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John Anthony Garnet Man (born 15 May 1941) is a British historian and travel writer. His special interests are China, Mongolia, and the history of written communication.[1] He takes particular pleasure in combining historical narrative with personal experience.

John Man
OccupationHistorian, travel writer
GenreHistorical, travel writing
Notable worksGenghis Khan, Kublai Khan

Early lifeEdit

He studied German and French at Keble College, Oxford, before doing two postgraduate courses, a diploma in the History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies, completing the latter in 1968.[2]


After working in journalism with Reuters and in publishing with Time-Life Books, he turned to writing, with occasional forays into film, TV and radio.

In the 1990s, he began a trilogy on the three major revolutions in writing: writing itself, the alphabet and printing with movable type. This has so far resulted in two books, Alpha Beta and The Gutenberg Revolution, both republished in 2009. The third, on the origin of writing, is on hold, because it depends on access to Iraq.

He returned to the subject of Mongolia with Gobi: Tracking the Desert, the first book on the region since the 1920s. Work in Mongolia led to Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection, which has so far appeared in 21 languages. Attila the Hun and Kublai Khan: The Mongol King Who Remade China completed a trilogy on Asian leaders.

The Terracotta Army coincided with the British Museum exhibition (September 2007- April 2008). This was followed by The Great Wall. The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan combines history and leadership theory. Xanadu: Marco Polo and the Discovery of the East was published in autumn 2009, and Samurai: The Last Warrior, the story of Saigō Takamori's doomed 1877 rebellion against the Japanese emperor, was published in February 2011.

A revised edition of his book on Genghis Khan, with the results of an expedition up the mountain on which he is supposed to be buried, was published in 2011

In 2007 John Man was awarded Mongolia's Friendship Medal for his contributions to UK-Mongolian relations.

"The Mongol Empire" (2014) tells the story of the world's greatest land empire, established by Genghis and taken to its fullest extent by his grandson Kublai. It develops two major themes touched on in previous books: the nature of the Mongols' ideology of world rule and the consequences for the modern world of Kublai's conquest of all China.

Also in 2014, "'Xanadu" was acquired by HarperCollins US, who retitled the book "Marco Polo" to accompany the 10-part Netflix original TV series "Marco Polo".

He is married to Timberlake Wertenbaker.


  • The Birth of our Planet (1997)
  • Gobi: Tracking the Desert (1997)
  • Atlas of the Year 1000 (1999)
  • Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World (2000)
  • Comets, Meteors and Asteroids (2001)
  • The Gutenberg Revolution: The Story of a Genius and an Invention That Changed the World (2003)
  • Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection (2005)
  • Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome (2005)
  • Attila The Hun (2006)
  • Kublai Khan (2006)
  • The Terracotta Army: China's First Emperor and the Birth of a Nation (2007)
  • The Great Wall: The Extraordinary Story of China's Wonder of the World (2008)
  • The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan (2009)
  • Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East (2009)
  • Samurai: The Last Warrior (2011)
  • Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warriors (2012)
  • "The Mongol Empire: Genghis Khan, his heirs and the founding of modern China" (2014)
  • "Marco Polo: The Journey that Changed the World" (2014)
  • "Saladin: The Life, The Legend and the Islamic Empire" (2015)


  1. ^
  2. ^ "In the Footsteps of the Real Last Samurai." SOAS World 37 (Spring 2011). p30.