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.
My husband & I listen over & over. Lots of wonderful information. We have recommended it to our adult children and others.
They ruled China for a period and even made an unsuccessful assault on Japan.
It is over 14 hours. One sitting is not an option for me. But I would take it anywhere - in the car or kitchen while I was doing something. Or I would just sit and listen. It was always interesting to hear. Gengis was quite a thinker.
History can be so interesting. Why don't we teach it to the kids this way?
Just an all around awesome person.
I am not a history person and this books stands on a very short list of history books I have read. Genghis Khan was a bad a**. It moves a little quick after you get past his death, but I would highly recommend this to anyone.
This book illustrates the principle that not all received wisdom is correct, particularly when it comes to non-European history. Simply put, the Mongols were not the evil empire of their times (which lasts for several centuries.)
Read or listen, enjoy and learn. Worth a credit.
Yes. Is a long book but very well read.
Easy to hear and understand their pronunciation.
Discussion of governing principles and incorporation of various aspects of each culture group they conquered.
This book ranks in the top ten of audiobooks I've listened to so far.
The author kept is very praise-worthy research efforts in the background to the main messages of this enlightening biographical work, and never made himself the star of the investigation.
No, I like periodic "reading".
This is the warrior as he deserves to be understood in our modern times - a man who believed in a light footprint on the earth, the rule of law, religious tolerance, and many other notions we may mistakenly think found their roots elsewhere in history - specifically the West's history.
I had no idea the Mongul Empire was so vast and much more civilized than the histroy I had learned protrayed the Monguls.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in a different perspective on Asian culture and history.
The notion of the Mongols as a dirty band of marauders; an unfortunately rapacious blip on the screen of history was dispelled completely. I want to be a Mongol!
Genghis for his clarity of thought and his expansive view of the world. His ecumenical understanding and desire for peace, intellectual development and family ties above all.
Clear strong delivery Excellent pacing
I would take it from the interview..".Imagine that an illiterate slave became the leader of the modern world"
I think this should be required reading in public schools. Inspiring, enlightening and fascinating
Simply put, this is the most amazing history book ever! (well, maybe just behind Power, Faith, Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to present; due to relevance today) I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as well as the narrator. History is usually dry and boring but both the author and narrator bring to life this amazing story.
Most importantly, we've all been taught little about the Mongol Empire and most of that is false. Please read/listen to this book and learn everything that I have. You will gain a respect for Genghis Khan, his decedents and their many accomplishments. You will then ask yourself how we've allowed misconceptions to perpetuate through time (I'm guilty myself).
Thanks to the secret history of Genghis Khan and Mr. Weatherford for his scrupulous research and presentation of that history. I immediately bought this book for my dad for Father's Day.