In the Shadow of the Gods: The Emperor in World History

Viking. Jun. 2022. 608p. ISBN 9780735222199. $40. HIST
Historian Lieven’s (Russia Against Napoleon) comparative history of empires from across the globe tracks the rises and falls of imperial dynasties throughout history. By tracking the similarities and differences of the emperors and empresses that ruled huge swathes of the world, Lieven identifies the key traits that made them successful—or not. This enables Lieven to relate the personalities of ancient leaders to modern-day CEOs and political leaders, underscoring the continued importance of these historic lives to the world as we know it today. Lieven’s attempts to make the work relevant to modern audiences are usually successful, and his chapters on non-Western European empires provide important background and context for current world affairs. Sometimes the language is a bit dry and academic, but this is nevertheless an engaging read that manages to summarize and synthesize information on almost every major empire in history without getting weighed down by its own scope.
VERDICT Definitely a must-have for any academic library that supports history research. Will also appeal to advanced general readers with an interest in history or comparative biography.
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