A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia: Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire (History of the World , Vol 1)
by David Christian
Release Date: January, 1999
This book is the only book to deal with the lands in question (Inner Asia) so thoroughly. I feel as if a large gap in my knowledge of history has been at least partially filled (there is always more to learn). Not that I'm without my complaints: the maps are few and far in between, the photographs poorly done. Sometimes, the book was downright boring, but that's to be expected with such an extensive book.
If you want to learn about the dynamic relationship between argricultural civilizations and pastoralist civilizations, read this book. It does leave some questions unanswered though. Such as, why did new tribes replace old tribes (ex: the Goths in Hungary, being pushed out by the Huns, who were pushed out by the Magyars)? What were the relative populations of the time? What was the relative demand for the goods of the steepe peoples? What was the trade balance between steppe and agricultural peoples?
Despite the questions, the book was worth the read.
As an archaeologist working on the archaeology of North East Asia, I found this book a very big disappointment. Then again what should I expect from a historian whose speciality is the 18th and 19th century history of Russia?
The author draws heavily on secondary works in English, German, French and Russian. Instead of depending on those, he should have gone directly to the archaeological site reports and the historical annals themselves. Its also sad to see a synthesis on Russia and Central Asia that relies heavily on the works of English language scholars and ignoring the Russian and Mongolian language scholars. In terms of some of his English secondary sources, ones like Davis-Kimball et al. (NOMADS OF THE EURASIAN STEPPE) and Barfield's PERILOUS FRONTIER are still in print and available from AMAZON.COM.
Production values in this book are also uneven. The photographic reproductions in many cases are also poorly scanned copies (see for example p. 53, 214 in the paperback version). The publisher should have done a better job.
My advice: you can do a lot better (try the two suggestions above)