What a indictment of my Euro-centric education that much of the material in Weatherford's book was a revelation to me. I was glued to my I-pod.
The book was well researched and thorough and the reader was very good. With that said you can sense that the writer had a little bias (I call it a man-crush) on Gengis Kahn and attributed the Mongol Empire as having developing the modern world short of landing on the moon and the invention of the computer. The real truth is that the Mongols contributed nothing but terror to the people of the dark ages and enslaved the masons, astrologist, scientists and craftsman of races with superior intellect (Chinese, Persians, Eastern Europeans, etc) and attributed their inventions and contributions to society to the Mongols who ruled (or payed tribute to) the lands by threat of death. The real truth is that if 30 million innocent citizens were not attacked, these contributions would have occurred naturally.
It sounds like I'm attacking the author, but I'm not. I highly recommend this book. He did a great job, it is just readily apparent he had a skewed view of what he calls "The great leader" and even visited his grave to pay homage and shed some tears (in his own words). Gengis Kahn was no more than murderous thug who invented perhaps the first ponzi scheme: He would take a handfull of warriors to a village and pillage all of their goods and tell the males to join his clan or die. Then he would have more warriors to attack the next larger village until he had an army of hundreds of thousands where he attacked major cities. Once his army got too large to manage, his successors lost hold and the scheme fell apart.
Retired nightclub performer/computer technician, I now teach hula and ukulele to seniors, and record Hawaiian music for my halau!
This is not the first Audible book about Genghis Khan I have purchased and read. The other one was very interesting, and I am so glad I bought it first. Keep in mind, I am smiling while I write this because of the irony of the thing. if I had bought this book first, I would never, ever have revisited Genghis again. This book, however accurate it may be, is the bloodiest, most graphic description of horror upon horror inflicted on the world population by a single human being.
I did not realize that Genghis Khan's era was in the 12th-13th centuries. That's fairly recent in human history. Ole Genghis started out in Mongolia and eventually marched himself right across Russia right on to Europe's doorstep. According to Weatherford, he was a despot and enjoyed subjugating Christians, Jews, and anyone else he took a disliking to. Geez, where was the plague when we needed it?
Jack Weatherford tells the story of this cruel and inhumane ruler well -- almost too well, as a matter of fact. I suppose I could have gone on with my peripheral knowledge of the man and left it at that, but now, I think Genghis was much, much worse than Hitler. I am of the mind that every monument to him should be bulldozed, every history book should be expunged and humanity should go onward without being reminded that such a being ever existed.
If you like gore and like to read about human misery, by all means get this book! The narrator is great. He drops all this vileness in your lap like he's describing a picnic in the park. I should like to hear him read something not quite so ghastly. There is a lot of animation in his voice. He's good,
In closing, I can't say I didn't like the book. I learned a lot listening to it. You know, some things are hard to hear, but there is a message in there somewhere. I hope that future generations never fall into the mindless hopelessness of a creature like Genghis. Maybe reading stuff like this will scare us enough to keep that from happening,
Enlightening, Engaging, Informative
The story of Genghis Khan and his descendants was eye opening and informative. I learned so much. And the story was so well written it was a pleasure to hit the play button
There were no characters per se. But I think Genghis and his wife were the most interesting
The greatest general you know nothing about
If you are at all curious about this subject matter. Download this book.
I would say the audible would be much better simply because of it length.
Genghis - who else. Many of the women discussed in the book surpristed me because of the roles they played in the Mongolean culture and politics..
I had a kind of "aha" reaction when reading about his open mind concerning the religions of both his friends and enemies.
It always amazes me that we in the West forget about the Mongols and what they accomplislished. His attitude concerning the various religions was amazing and, I am sure, help him control those he conquered. There did not seem to be any real religious rebellions. I think we could learn from this.
I got this book on a recommendation and I never would have guessed how much I would enjoy it. It filled a huge gap in my understanding of world history and reversed misconceptions. After I finished the book I noticed the PDF of the family tree. I wish I had found that earlier. I also wish there had been a PDF glossary of frequently used words.
I may buy this book now in print so I can re-enjoy at leisure.
Every now and then a book comes along that provides a new perspective in which many hitherto incomprehensible or poorly understood things fall into place: these are the books to which I would like to give an extra star over and above the five that signify "excellent", "very interesting", or "highly recommended".
Weatherford has been taken to task for his revisionist bias and lapses in scholarship. I wish to mention that I am well aware of these objections but consider them to be of minor importance alongside the wealth of insights he brings to numerous areas of history.
Though not a scholar myself, I have in the course of several decades taken more than a passing interest in medieval and Renaissance art and culture, Chinese history, history of ideas and history in general. Weatherford has shed light on each of these areas.Whether all the ideas set forth in the book are correct (that is, correspond to reality) I cannot of course be sure, but they are invariably stimulating and illuminating, and in my judgment not wildly off the mark (as some pretend).
For instance, Weatherford has been severely criticized for crediting the Mongols with the Renaissance. Well, of COURSE the Renaissance is the revival of classical antiquity rather than an infusion of foreign elements, and Weatherford does not suggest otherwise as some seem to think: but what I had never considered was how the Mongol conquests contributed to creating the conditions in which the flowering of the late middle ages and the Renaissance took place.
Something else that impressed me particularly is how skillfully Kublai Khan governed China, and just what a tragedy it was that the Black Death destroyed his work and caused the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty. Though highly aware of what the Black Death did to Europe, I had not known to what extent it wreaked havoc on China in every way. Had the Yuan been able to evolve under normal circumstances, how much better off might China not have been in so many respects, from commerce and law to technology and intellectual thought to literature and art... By comparison, the consequences for Europe were relatively benign: the inevitable reactionary backlash in the second half of the 14th C. threatened but did not strangle the Renaissance that was just beginning, and Europe was thriving again by the 15th C; whereas in China, all the reforms Kublai Khan ushered in not only fell by the wayside because the conditions no longer permitted them to be implemented, but they never had a chance to revive because the Mongol collapse was followed by the extremely conservative Ming Dynasty that sought to suppress all traces of anything associated with the Mongols (from the better laws to paper money to popular theatre to public baths, even though these had already flourished under the Song).
Weatherford has also been criticized for whitewashing the Mongols. While he does try to mitigate the barbaric, bloodthirsty image of Genghis Khan that has such wide currency, he does not deny that the Mongols were merciless toward their enemies. What he does do is point out how in many highly significant respects Genghis Khan was morally superior to most other rulers in history: he outlawed torture at a time when it was and would continue to be practiced universally (by religious no less than secular powers), he outlawed harming emissaries (many brought about their own destruction by killing and maiming emissaries he sent), he guaranteed religious freedom, he delegated power according to merit and not birth, and he insisted on a rule of law, putting even himself as supreme ruler under the law. Each one of these was extremely rare; how many powerful rulers are there who combined them?
I have often noted that some of the most interesting books are written by scholars who venture beyond the confines of their field of expertise. This brings the hazard of errors, but in the best instances (such as the present book), the payoff far outweighs the lapses (I would not even mention this but for nitpicking critics).
The audiobook is compelling listening, and Jonathan Davis does a terrific job of reading.