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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Edge of Empires

A History of Georgia

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Edge of Empires

A History of Georgia

Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, Georgia is a country of rainforests and swamps, snow and glaciers, and semi-arid plains. It has ski resorts and mineral springs, monuments and an oil pipeline. It also has one of the longest and most turbulent histories in the Christian or Near Eastern world, but no comprehensive, up-to-date account has been written about this little-known country—until now. Remedying this omission, Donald Rayfield accesses a mass of new material from recently opened archives to tell Georgia’s absorbing story.

Beginning with the first intimations of the existence of Georgians in ancient Anatolia and ending with the volatile presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili, Rayfield deals with the country’s internal politics and swings between disintegration and unity, and divulges Georgia’s complex struggles with the empires that have tried to control, fragment, or even destroy it. He describes the country’s conflicts with Xenophon’s Greeks, Arabs, invading Turks, the Crusades, Genghis Khan, the Persian Empire, the Russian Empire, and Soviet totalitarianism. A wide-ranging examination of this small but colorful country, its dramatic state-building, and its tragic political mistakes, Edge of Empires draws our eyes to this often overlooked nation.

479 pages | 40 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2012

History: Middle Eastern History

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“Rayfield’s Edge of Empires is a wonderful history of Georgia, lifting the lid on that country's torrid, rambunctious past (and present). Impeccably researched, limpidly written, and full of insight.”

William Boyd | Guardian, "Books of the Year"

“The most comprehensive and up-to-date history of Georgia available in English. This tour de force explains why the small south Caucasus nation looks longingly to the west. A work of consummate erudition from Britain’s foremost expert on Georgian history and literature.”

Tony Barber | Financial Times, "Books of the Year"

“[An] ambitious and comprehensive history of a complex country. . . . Rayfield’s powerful theme is of brief periods of prosperity and security, ended by invasion, conquest, looting and despoliation.”


“Basing his account on Georgian Chronicles, secondary literature, and archival materials as well as his in-depth knowledge of Georgian language and literature, Rayfield unleashes a whirlwind of battles, victories and defeats, invasions and annexations, dynastic arrangements, political shenanigans, and social and cultural changes . . . accompanied by a helpful chronology, detailed maps, and dynastic tables.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Rayfield’s panoramic Edge of Empires is an impressive work that helps us understand why this south Caucasus nation of 6.4m people lodged in a hostile and unstable neighborhood looks so longingly to the West. . . . Edge of Empires is the most wide-ranging and reliable history of Georgia one is likely to find for many years to come.”

Financial Times


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

“Rayfield offers the most comprehensive and detailed survey history of the country of Georgia to date. Although David Marshall Lang (1962), William Edward David Allen (1932), Kalistrat Salia (1983), and Ronald Grigor Suny (1989) have all written survey histories of Georgia in the past, Rayfield’s is the only one that takes readers from the region’s prehistory all the way up to recent demonstrations in 2011 against Georgia’s current government under Mikheil Saakashvili. . . . An excellent and indispensable reference for libraries, students, researchers, and general readers. Essential.”


“Rayfield begins with archaeology and finishes with the upheavals of 2012. Breathtaking and breathless, his book is the equivalent of watching Shakespeare’s history plays in fast-forward mode or being put on the back of a Georgian steed and charged across the mountains of Khevsureti at daredevil speed.”

International Affairs

“In [his] depth and attention to detail of more or less the whole of recorded Georgian history, Rayfield has produced the definitive one-volume work.”

European History Quarterly

“This is a valuable work on a country that has not generally received sufficient attention in the literature. Rayfield, an expert on the twentieth century, is an excellent choice for the volume.”

European Review of History

“This is a courageous book. In four hundred pages or so, the author attempts to chronicle the history of Georgia and Georgians over two millennia, bringing us in its final chapter to the closing years of the Saakashvili era in 2009–10. There is no doubt that Rayfield is the man to tackle this task, a linguist and historian who speaks Georgian and has studied its culture and politics for over three decades. The text is bright, straightforward, and speckled with irony and humor. . . . Rayfield takes us through two thousand years of Georgian history with pace and efficiency.”

Slavonic and Eastern European Review

“This book will fascinate anyone interested in the turbulent, tangled past of the Georgians.”

Reviews in History

"Rayfield’s work will serve as the reference text for the study of Georgian history in the English-speaking world for a long time. No truly comparable book, one that begins with Georgia’s emergence from legend into history and ends with an examination of the present Georgian dream government, exists in Western scholarship."

Asian Affairs

“Rayfield is the English-speaking world’s incomparable guide to Georgia’s language, literature, and history. He revels in its fascinating complexities and, as we read him, so do we.”

Thomas de Waal, author of “The Caucasus: An Introduction”

Table of Contents


1. The Emergence of the Kartvelians
2. The Origins of the Kingdom of Kartli
3. Conversion
4. The Arab Conquest
5. Unification
6. Davit the Builder
7. Demetre and Giorgi III
8. Queen Tamar
9. Mongol Invasion
10. The Fractured State
11. Timur Lang and the Destruction of Georgia
12. Fratricide
13. King Teimuraz I
14. Teimuraz Dispossessed
15. The Eighteenth Century
16. The Russian Conquest of Kartli-Kakhetia
17. King Solomon’s End
18. Vice-regency
19. Reaction and Revolution
20. Independence
21. Soviet Annexation
22. After Stalin
23. Independence Restored

Maps and Dynastic Trees
Select Bibliography

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