This is a book that can and should read by everyone, at least all with the slightest interest in world history. I feel this so adamantly since what it tells us does away with serious misconceptions about the Mongol Empire. It explains in a clear and comprehensible manner how the world we live in today has been improved by Mongol practices. It is stated that the book is revisionary, but I believe wholeheartedly in what we are told. It is clear and thoroughly documented. What we are told just plain makes sense! The author is a cultural anthropologist and historian.
The book begins with a discussion about the life of Genghis Khan (1162-1227), follows his successors, offering detailed information both about Kublai Khan and powerful women of the clan, discussing the formation of the Mongol nation in 1206, the squabbling that arose between the successive leaders and concludes with a convincing analysis of how the Mongol Empire has influenced today’s world.
We all think of the Mongols as barbarians that wrought havoc on the world. Few of us are aware of how they opened the world to commerce. They opened new trade routes, not only of physical goods but for the transmission of ideas and cultures. I am daunted because I cannot adequately express how this book has so changed how I view world history. I used to praise the new ideas espoused during the Enlightenment, but did you know that Voltaire drew a picture of the savage, blood-thirsty Mongols that served their own purposes and created a one-sided view that hid the truth. Chaucer praised Genghis Kahn and Marco Polo did the same for Kublai Kahn; When Christopher Columbus sailed west it was to look for Cathay, to reconnect with the fantastic trade routes established by the Mongols. I could go on and on showing how what we have been told about these so-called barbarians just doesn’t quite add up! What is explained here in this book makes sense and it changes how we understand today’s modern world.
Did you know that Genghis Kahn made the capital of his Chinese Empire present day Beijing in 1266 and that that the Forbidden City was a huge park filled with wild animals where the Mongol leaders lived in ghers/yurts? Here in this enclosed area the Mongol leaders lived according to their own Mongol traditions. They ate their traditional foods, ate with knives, which the Chinese found abhorrent, drank fermented mare’s milk and practiced their own sports and games, so foreign to the Chinese culture around them. Did you know that “hooray” is based on a Mongol expression of exuberance? Did you know that Columbus called the red-skinned natives he encountered when he landed on the islands off the American mainland Indians because he thought he had met up with the Mongols living south of the Chinese Mongols, the Mongols of India? That is why Native Americans originally were called Indians. There is so much in this book that makes sense, it is like putting together all the pieces of a puzzle and everything fits!
Kublai Kahn supported universal education with classes held in the colloquial language. Paper money was invented by the Chinese, but he saw its practicality and radically expanded its usage. Under his rule China attained its Golden Age of Drama. Medical knowledge, textile production, printing techniques, basically all areas of knowledge that were practical and useful were supported and transported to new areas around the world. Under the Mongol rule there was religious freedom. In the 1200s, think of that!
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Jonathan Davis. His pronunciation of Mongol terms is clear. The pacing is perfect. This is essential in a book of non-fiction. Along with the download one is given pdf files of maps and diagrams. One difficulty that I had, when I searched on the net for further information, was that often more than one name was used for the same person. It is also difficult to recognize Mongol names. This is easier if you can both see and hear them.
It is time that we begin to acknowledge the good things Genghis Kahn and Kublai Kahn have given us. Read this book and you will stop using the word “Mongolian” as a word of slander.
Say something about yourself!
You will never think about Genghis and Kublai Khan the same way again. It turns out they were socially progressive. Seriously. A brilliantly researched eye opener. Very well read. They supported religious diversity, universal education, promotion on merit not birth, global trade, fair judicial system. This is so compellingly written I listened almost non-stop. Just a great and really thought provoking look at the history of a part of the world we don't hear enough about.
You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. —Wayne Gretzky
This book is an eye opener, to say the least. We are so used to know the history of the world from the European perspective with some, probably lots, of prejudice towards the "barbaric" tribes from the east, for them the "dark ages"never happened.
You'll probably be surprised, like me, to know that while in Europe the Church was torturing witches, the Mongols were building an empire based on trade, respecting human rights, were able to conquer in 2 years what the crusaders were not able to do in two centuries - conquer Iraq and even made some effort toward public education - IN THE 12TH CENTURY.
I recommend this book for everyone, specially those who believe in any superiority from the European culture.
I have either been asleep at the switch my whole life or no one took the time to really teach me history. I had no idea that the world was anything like this book depicts. Your notion about history will change forever once you have read this fantastic book. It really is a game changer.
Fantastic book. Very good introduction to the Mongol History. Wonderfully written, keeps you entertained, wishing that the book never ends.
The narrator also did a wonderful job.
A must read for who likes History
Interesting and certainly a different perspective than I've heard about the Mongols from the anglo-western history. I suspect the western history is biased in the negative. Weatherford does not deny the violence of those times, but does stress the positive impact the Mongol empire had on trade, technology spread and government advances.
This book goes beyond just the life of Genghis Khan (Temujin) to include the span of the Mongol empire ruled by his descendent khans. The author ends with an afterword of modern Mongol cultural impacts.
I have read a lot, and few books that I have read are as good and informative as this. The author does a good job of explaining the life of Genghis Khan. But what I really liked is his summary of the history of the Mongolian empire after Genghis Khan's death, and its broader impact in world history. I also really liked the author's discussion of the way the Mongols were seen in 18th century Europe, and how that impacted the way they viewed Asians and led to eastern colonialism. I highly recommend this book.
The beginning was that cross between historical story telling and greek mythology. Like a ancient saga, which is what I guess it is.
The Odyssey or Beowulf for the aforementioned reasons. It was better than that because the story turns out to be mostly true.
Where GK along with his brother decide to upsurp their mother's new husband.
The book does give a sympathetic look at Ghengis Khan and his moral vantage point vs. the old addages that he was a blood thirsty conqueror with little motivation other than bloodlust.
I loved the narrator. His voice has a close resemblance to William Shatner.
If you like history, and like in my case, history about great leaders, then here's a book you have to listen to. While Europe was in the middle of the Dark Ages, and religion was at the center of every conflict, the East, starting from the Balkans and reaching over to the Pacific Ocean, was witnessing the magnitude of Genghis Khan, and in less than two generations, Kublai Khan, his grandson. We all know Napoleon, Churchill, Alexander, Julius Caesar... Genghis Khan dwarfs all of them, and is seldom shown to the world. This book makes justice to one of the great military and administrative minds of all time.
Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan. It's amazing to me that genius can happen for genetical reasons, and yet this book shows it can.
The author's thoroughness, his research, the fact that he goes back to the old scribes to search for information and relies little on the scholars of the late 18th or 19th century tells gives the book a credibility that it wouldn't have otherwise. Jonathan Davis does a great job in telling it like it is, almost like Genghis Khan would: without too much flamboyance, and with effectiveness.
Yes, although it's quite long and that would take too much caffeine. It's a book you take and can't let go of.
Highly recommendable if you want the facts straight.
I'm blown away by this book. It fills in a huge gap of human history. How did China learn of Europe, Europe of China? Gunpowder, printing, the compass... and this is just scratching the surface of the impact that the Mongols had. The narration was fabulous. The story was fabulous. I wish that I could give the book more than five stars.