Ardent Audible listener with a long commute!
Universal free education. Widespread literacy. Secular government. Freedom of religion. Ambassadors from other countries. Translators and interpreters. Diplomatic immunity. A consumer-driven economy. Free trade agreements. Huge technological advances in communications. Paper money based on precious metals and gem reserves. Pensions for military veterans, and lifelong benefits for survivors of those killed in action. Support for scholars. Doctors and lawyers. Laws that applied equally to the rulers as well as the ruled. A Supreme Court. Meticulous record keeping, using complex mathematics and calculators. Multiculturalism. An empire bigger than North and Central America, combined.
The Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan and his grandson, Kubla Khan - and lesser known Great Khans - was astonishingly advanced, especially in contrast to Europe, which at the time, was mired in futile attempts - The Crusades - to 'free' the Holy Lands from Muslims.
I knew that Genghis Khan was an innovative military leader who both invented and eschewed conventional warfare. Genghis Khan created the "decimal" system of soldiers of 10 soldiers to a 'squad', which is still used in modern military. A 'company' was 10 squads; a battalion was 10 'companies' . . . and so on. The term "decimal" is author Jack Weatherford's term; the other terms are mine, analogizing to modern military organizational structure. At the same time, Genghis Khan used innovative military weapons - including gun powder - and improved on existing weapons. His tactics - like waging war on multiple fronts, feinting defeat, and skilled infiltrators - are common today, but unique 900 years ago. Psychological warfare was a key part of Genghis Khan's military success - he encouraged stories of Mongol brutality and ruthlessness to encourage surrender.
Until I listened to Weatherford's "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" (2004), I had no idea who Genghis Khan was, beyond his military skill. I spent a good part of the book wondering why, with advanced courses in European, Chinese and Russian history, I had essentially missed a crucial empire. In the Afterward, I found out: I am too old.
During China's Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) a Chinese/Mongolian version of "The Secret History of the Mongols" (~1240, author unknown) was used to teach Chinese scholars the Mongolian language. It gradually stopped being used, and by the 19th century, there were very few copies. The first definitive English translation was Harvard-Yenching Institute's translation (Francis Woodman Cleaves, 1982). Urgunge Onon's 2001 translation is much more readable. Both are scholarly, often cited works. From 1924 to 1990, the Soviet Union controlled Mongolia and did its best to eradicate evidence of other civilizations, and kept the rest of the world from the country. Exactly who Genghis Khan was, how the Mongol Empire started, and how it thrived was hidden for almost 700 years.
Weatherford's "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" opened a new civilization and a new perspective for me. Definitely worth the listen.
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I got this audiobook because it won a best listen award and I figured, what did I have to lose? I was not disappointed. I am now a self-proclaimed Ghengis Kahn-aphile. It was a fantastic gym/work/commute listen. I have recommended it to pretty much anyone who will listen to me ramble on about how much of what we have accomplished and take for granted in our modern world actually originated centuries ago from the vision, actions, and genius of one (what we would call uneducated) man. I have even downloaded this audiobook to my dad's iPod, for which as far as I'm concerned, is the reason we have iPods. It's not every day you come across something that changes and enlightens your perspective of the world you live in and I thank Mr. Weatherford for compiling this compelling biography of this mysterious man. I think I may press play and listen to it again right now.
Utterly engrossing, and filled with information we should all know to combat all of the disinformation about Genghis Khan and the Mongolian Empire which still passes for common knowledge. I honestly believe that this book should be a standard text for all high school students, everywhere (at least, in my world where history is required to the end of high school, since it probably requires a 10th or 11th grade reading level.)
My edition was the audiobook and I must say that Davis was truly wonderful (and that’s a professional opinion!) His pacing was perfect and never once, during the 14 odd hours, did he sound as though he was anything but fascinated, which is essential for the listeners’ comprehension. There was the occasional strange edit or technical hiccough but only one or two that a layman would have noticed. All in all a wonderful production so kudos to author, narrator and producer/director!
This book is one that I probably wouldn't have read in print, but as an audio book is alive, vibrant and fully engaging. Every bit is interesting as Mongol culture is examined and explained. The stories are wonderful and I ended up appreciating that part of world history more than I would have after a college level course. It was brilliant.
Initially, I enjoyed the narration of the life of Genghis Khan, which appeared factual, although not well documented, relying on just a handful of references and sources. It confirmed my preconceived opinion of Genghis Khan, and particularly of his immediate descendents as a savage horde. The author states that they massacres over 35 million people, destroyed agriculture, irrigation, and cities, burned libraries and looted all civilisations in their path, with the sole purpose of conquest and plunder. Ingenious conquerors they certailny were, but certainly nothing more.
The author's later attempts later to potray the Mongols in a favourable light appeared to me as laughable drivel. His claims that they were at the root of the renaissance stretch the limits of logic to the breaking point. He discounted all the historic accounts of academicians and scholars (Voltaire was a "revisionist" historian), giving more credence to the so-called "praise" of Genghis Khan, in The Canterbury Tales, a witty farce by all standards.
The structure of the book, particulary toward the end, left me puzzled. A full hour of epilogue and after-word that produced nothing but repetition of incidents in the main narrative, in a series of cheap clichés.
Maybe I was disappointed because I had read the book immediately after some great histories by Churchill and Roberts, and was expecting an intelligent and objective treatment of the Mongol era.That I did not get. I could not wait to finish the book, particularly the last thirty minutes or so, so I could throw it away.
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.
The concise and direct historical presentation of a man lost to myth and legend as well as the refreshing perspective of his policies and rule. The life of Temujin, the boy who grew into the Great Khan sounds like a Hollywood movie! Father poisoned? Captured and made a slave? From that abject state to the greatest conquerer in history!
Surprise! My understanding was his empire fractured and collapsed soon after his death, much like Alexander the Great's. To learn the depth and scope of the Mongol Empire and it's unique longevity even decades after his passing is a testament to his vision and leadership.
When as a youth he single-mindedly forged an alliance to wage war on the tribe that had kidnapped and outraged his young wife, Borte.
When Temujin exhibits his ruthless nature for the first time by killing his rival step brother, their mother's grief and anguish at Bechter's loss and her favorite son's cruelty haunted me.
This book reveals a man that, even in the pursuit of a unified Mongol Nation by fire and sword, forged a Nation that was based on merit, not blood. Believed to be the world's FIRST true Meritocracy (albeit at sword's point!)
Conveys the drama and grandeur of Genghis Khan's life as well as his profound impact on the Western and Muslim worlds clearly and compellingly.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have always wanted to know more about this man, his people, and his impact on world history. The author does and excellent job of helping to make sense out of how a band of nomads went on to conquer much of the known world and shape the course of world history. Well written and wonderfully narrated.
All I can say is that I never realized that if you do not know and understand the history of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire you do not know or understand anything at all about human history. Period. Absolutely stunning!