I would have to say that it was the fact that I really didn't know anything about Genghis Khan outside of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures. That was the reason I got the book, because I realized that I knew nothing about one of the greatest figures in history. I'm glad that I didn't know anything about him going in because I was able to formulate my own opinion.
The man's ideology created the civilized world 800 years before the civilized world did.
Davis didn't kill the history lesson by trying to do voices. I really enjoyed his performance. It didn't put me to sleep like some history narrators have.
I don't know if it moved me as much as tore me in two different directions. Genghis Khan was responsible for a lot of war and death, and it can be really hard to like a guy that was responsible for so that much death. As an example of his ruthlessness: During one battle that took place during his conquest of the West, his son was killed by an arrow shot by one of the towns people. He turned to his son's wife, who was with them at the time, and told her that she can exact whatever revenge she wanted on the city's people. She decided to make three massive pyramids that consisted of heads: one for the men, one for the women, and one for the children. She had every person in the city killed and then proceeded to order the death of every single animal in the city as well. Her reasons were that she wanted to leave the city as devoid of life as her husband now was. Thats ruthlessness.
However, Genghis Khan was a simple man. He gave almost every city he came across the choice: submit to my rule and law and I will treat you as my sons and daughters, you will live in total religious freedom and you will be part of a great unified nation, or, I will destroy your army to the last man and force you to submit to me. But you kind of have to remind yourself that every nation was created by conquest; even the good old US of A.
His vision for the Mongolian Nation was utterly amazing for the times. He was granting total freedom to rule themselves (he even let their kings stay on their thrones in most cases). He granted religious freedom at a time when people were being burned at the stake and being thrown on the rack in Europe. He was a man of great integrity; as long as you didn't try and screw him he pretty much left you alone as long as you payed your taxes and followed the law.
His ideology paved the way for Kublai Khan to later create the most advanced civilization the world had ever seen (and in some ways it still is to this day). These guys didn't mess around and they almost never used torture (they saw it as pointless since the tortured would eventually confess to anything), and they were swift to hold people to the law (which was probably the best justice system ever created). They Mongol Nation was the center for educational advancement since everybody (Mongol, Christian, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Russian, etc.) shared their knowledge and worked together to advance it. It was amazing what they accomplished once they were united, and in such little time. Novel idea isn't it?
Read this book. If you think Genghis Khan was just a murdering conquerer, then give Weatherford a chance to change your mind. This man (Genghis Khan) was a genius and a visionary.
THE BOOK: Very enlightening examination of the often-overlooked but incredibly influential Mongol Empire, beginning with Genghis Khan. It's hard to overstate how much the ideas, societal structures, and yes, conquests, of Khan and his heirs influenced modernity.
A few samples - - 1) he introduced the idea of freedom of religion, and fostered religious tolerance in every land he conquered, 2) there is a strong case to be made that the expansive commercial routes he opened both directly and indirectly brought about the European Renaissance, and 3) Kublai Khan unified China from what was previously a divided land of warring dynasties.
Weatherford does a great job of shedding light on all of this (and much more), but does so in slightly wooden narrative that, while definitely interesting, also drags a bit in spots.
THE NARRATOR: Jonathan Davis' voice is pleasant enough, but the performance was uneven, sometimes flat when drama was needed, and (more often) melodramatic when restraint was needed.
Read this book. The information and insights will startle you. It did me. It altered much of what I thought I already understood. Well researched and written, this book has become one of my favorites.
I am an eclectic person who loves to learn.
It was very interesting to hear more about Genghis Khan's childhood and youth. The customs of the Steppe people was well covered. The author takes a positive stance on Genghis Khan's war campaign. Interesting perspective. Overall a good listen. I have read a lot about Genghis Khan and this book covered a lot of the material I had to find in several books.
This is a very entertaining well researched biography of one of the most important men in history. The influence Genghis Khan had on history and shaping the civilized world is without peer. He literally conquered and reformed Europe and Asia. Read this book whether you like history or just a wonderfully entertaining well researched book.
To others listening to this book - the Introduction, read by the author, is actually the last chapter of part 2. Why? I don't know.
If you want to better understand the book listen to the last chapter of Part 2 first, then go back and listen to the rest. The 'introduction' explains how the author ended up writing the book and explains the origins of "The Secret Histories" which only because available recently and upon which a lot of the information in the book is based.
Other than that anomaly, the book is good. The narrator is good and the content is great. It spends the first half of the book looking a Genghis Khan, the next 1/3 looking at his decedents and how they eventually failed the great empire he built and the last big looking at how the Mongols have been viewed since then (fairly favourably until the 18th - 19th century when they suddenly became the boogey man to Europe).
Just wasn't impressed. There is a lot of good history here but a lot of information that you may forget the moment you hear it. A lot of Khan's killing Khan's but a lot of information on what they wore or ate for dinner. All of it is factual I am sure but not all of the facts are interesting.
Love to read, and Audible has made the two-hour daily commute enjoyable!
The name Genghis Khan brings to mind murdering Mongolian hordes. This book examines who Genghis Khan was, and the changes to civilization resulting from him and his descendants. Perhaps it is revisionist history, but nevertheless, I different way to look at how civilization grew, and the part Genghis Khan played.
Divided in three parts, the first is Genghis Khan, than his four sons and their descendants, and finally their place in history and impact of communism on the Mongol people and the research into this era.
The book is written lively and I learned new things about civilization and the fall of this empire because of the plague. Most interesting to me was Khan's tolerance of religion and how he would adopt advances in one region and because he didn't restrict because of religious reasons, took that advancement to other areas he conquered.
Really enjoyed the audio book - except they put the author's comments at the end of the audiobook - if it had been earlier, I would have made a point to use the reference materials while reading.
Weatherford should write a book just about the adventure of researching this book - that would be fascinating.
"fabric artist and quilter"
I have listened to several biographies of historical figures that history and common knowledge has represented as nasty, unpleasant and possibly evil. Modern research has however revealed that they have been misrepresented by history and while not necessarily the nicest of people they really weren't as bad as they previously were painted.
This book rewrites Genghis Khan's historical legacy. He was ruthless but it was explained why he was so and in context it make sense. You wouldn't want him as a friend, you certainly wouldn't want him as an enemy but you have to admire his skill at administering a huge empire.
How after years of conquering he settled down to consolidate what he'd won and how he set up trade between the different areas of his empire, how it was all recorded, how information and innovations were spread from the pacific to the mediterranean was impressive to say the least.
Occasionally the history got a bit bogged down but overall it was fascinating and revealing. I won't be racing off to Ulan Bator but I do now have a better appreciation of what he did and how he has changed the modern world.
For a newbie to eastern history, I found this work easy to follow despite an impressive degree of detail as the author goes through the lives and deeds of Genghis, as well as Genghis' children and grandchildren- all the way to Kublai Kahn.
I think one of the reasons I stayed so engaged was the conscious effort of the author to frequently step back and broaden the scope of a given event, explicitly describing what a lasting influence the great Kahns had on the world.I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in hearing how the Mongols shaped the east, and greatly influenced the west.