THE DEVIL'S HORSEMEN by James Chambers


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Throughout much of the 13th century Western Europe faced, and more often refused to face, the fact that at any moment it might be swallowed up by the relentless expansion of the Mongol empire. The big events took place in China, Persia, and Russia, but they had reverberations. This may sound familiar, and the student of current affairs would do well to take a serious look at Central Asian history, beginning with this lively, unlabored work. Chambers, an amateur military historian, is at his best describing the campaigns of the Mongol armies, their strategies, organization, military technology, and so on. Indeed, he argues convincingly that we have here the real precursors of 20th-century warfare, for the Mongol chieftains intuited much modern theory: the efficacy of mobile striking forces, of terrorizing civilian populations (to the detriment of the military situation), of overwhelming the enemy by sheer firepower. The book suffers somewhat from diffuseness--almost unavoidably, since Europe was intermittently touched by events in far-flung locales: first in Russia, then in the Middle East, and then again in far-off Karakoram. One often finds oneself longing for the continuity set up in histories which follow clearer regional or administration demarcations--those which treat the Golden Horde, or the Papacy, or the Mamluk in one piece. Still, Chambers is to be admired for keeping his account lucid and reasonably coherent. A dramatic retelling of some remote, but surprisingly pertinent, events.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1979
Publisher: Atheneum