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Publisher's Summary

The word "barbarian" quickly conjures images of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. Yet few people realize these men belong to a succession of nomadic warriors who emerged from the Eurasian steppes to conquer civilizations. It's a part of ancient and medieval history that's often overlooked, but for an accurate view of how the world evolved, it's essential.
Covering some 6,000 miles and 6,000 years, this eye-opening course illuminates how a series of groups - from the Sacae and Sarmatians to the infamous Huns and Mongols - pushed ever westward, coming into contact with the Roman Empire, Han China, and distant cultures from Iraq to India.
Along the way, you'll learn how these nomads caused a domino effect of displacement and cultural exchange; meet fascinating figures such as Tamerlane, the "Prince of Destruction"; witness struggles to control the legendary Silk Road; trace the spread of Buddhism and Islam, and more.
By looking past the barbarian stereotype, you'll understand who these people were, the significance of their innovations - which include stirrups, saddles, and gunpowder - and the magnitude of their impact. Of course, these warriors did wage campaigns of terror, and you'll hear many accounts of violence as well.
Led by an award-winning professor, these 36 lectures provide new insights on how the world was shaped and introduce you to cultures and empires you've likely never encountered.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2014 The Great Courses (P)2014 The Teaching Company, LLC
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Christopher on 09-25-14

More than You Ever Wanted to Know re Steppe Nomads

Would you consider the audio edition of The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes to be better than the print version?

This is a fabulous course. The course covers over 3 thousands years of Central Asian and Near Eastern history and is a wonderful introduction to the Empires that have flourished there over this period. You come to appreciate the mounted archer and the savagry of the great warriors of the plains as well as their military sophistication.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The discussion of Ghenghis Kahns, his sons and the history of their empires is fascinating. This is the best structured overview of this topic that I have ever hear (or seen). Really a wonderful course and presentation.

Have you listened to any of Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

To say that Professors Harl has an encyclopedic knowledge of Central Asian, Near Eastern and European history is an incredible understatement. You will be constantly dazzled by the facts, figures and analysis that rolls of Professor Harl's tongue seemingly without end.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Ninja's of the dessert--3,000 years of the horse archer.

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15 of 15 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Mike on 02-20-14

Attila the Hun demands you read this book!!!

Any additional comments?

Are you a lover of history who seeks out those rare books that explain those often mentioned but little known peoples and places of the globe? Have you ever wondered who the Huns, Turks, or Mongols were, where they came from, and why they did what they did? Then this book is definitely for you!

The excellent lecturer gives a mostly chronological and comprehensive overview of the various peoples or "barbarians" that lived on the eurasian steppes and played a major role in world history. In fact, they play such a large role in world history that I left this read convinced we do a great disservice by not giving them a more prominent role in our textbooks. This book covers a serious blind spot in most of the world's history books.

He starts from the steppes earliest Indo-European inhabitants and moves through the archaic period with peoples such as the Shueng-Nu, Scythians, and Huns, discusses the medieval period dominated by the Turks, and ends discussing the terrible and glorious legacies of the great Mongol conquests and the subsequent disappearance of the steppe way of life with the advent of the modern age. The series is thorough and detailed and will leave you with few major questions once it has been finished.

Perhaps the most enlightening part for me was how the lecturer explained so clearly the geography and dynamics of the eurasian steppes. The unique environmental factors of the world of the steppes did just as much to shape their history, and that of the world's, as did the amazing lives of those who lived there. This feature alone makes this a worthwhile listen.

I cannot recommend this series highly enough to fellow history addicts or those who are just curious. You will not be disappointed. It was definitely one of my best reads this year. Enjoy!!!

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22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Nixon on 12-12-14

Very informative

Where does The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is one of the best books I have listened to, it is great to listen to

What did you like best about this story?

I liked how he kept the chronology of the story, but was able to provide great detail about both the western and eastern steppe

What about Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance did you like?

I liked how he could bring the stories to life with small details about the main characters, and it seemed that he was also interested in the story

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The book is very long, it would take a day to listen to it, but if I could I would have

Any additional comments?

I would recommend this as a fascinating listen and a part of history that is often overlooked

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By David Jackson on 01-10-18

Absolutely amazing

I always had a great fascination with the Mongol empire and I have been looking for a comprehensive background on the world that they came from. This series was that and much more, as it went through the history of the step peoples even as far back as the Indo-European expansion in the late Neolithic, to the Mogul empire in India. The narration was good, with the lectures delivered with a lot of energy and story telling ability. Strongly recommended.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By AM on 07-08-18


Can't get enough of this book - have listened to it several times. I have been know to fall asleep to it, I find it so relaxing but I always return and catch up with what I've missed.

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5 out of 5 stars
By Omar on 05-03-18

Exactly as described

It covered everything I wanted to cover, although having listened to the book I wouldn't have minded more on the end. The cossacks and russian expansion

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