racial group in the Arabian and /or Syrian deserts, but alternative theories include a Syrian/Levant origin as well as, based on linguistic evidence, an origin in Ethiopia. Some of the earliest civilizations of the world, the cities of Sumer and Akkad were a mix of Sumerian (unrelated to the four groups I mention) and Akkadian (Semetic) cultures. Ancient Egypt was Hametic but also was influenced by and mixed with Semetic peoples (for example, the Hyksos and "Moses’ people").
The Indo-European linguistic group probably originated as a racial group North of the Caucuses. It split very early into Western and Eastern sub-groups. The Western spread into Europe and includes the Celtic, Germanic and Latin-derived languages spoken by almost all of Europe. The Eastern subgroup is sometimes called Indo-Aryan (in no way to be confused with Arian Christianity or with Hitler’s completely fictional "Aryan" race) or Iranian or, in ancient sources, Scythian. This includes Persian, Afghani as well as many of India and Pakestan’s many languages. The farthest known spread of Indo-European culture in ancient times seems to have been the Tarim basin where Indo-Aryan mummies have been found and near which the probably Indo-Aryan Yue-Chi (also known as Tocharians?) originated, later to spread west as the Kushans.
The Uralo-Altaic linguistic group is named after the two mountain ranges of the Urals and the Altai. I am unclear about its place of origin, though it seems to have come from somewhere between Finland and the Urals. This is, in modern times, an often forgotten group, but has at times been of paramount importance in history. It is also the most widespread and diverse of the groupings. Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian are examples of the Uralic branch while the very diverse Altaic branch includes the language of the Huns, Avars and Mongols of ancient fame, all the Turkish languages and, surprisingly, Korean and Japanese. Somehow, a group from somewhere west of the Urals seems to have spread all the way to Japan, leaving behind, perhaps, more linguistic than genetic traits in the modern nations of Korea and Japan. Similarly, a related group made it all the way to Finland (or originated there?) where it mixed with the Germanic strain represented by the Swedes and Norse.
Sino-Tibetan is best represented today by the various Chinese languages. Although a Tibetan might rightfully argue with this, I will, for simplicity’s sake, consider Sino-Tibetan and Chinese to be synonymous groups. I apologize to the Tibetan culture which is currently brutally dominated by China, but for the purposes of my discussion, this is a reasonable simplification. Racially, though the linguistic and cultural links have been forgotten, this group is the one that spread to the Americas to give us all North and South American-related cultures from the Anasazi to the Apache to the Maya to the Yanamamo. In this sense it is the most widespread of the groups, and in this sense the Americas were the most racially pure one could get on earth until Europeans arrived. This is misleading, though, since the original racial group diverged into several native American groups. The linguistic influence of the Chinese group on Eurasia is more or less confined to East Asia. Culturally, though, China has influenced Europe through the Silk Road from the Han dynasty (contemporaneous with Rome) to the 19th Century and continues to play an important role in world events.
Already we can see that racial divides lose much of their meaning when we look at these four groupings. The Arab-Israeli conflict is purely a religious spat between racially identical and religiously related groups. Serb and Croat is a distinction that has meaning only to Serbs and Croats. Japan and Finland are more linguistically related that Japan is to its racially related neighbor China or Finland is to its racially related neighbor Sweden. Japan’s perceived superiority over the Koreans masks their considerable linguistic, cultural and genetic relatedness. Furthermore, Indo-Aryan and Uralo-Altaic groups merged on the Eurasian steppes to form a largely uniform horse-based culture that showed similarities from the ancient Scythians to the Huns to the Mongols to the Turks to the Khazaks and Tajiks of today. The steppe culture from around 4000 BC to modern times was a mix of two linguistic groups superimposed on a unique culture that had genetic and cultural influences that included Germanic, Indo-Aryan, Altaic and Chinese sources and spanned from Siberia to France where Attila was stopped by a joint Italian (Roman) and Germanic (Gothic) army.
I want to try and reconstruct, in a very brief and simplistic way, the apparent ebb and flow of groups across Eurasia from the most ancient times and show how this ebb and flow created Eurasian nationalities that are culturally, linguistically and even genetically mixed and within this mixture the concepts of racial purity and superiority are myths and would not even be desirable. This is my own synthesis from reading the various sources listed at the end and any inaccuracies are due to my own misinterpretation. Furthermore, there are still many areas which are poorly reconstructed. Central Asia in particular is poorly studied, especially in English sources, even though it represented the crossroads of cultures for much of history, contained the Silk Road between Rome (and later Europe) and China, and was the playground for such devastating military forces as the Huns, Mongols and Seljuks. Consequently, what I present I think is substantially true, but may prove to have several inaccuracies in detail. I would appreciate any comments, corrections (with references) and suggestions from anyone who reads this.
Going back to the origins of these four groups is tricky. I feel that the one that can be traced back furthest with the greatest accuracy is the Chinese. This doesn’t mean that the other groups didn’t already exist (quite likely they did) but it means that due to certain climatic circumstances, namely the conditions producing then submerging the Siberian-Alaskan land bridge, we have direct evidence of Asian ancestors of the Sino-Tibetan/Chinese group dating to probably as far back as 20,000 BC The evidence is simply the colonization of the Americas across this land bridge. All North and South American natives are genetically related not only to eachother but also to Asian Chinese. This clearly shows that by 20,000 BC, more or less, a genetically proto-Chinese population inhabited Asia and were in a position not only to settle China itself, but also to cross over the land bridge to Alaska and to colonize the Americas.
The Semetic-Hametic group is first clearly attested in written records of Mesopotamia and Egypt dating to around 3000 BC. In the earliest Mesopotamian inscriptions it is clear that both Sumerians and Semites had co-existed for some time. It is also fairly clear that by the time we have evidence from writing, Hametic and Semetic groups had already spread from their place of origin (Arabia/Syria? Ethiopia?) to occupy North Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Levant, Mesopotamia and Arabia. This implies that the group had already existed for quite some time, probably as long as the Chinese group in Asia. Archaeological evidence—for example, the continuity of stone artifacts from pre-literate to literate period as well as bone finds from burials-- supports this.
The earliest definitive evidence for Indo-Europeans also can be found in Mesopotamian and Egyptian written records and are referred to as immigrants from beyond the Caucus mountains. Although today we tend to use Caucasian as a synonym for Indo-European, this is actually not true. Caucasian refers to an earlier group that emerged from the Caucuses area and may have included the Sumerians. Archaeological evidence shows that Indo-Europeans probably emerged in the area that is modern Ukraine or somewhere nearby. By 3000 BC they had probably already spread to France and Germany as well as East to the Aral Sea. Sometime around 4000 BC, if not before, there was a clear split between the East and West Indo-Europeans and the Eastern, Indo-Aryan branch had acquired horses and chariots, which proved to be the birth of two kinds of cultures with dramatic roles to play in history (discussed below).
The Uralo-Altaic group is the hardest to trace. It is thought to have already produced a Finnish group by the time we have evidence for Semetic and Indo-European (as well as Caucasian/Sumerian) gruops. When it reached Japan depends on exactly how you interpret the archaeological evidence. The modern Ainu in Japan are a minority which has been forced into reservations on the northern island of Hokkaido. They are not Asian in features but are clearly of European, most likely Uralo-Altaic, descent. It seems probable that the Uralo-Altaic nature of the Japanese language dates back to the presence of Ainu in Japan. Once the Ainu probably occupied all of Japan and possibly Okinawa. Evidence points to the Ainu as either being synonymous with the Eimishi who were the earliest known inhabitants of Japan, or with the later Jomon culture which may have the distinction not only of being one of the most voracious consumers of shellfish in human history, but also to be the first people to invent pottery, perhaps as early as 10,000 BC. Genetic evidence points to Ainu-related, and hence probably Uralo-Altaic, people occupying all of Japan and Okinawa while the more modern, Chinese/Korean genetic traits seem to correspond with the arrival of the Yayoi culture around 300 BC entering and spreading from Kyushu. It seems improbable that a European-derived, Uralo-Altaic group would have reached Japan much before 10,000 BC or that it would have beaten a Chinese-related group given the presence of the Chinese group nearby as far back as 20,000 BC. So a possible, though by no means proven, chronology might be an aboriginal population of Japan related to the proto-Chinese, as well as to the first American Indians, which is replaced by 10,000 BC or so by Uralo-Altaic ancestors of the Ainu who had spread from the West to occupy the Altai mountains north of Mongolia as well as possibly Manchuria and Korea. Later, another (Yayoi) group of Chinese spread to Korea and expanded to Japan, though the earlier Uralo-Altaic language remained influential.
A Chinese expansion into America as well as into Japan is likely to have occurred around 20,000 BC. A Uralo-Altaic expansion, probably quite slow due to the absence of horses, probably occurred by 10,000 BC, spreading into Finland and Scandinavia, through Northern Russia and Siberia, into Manchuria and Korea and Japan. Thus by 10,000 BC there was already contact, and presumably intermarriage, between the European, Uralo-Altaic and the Asian, Chinese groups. The clearly distinct characteristics of the Mongol and Turkish (Altaic) groups compared with the Finnish (Uralic) branch may reflect some sort of mixing of this sort. At the same time, Semetic and Hametic groups would be spreading from their place of origin to take part in the earliest civilizations soon after and the Indo-Europeans were evolving and spreading South of the Uralic cultures.
The next great spread was an explosive one, as migrations go, sparked by the spread of wool-bearing sheep (developed by 4000 BC) and cattle to areas of horse domestication (also around 4000 BC). This combination, among the Indo-Aryans, sparked two related, devastating revolutions. One was the chariot aristocracies of cattle herders which conquered India and spawned the Mycenaean culture. These two cultures, at opposite ends of the chariot revolution, are immortalized in the influential epics of the Bagavad-Gita and the Illiad. These two works, though their influence pointed in opposite directions, are in essence records of closely related cultural and linguistic traditions and show remarkable similarities. The chariot culture invaded Egypt (Hyksos) and occupied Greece (Myceneans) and Anatolia (Hittites) as well as Iran and India. Of even more significance was the combination of horse riding with wool-bearing sheep. This combination produced the pastoral nomad lifestyle that allowed the steppe culture to develop and to spread from the Hungarian plains to Mongolia. In its earliest form this seems to have been an Iranian phenomenon. The earliest written records are of the Scythians in Greek histories from after 1000 BC, but mummies in the Tarim basin indicate a culture of Iranian horse and sheep herders (though not pastoral nomads since they also grew grain) by 2000 BC. This Tarim culture may have had connections with pastoralists or chariot cultures or both or may represent a phase of development that preceded both. Around the Tarim basin, this Iranian culture met the Altaic cultures to the north and the Chinese culture to the East. The consequences of this were profound.
Chinese and Iranian culture met at the Tarim basin by 1500 BC. At about the same time, Chinese culture took a great leap forward towards becoming the culture as we know now. Around this time, written Chinese, bronze working, horses and chariots and a more central government evolved in China. There is considerable debate as to whether China developed these things independently or if the Mesopotamian and Indo-European inventions of these or related ideas diffused East all the way to China. China, quite naturally, supports the independent invention theory and I once considered it the most logical. Furthermore, no one would argue that the Chinese language was anything but independently developed—it is unlike any Western script and the Uralo-Altaic and Scythian cultures from the West that China was in contact with were pre-literate cultures. However, it has become clear that the Chinese words for chariots and horse equipment are largely derived from Indo-European languages (perhaps via the Tarim basin?) suggesting that horses and chariots were imports from the West. The coincidence of contact between expanding Iranians and the Chinese around 1500 BC at the Tarim and the flowering of Bronze Age China (Shang dynasty) is intriguing. The use of chariots and bronze was widespread by this time from India and Iran to Western Europe. However, the use of these by the Tarim culture has not been clearly established as far as I have read. Nevertheless, the diffusionist theory seems to have gained momentum. Chinese culture, though great, unique and impressive, may well have evolved due to influences from Semetic and Indo-European ideas spread by Iranians.
The result of the contact between Iranian, horse-cultures (this time pastoralist) and the Altaic groups was very different than the connection between the Iranian and Chinese cultures. Whereas the latter led to a high civilization, the former led to the development of the ultimate barbarian threat. The Altaic cultures adopted the steppe lifestyle based on horse riding and herding from Iranian pastoralists and started a pattern of migration, expansion and raiding that affected all of Eurasia from China (and even Japan) to France and, arguably, caused the collapse of the Roman Empire (by the Huns and their effect on the Germans) as well as the Byzantine Empire (by the Turks). The earliest Altaic nomadic groups are mentioned in the Chinese histories. They include Turkic and Mongol groups including the Xiang-nu. This group was one of the main groups that caused China to build the Great Wall and their aggression against the Iranian groups from whom they may have learned about the steppe lifestyle (the Yue-Chi) caused the first known East-to-West migration of a steppe culture. The Iranian Yue-Chi migrated back west towards the Iranian center around 150 BC. Continued expansion of the Xiang-nu for the next 400 years or more eventually led to their defeat by China. Remnants of this group may have headed for Europe, mixing with Turkic and Iranian groups to become the Huns. This mix of Altaic and Eastern Indo-European groups gradually subjugated the Iranian Alans and Germanic (Western Indo-European) Goths. Gothic refugees flooding into the Roman Empire contributed to the already existing instabilities that eventually brought that Empire down, but it also provided the troops that eventually defeated the Huns in France. Both the army of the Huns (Iranian, Altaic, Germanic) and the army of Rome (Roman, Germanic, Iranian) were mixed groups and the decisive role played in both armies during the critical battle in France were Germanic Goths.
From this point on, Germanic migrations triggered by the expansion of the Altaic nomads, spread across Europe. Combining with the Roman provincial governments (Latin and Celtic origins), these Germanic groups established what were to become (eventually) the modern nations of France, Spain, Italy and England. At the same time, further Altaic tribes who had accepted the pastoral nomadic lifestyle from the Iranians, and who probably also mixed with Iranian clans, spread in the Turkish and Bulgar migrations into Russia and Central Europe. The middle ages were filled with Trukish, Bulgar, Magyar (Uralic ancestors of the Hungarians who had also adopted the steppe lifestyle) and Arab invasions. The Arabs were a Semetic group who spread from Arabia across North Africa, into Spain and the Balkans. The Altaic Mongol invasions devastated both Arab as well as Russian (Slavic Indo-Europeans influenced by Germanic Scandinavians) states, but also established trade links from Russia and Europe to China and Japan. Several mixed race nations also evolved from these invasions—Slavic-Uralic-Altaic-Germanic Russia, Turkish-Greco-Celtic-Arabic Turkey, Slavic (Serbo-Croatian)-Turkish-Uralic (Hungarian) Balkans, etc. Almost no part of Eurasia lacks at least two or three of these various racial-linguistic-cultural groups. Furthermore, no corner of Eurasia has evolved to the modern times without technologies and ideas from each of these traditions influencing it. By the end of the Middle Ages, China was a Turkish-Mongol-Chinese mix (not to mention earlier racial elements that have been submerged and may be related to New Guineans) whose first steps to Empire may well have come from Iranian influences that included Semetic-derived ideas. Japan was a mix of Chinese and Altaic influences which, combined, were able to ward off Mongol invasions. Spain was a mix of Iberian (Western Indo-European), Roman, Germanic (Gothic), Semetic (Jewish and Arabic) and Hametic (Berber) influences. Germans, who Hitler billed as racially pure, superior people, were, until fairly recently, a backwater consisting of Germanic, Celtic and Iranian (Scythian) influences and had for many centuries been dominated and influenced by the Romans. The main religions of the area are Judaism, Christianity and Islam (all Semetic in origin) and Buddhism which, though Indo-Aryan in origin, is mainly practiced by Chinese and Altaic peoples. Reaching modern times, the world’s two main economic doctrines are of Germanic origin. Their opposing representatives are the Chinese, representing German-derived Marxism, and America (a mutt offshoot of the already mutt Western Europeans) representing the Englishman Adam Smith’s capitalism.
The point is by now clear. If we go far enough back, we can see four main (and innumerable other, now minor but then important) groups that may have had linguistic, cultural and racial distinctiveness. Starting by 10,000 BC if not long before, these groups expanded, interacted and intermarried. Every nation of Eurasia today can trace elements of its culture to all four of these putatively original groups. Words from all four groups are bound to occur in all Eurasian languages to varying degrees, especially since the spread of Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. And genetically, all Eurasian nationalities have been touched by at least two or three of the four groups. Indo-Aryan and Uralo-Altaic groups in particular have had the widest influence culturally (as the steppe culture, as Turkish culture, as the origin of Buddhism), linguistically (Turkish, Iranian, Hungarian, Indian languages, Japanese, Korean, Finnish…) and genetically (Japanese, Koreans, Mongols, Chinese, Turks, Hungarians, people of the Balkans, etc all have absorbed or been absorbed by Indo-Aryan or Uralo-Altaic groups).
In this context, no culture, no race and no language are "pure". Nor could they be, for through all this ebb and flow of cultures, it is the mixture of influences that has produced the most successful groups. Cultures in isolation will evolve slower than cultures that compete, cooperate and mix. A culture adopting elements from many other cultures will be more resilient and adaptable than one that tries to remain "pure". Purity is stagnation even as a theory. In reality it has never existed since recorded history began. Anyone claiming racial purity or superiority is, in fact, neither pure nor superior.
I have made no mention of Africa and Oceana and little of the Americas. Similar analyses can be made, however. The Americas originated from one of the groups I discuss herein. In general, the history of the Americas is one of greater isolation that the history of Eurasia. This may have been to the detriment of the native Americans who succumb to the guns and diseases of the European mutts. African history involves groups different than those of Eurasia, though the Hametic and Semetic groups also affect the mix of Africa (Egyptians, Ethiopians and Somalians clearly mix various Hametic, Black African and Semetic genetic, cultural and linguistic traits and much of North Africa mixes Hametic Berber and Black African). In addition, the term "Black African" that I use as a short hand, in itself includes several black, African racial, cultural and linguistic traditions that are as distinct from eachother as Indo-Europeans are from Uralo-Altaics. My knowledge of African history is inferior to my knowledge of Eurasia, so I am better able to make my arguments using Eurasia as my reference.
Below are the books that have inspired this essay. All are valuable sources and any mistakes in this essay are misinterpretations of my own and are not representative of the below listed authors.
Past Worlds, Harper Collins Atlas of Archaeology (1998). Goes into nothing in any great depth, but it is a great reference on world archaeology.
Barber, E. W., The Mummies of Urumchi (1999). A fascinating analysis of mummies found in the Tarim basin. Using physical characteristics, textile analysis and linguistic evidence the author explains how we can trace Indo-European expansion into Asia back to 2000 BC and how we can observe its mixture with Altaic and Chinese peolpes.
Diamond, J., Guns Germs and Steel (1997). A pulitzer prize winning reference I often refer to. Highly thoughtful analysis of the development of the world cultures to what we see today. Covers a lot of ground and does it well.
Frye, R.N., The Heritage of Central Asia (1996). Covers the history of the area now comprised of Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Xinjiang (the Tarim basin) showing the interactions of Iranian and Altaic trends.
Hildinger, E., Warriors of the Steppes (1997). Military history of Central Asia showing how the steppe lifestyle produced the most formidable military systems in ancient and medieval history.
Khazanov, A.M., Nomads and the Outside World (1994). Bringing the scholarship of Russian anthropologists to the English speaking world. Explores the economic origins and realities of pastoral nomadism, including its dependence on sedentary societies. Excellent analysis, but it is presented poorly, often understandable only to someone already well familiar with the literature. It lost me at times.
McCullough, D. W., Chronicles of the Barbarians (1998). Excerpts from primary source material covers the history of barbarian interactions with civilized states from the Greek interactions with Scythians, through Rome’s Celtic and German problems, the Huns, Vikings, Mongols and the wars between the Christian Crusaders and Arabs. I find the primary sources to be more myth than reality, but it is good to be familiar with it.
McEvedy, C., The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History (1968). I have an outdated version, but I think there is a 1986 edition. This little book is a great introduction to European history up to 362 AD. Superficial but a good reference.
McEvedy, C., The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History. (1992) The continuation volume of the Penguin Atlas of Ancient History. Similarly superficial but a good reference.
Meyer, M. W., Japan, A Concise History. (1993). Good introduction, but very superficial. I used it as a tourist in Japan, but it mostly is just an appetizer to real reference material on Japan.
Sansom, G., A History of Japan to 1334. (1958). A bit outdated, Sansom is to Japanese history in English what Edward Gibbon was to Roman History. Very influential and going into a fair amount of detail, it is still mainly and introduction.
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