The Victorian period, viewed in the West as a time of self-confident progress, was experienced by Asians as a catastrophe.

Foreign soldiers and merchants tore apart the great empires which had once formed the heart of civilization. As the British gunned down the last heirs to the Mughal Empire, burned down the Summer Palace in Beijing, or humiliated the bankrupt rulers of the Ottoman Empire, it was clear that for Asia to recover a vast intellectual effort would be required.

Pankaj Mishra’s fascinating, highly entertaining new book tells the story of a remarkable group of men from across the continent who met the challenge of the West. Incessantly travelling, questioning and agonising, they both hated the West and recognised that an Asian renaissance needed to be fuelled in part by engagement with the enemy. Through many setbacks and wrong turns, a powerful, contradictory and ultimately unstoppable series of ideas were created that now lie behind everything from the Chinese Communist Party to Al Qaeda, from Indian nationalism to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mishra allows the reader to see the events of two centuries anew, through the eyes of the journalists, poets, radicals and charismatics who criss-crossed Europe and Asia. Sitting in the midst of ruins of the old empires which now seemed doomed to permanent partition by predatory foreigners, these thinkers created the ideas which in turn were to doom the new empires, and which lie behind the powerful Asian nations of the twenty-first century.

From the Ruins of Empire won the Crossword Award for Best Nonfiction in 2013. In 2014, it became the first book by a non-Western writer to win Germany’s prestigious Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding. It was also shortlisted for the Lionel Gelber Prize, a literary award for the world’s best non-fiction book in English on foreign affairs, the Orwell Prize, Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing, and Asia Society’s Bernard Schwartz Book Award.

Reviews:

“A subtle, erudite and entertaining account…by a leading Indian public intellectual who, with a surprising new perspective, is the heir to Edward Said”—Best Books of 2012, The Economist

“Enormously ambitious but thoroughly readable, this book is essential reading for everyone who is interested in the processes of change that have led to the emergence of today’s Asia”—Amitav Ghosh, Wall Street Journal

“Compelling…Invaluable..Its detailed and rigorous historical emphasis..stands in stark contrast to some of the more superficial instant analyses of what the ‘rise of Asia’ might mean for the world”—Rana Mitter, Times Literary Supplement

“Not just an excellent history of Asia in the late colonial period, but also a valuable history for contemporary Asians thinking about the future of their continent”—Mohsin Hamid, 2012 Books of the Year, Financial Times

“A reminder, by way of an intellectual history of Asian responses to imperialism, that European intellectual and political predominance was a freak of history unlikely to be sustained. Whatever else may distinguish this century from the last one, the geographies of thought, politics, and energy are all being remade”—Benjamin Kunkel, 2012 Books of the Year, New Statesman

“A breakthrough success….Blessed with a novelist’s attention to detail…Mishra is familiar with the historical ironies coiled within some of the world’s most powerful ideologies, from evangelical free market capitalism to militant Islam to Hindu nationalism”—Drew Calvert, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Original, engaging, and often completely surprising…As a history of some of the ideas that have shaped the world we inhabit but remain neglected in the historical scholarship, Mishra’s narrative breaks new ground”—Ananya Vajpeyi, World Policy Journal

“Tremendous…Vibrant….Mishra’s book invites Anglophone readers to a conversation about the current shifts, but with an eye not only to the intellectual concerns of Paris, London and New York, but also to those current at intellectual addresses that we do not normally consider”—Vijay Prashad, Himal SouthAsian

“The scope and ambition of From the Ruins of Empire would have overwhelmed a lesser writer. Mishra delivers with panache…rigour and sensitivity. His sharply drawn characters are woven into a narrative that is riveting and insightful. But it is Mishra’s unerring political instincts, unencumbered by ideology, that make this book such a compelling read”–Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, Guernica

“Timely and important….Mishra’s astute and entertaining synthesis of these neglected histories goes a long way to substantiating his claim that “the central event of the last century for the majority of the world’s population was the intellectual and political awakening of Asia”—-Hari Kunzru, New York Times
 
“Novel in its attempts to link the tumultuous early twentieth century to today’s “rise of the rest….Mishra tells the story with authority and rich color, and weaves a staggering amount of historical information to create coherent narratives”—Joshua Kurlantzick, Asia Unbound, Council on Foreign Relations 
 
“A remarkable work…Unique in the way it seeks out intellectuals from the colonised societies but avoids the obvious men who shaped history. You should read it. Now”—Jerry Pinto, Man’s World
 
“In his brilliant new book Pankaj Mishra reverses the long gaze of the West upon the East, showing modern history as it has been felt by the majority of the world’s population from Turkey to China. These are the amazing stories of the grandfathers of today’s angry Asians. Excellent!” —Orhan Pamuk
 
“The amazingly diverse trajectories trodden by Asia in the last century finally make sense”—Madhusree Mukerjee, Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Fascinating and magisterial….It is a tribute to Mishra’s skills as a writer that this demanding book has won widespread (and deserved) accolades. In lesser hands, this material could have easily descended into a jumble of names, dates and thumbnail sketches, but here the narrative is lucid and doesn’t groan beneath the prodigious research”—Jeff Kingston, Japan Times
 
 “Deeply researched and arrestingly original…this penetrating and disquieting book should be on the reading list of anybody who wants to understand where we are today”—John Gray, Independent
 
“Original…Thoughtful and stimulating…From the Ruins of Empire challenges the Western reader to revisit modern Asian history from a sometimes disorienting perspective, that of the dominated and humiliated, free of any nostalgia for Raj or Legation”—Tim O’Connell, Asian Review of Books
 
“A fascinating narrative, which challenges the Eurocentric version of ‘the truth’…The post-Edward Said phase in the world of ideas requires writers like Mishra to continue with the internationalist tradition”—Raza Rumi, Friday Times
 
“A comprehensive and much-needed reminder of the resistance among Asian intellectuals to the overpowering materialism of the West”—Mark Tully, Resurgence
 
“Breaks new ground….By writing from outside traditional western ideology, and by offering his sources the detail and attention they require, Mishra has provided a bold, fresh, and much appreciated perspective on the history of Empire”—Kwasi Kwarteng, Prospect
 
“In finely wrought biographical portraiture, Mishra lays bare an intellectual transformation whereby the chains of Western imperialism were broken and a self-consciously modern Asia envisioned. This searching, accessible book….adds to our understanding of political Islam, and of China’s and India’s place in the world”—Michael Kimmage, New Republic
 
“Lively…Engaging…From the Ruins of Empire retains the power to instruct and even to shock. It provides us with an exciting glimpse of the vast and still largely unexplored terrain of anti-colonial thought that shaped so much of the post-western world in which we now live”—Mark Mazower, Financial Times
 
“Pankaj Mishra has set out in this intelligent and thought-provoking study to present Asia’s role in creating the now-familiar configurations of the 21st century….One applauds the effort to effort to remind western readers that Asia was never merely a passive recipient of western trespass”—Richard Overy, New Statesman
 
Mishra has no time at all for big, broad-brush accounts of western success contrasted with eastern hopelessness…From the Ruins of Empire gives eloquent voice to [the] curious, complex intellectual odysseys…of some of Asia’s most educated, thoughtful men”—Julia Lovell, Guardian
 
“Outstanding…Mishra wears his scholarship lightly and weaves together the many strands of history into a gripping narrative….Performs a signal service to the future—by making us read the past in a fresh light”—Tabish Khair, The Hindu
 
“Masterly…..The great value of Mishra’s study is that he goes with a fine tooth-comb through the peripatetic dreams and schemes of some of Asia’s most interesting characters, showing how the same man and his followers switched from reform to revolution and back again, dabbling now in fundamentalist primitivism, now in village socialism, now in capitalist modernisation as long as it has an Asian face”—Jonathan Steele, Red Pepper
 
“From the Ruins of Empire provides an enlightening, uniquely global rereading of modern history, one that is crucial for those seeking to understand the overwhelming ideological and political conflicts that blight today’s world”—Hirsh Sawhney, Brooklyn Rail
 
“Erudite and engaging…eloquent…gives a voice to characters often ignored by western historians…Mishra is an intellectual historian who can skilfully paint in background, simplify boldly to open up broad perspectives on the past, and popularise without condescension”—Ben Shephard, Observer
 
“Excellent study of the intellectual origins of…the emergence of a new Asia….A stimulating and original book..it incisively anatomises what George Orwell called the ‘slimy humbug’ of the white man’s burden”—Piers Brendon, Literary Review
 
“Meticulous scholarship…..History, as Mishra insists, has been glossed and distorted by the conqueror….[This] passionate account of the relentless subjugation of Asian empires by European, especially British, imperialism, is provocative, shaming and convincing”—Michael Binyon, The Times (London)
 
“Fascinating…a rich and genuinely thought-provoking book”—Noel Malcolm, Daily Telegraph
 
“A highly readable and illuminating exploration of the way in which Asian, and Muslim countries in particular, have resented Western dominance and reacted against it with varying degrees of success”—-David Goodall, The Tablet
 
“Mishra’s remarkable story, mostly untold in Western historiography, opens up important new vistas…..With uncommon empathy, Mishra has excavated a range of ideas, existential debates, and spiritual struggles set in motion by Asia’s rude collision with the West, leading to outcomes no one could have predicted but which, after his account, seem more comprehensible”—Namit Arora, 3Quarksdaily.com
 
“A timely corrective….To Mishra’s credit, this book is not a celebration of the East and Eastern thinkers in the way that some modern accounts of Western empires are – whether intentionally or not – tributes to marauding imperialists”—Nikhil Kumar, Independent on Sunday
 
“(An) immensely readable historical essay, it’s a worthy adversary to the Ferguson polemic it attempts to combat. Fight fire with fire”—James McAuley, Washington Post
 
“A masterly work…From the Ruins of Empire is undoubtedly a critique of the triumphalist, imperialist cheerleading history that [Niall] Ferguson has often been accused of. But the complexity and nuance in Mishra’s arguments and the richness of his narrative make it inaccurate, if not downright ridiculous and demeaning, to reduce the book to…a quarrel”—Aditya Menon, Mail Today
 
“Prodigious…Nuanced….and not triumphalist—a quality that imperialism’s cheerleaders need to learn. And they should look at the history they are choosing to ignore, so that they understand their own world better”—Salil Tripathi, Mint
 
“Mishra is a lovely writer, both clear and passionate even when his material is dense as porage; and this is a rewarding book, telling a story we ought to know…[He] has done something both fresh and immensely difficult”—Michael Pye, Scotsman
 
“Essentially an Eastern canon of political thought – linking Indian, Chinese and Arab/Muslim figures and ideas [and revealing] how their responses to the ignominy of colonialism were to shape their future nation-states….Not some simplistic paean to “Asian values”….this is a prophetic book that cannot be ignored by Asia”—Karim Raslan, Malaysia Star
 
From the Ruins of Empire is perhaps the most important book in a long time, for India in particular, and Asia in general”—S. Raghottam, Asian Age
 
 “Intellectually enthralling and beautifully written book…Emphasize[s) the complexity and plurality of the Islamic and broader non-Western worlds….The consistency of this history, which is so much at variance with the standard fare, should shock western-educated readers into asking how it came to be so relevant today”—Julie Wark, OpenDemocracy.net
 
“Sweeping summary and synthesis…One of the many feats of Ruins is to reveal the astonishing and busy world of connections that linked the [Asian] continent”—Kanishk Tharoor, The National
 
“Compelling and timely….Valuable antidote(s) to entrenched notions about the journey of political and intellectual decolonisation”—Shayan Rajani, Dawn
 
“Given the scale of the enterprise that the author has chosen to undertake and the scintillating manner in which he has achieved that, it would not be an exaggeration to say that From the Ruins of Empire is as important a book of our times as the recently published Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson”—Rajesh Singh, The Pioneer
 
“One can only be thankful for writers like Mishra. From The Ruins Of Empire is erudite, provocative, inspiring and unremittingly complex; a model kind of non-fiction for our disordered days….May well be seen in years to come as a defining volume of its kind”—Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday
 
“Scintillating”—Starred pre-publication review in Publishers Weekly, June 25, 2012
 
“A perfect springboard for many necessary ideas and historical characters to be studied in depth.”—Kirkus, July 1, 2012
 
From the Ruins of Empire jolts our historical imagination and suddenly places it on the right, though deeply repressed, axis. It is a book of vast and wondrous learning and delightful and surprising associations that will give a new meaning to a liberation geography. From close and careful readings of some mighty Asian intellectuals of the last two centuries who have rarely been placed in this creative and daring conversation with each other, Pankaj Mishra has discovered and revealed, against the grain of conventional and cliched bifurcations of ‘The West and the Rest,’ a continental shift in our historical consciousness that will define a whole new spectrum of critical thinking. It is a remarkable sign of our revolutionary Zeitgeist that this book should appear at the time of transcontinental uprisings–from Asia to Africa to Europe and the Americas–to reveal the dawn of a new hermeneutic horizon of how we Asians, indeed how we humans, are to conceive ourselves.”—Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies, Columbia University
 
“After Edward Said’s masterpiece OrientalismFrom the Ruins of Empire offers another bracing view of the history of the modern world. Pankaj Mishra, a brilliant author of wide learning, takes us through, with his skillful and captivating narration, interlinked historical events across Japan, China, Turkey, Iran, India, Egypt, and Vietnam, opening up a fresh dialogue with and between such major Asian reformers, intellectuals, and revolutionaries as Liang Qichao, Tagore, Jamal al-din al-Afghani, and Sun Yatsen.”—Wang Hui, author of China’s New Order and The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought and Professor of Chinese Intellectual History at Tsinghua University, Beijing
 
“A riveting account that makes new and illuminating connections. Pankaj Mishra follows the intellectual trail of this contested history with both intelligence and moral clarity. A deeply entertaining and deeply humane book.”—Hisham Matar
 
Jacket image: Japanese illustration showing the sinking of a vessel during the battle of Tsushima Strait, Eastern Channel, during the Russo-Japanese war, 27 May 1905.