Other reviews sold this to me as non-fiction written in so engaging a manner as to beggar belief. The historical figures are brought to life and the Mongol cultural revelations are shattering!
Right. I now suspect these reviewers also enjoy curling up with a good technical manual after a long day.
Actually, that may not be fair. I enjoy fascinating and didactic non-fiction, but I think this has taught me that it's got to be a subject for which I have a predilection. For me, the book seemed dry. Perhaps if you enjoy anthropology...
A thorough, easy to understand biography of one of the most important figures in history. Not really very much information on the 'Making of the modern world' part. The ideals the author credits Temujin and his successors with are abstractions that come from a very idealized view of the culture.While the Mongols have an excessive reputation for brutality, they were not the noble and fair-minded people the author would have you believe either.
No. The writing is drab and he shows incredible bias in his opinions.
The biography is very lop-sided and presents an incredibly biased view of all the positive things about the Mongol culture. It ignores or minimizes many of the negative aspects of their way of life.
Addicted to Audible since 2009
I absolutely loved this book and overall, I thought the book just got better and better as the book went on. Very interesting!
I really, really wanted to like this book. I tried to listen to it several times and finally, after making it through the first half, simply gave up. The author obviously has a lot of respect for what Genghis Khan achieved but that -- at least in the first half -- spills over into unchecked admiration. Perhaps that is necessary to balance the accounts after centuries of bad mouthing the Mongols' conquests and campaign, but I think it goes overboard.
Chet Yarbrough, an audio book addict, exercises two cocker spaniels twice a day with an Ipod in his pocket and earbuds in his ears. Hope these few reviews seduce the public into a similar obsession but walk safely and be aware of the unaware.
Revisionist history is a speculative business; particularly when corroborating evidence is scarce and documentation is based on translation. Like the new testament’s record of Jesus’s life, “The Secret History of the Mongols” is a translation, years after Genghis Khan’s death. The original Mongolian document is missing. The only surviving written record of “The Secret History of the Mongols” is a translation by Chinese scribes. The Chinese translation is bound by the limitations of the translator’s culture.
Jack Weatherford, the author of this revisionist history recreates a credible story of Genghis Kahn’s life based on China’s translation of “The Secret History…” Weatherford, educated as an anthropologist, visits the homeland of Genghis’s birth and spends time discussing the history of Genghis with Mongol’ descendants.
I knew who Genghis Khan was. At least I thought I did. I was wrong however.
Mr. Weatherford's historical book is a fantastic work on Genghis Khan and his lasting legacy.
I had assumed that this book would be an autobiography of the Great Khan and it is, but only for the first third of the book or so. In fact, Genghis plays only a minor role in the overall scope and breadth of this novel.
Rather, two-thirds focus on Genghis Khan's decedents and their impact on the world around them. His decedents may not have been as an amazing ruler as he, they still managed to apply most of his principles and in doing so changed the world.
I had no idea that Genghis Khan implemented so many progressive measures within his growing empire. My knowledge, and ignorance, of him was limited to what I had learned from popular culture. That he was a leader of a barbarian horde that managed to concur much of the Eastern European and Asia.
I knew nothing of his ideals in regards to government and that he believed in the separation of church and state, along with the introduction of paper money.
Mr. Weatherford writes in an engaging way that doesn't become bogged down with the fog of historical facts, but nor does he write in a way that removes all intellectual truths from history.
The narrator, Mr. Davis, does a wonderful job and manages to nail even the most troublesome of pronunciations.
I highly recommend this to lover's of history or to anyone who has a passing interest in this, one of the greatest of men.
Absolutely. The narrator makes it really easy to follow and get hooked.
The Last Speakers by David Harrison, in the sense that it is great non-fiction that is easily approachable for anyone, while remaining highly informative.
No characters, but Mr Davis was great in conveying a sense of interest in the story.
No, but I was really hooked.
If I were to tell you about a leader that was responsible for abolishing torture, granting universal religious freedom, establishing international postal systems, creating the first internationally accepted form of paper currency, creating an alphabet so that people of diverse regions and languages could speak to each other, creating a judicial system with an established court of appeals and so many other innovative progressive systems in a world that was accustomed to centuries of intertribal conflicts, would you guess that I was talking about Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan was responsible for all of that and he was a brilliant military leader whose tactics have been used in modern warfare. I would never have believed this story but the research and references that the author used makes this story indisputable. Read it, you will be amazed and saddened that the world has painted this wonderful leader as a monster.
What a great read! I'm just a middle-aged American housewife with no ties to Asia or any detailed knowledge of the area, other than what is commonly known, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author wrote with obvious respect for the people and culture he described. Despite being a "history book," this was one I was reluctant to put down, and always looked forward to being able to continue as soon as my present task was over. I recommend it to anyone.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The cultural anthropologist Jack Weatherford's Genghis Kahn and the Making of the Modern World (2004) is an illuminating, absorbing, and readable account of the life, empire, and legacy of the great Mongolian leader. Basing his book on The Secret History of the Mongols (a recently translated, decoded, and published long-lost account of Genghis Kahn's life, tactics, and empire written in Mongolian poetry by a Mongol close to the Kahn not long after his death), on various Persian and European historical, literary, and scientific works, and on his own expeditions in Mongolia from 1998-2003, Weatherford paints a convincing picture of the ways in which Genghis Kahn and the Mongols shaped the modern world.
Weatherford highlights Genghis Kahn's innovations in warfare: giving men high-ranking posts according to ability not birth, adopting conquered people into the Mongol "family" as equal members rather than slaves, systematizing looting, and organizing his army by units of ten, regardless of kin, culture, or class. He covers Mongol tactics like terror propaganda ("paper was the most potent weapon in Genghis Kahn's arsenal"); quick, unexpected, attacks on multiple fronts; feigned retreats and subsequent ambushes; gunpowder projectiles and smoke bombs; diverted rivers; and exploitation of enemy divisions of class, ethnicity, or religion. Additionally, the great range and accuracy of the Mongol composite bow, the great mobility, endurance, and cohesion of their all-cavalry armies, their ability to improvise and to learn from experience, all gave them the advantage when invading civilizations that dwarfed them. "Whether measured by the total number of people defeated, the sum of the countries annexed, or by the total area occupied, Genghis Kahn conquered more than twice as much as any other man in history."
But the most eye-opening part of the book is how Genghis Kahn and his descendents turned their "empire of conquest . . . into an even larger empire of commerce," making "culture portable," their former war routes becoming trade routes connecting cultures that hadn't even known each other existed. The Mongols encouraged the exchange of goods, ideas, knowledge, and technology by breaking down walls around cities and countries. They prevented banditry and piracy, built an extensive system of trade stations, and initiated the use of paper money, standardized currency, and passport-credit cards for merchants. Experts in making hybrids from existing technologies and cultures, the Mongols brought together Taoists, Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians and diversified and spread agricultural products like tea, rice, and cotton and promoted new techniques and tools for cultivation, textiles, paper, ink, and medicine. Way before Gutenberg, they were printing with moveable type in many languages agricultural books, law books, almanacs, scriptures, poems, and histories.
Despite the inevitable literally poisonous squabbling among Genghis Kahn's descendants and the fragmenting of the empire into four regions, each with its own ruler and culture (the Golden Horde in Russia, Moghulistan near India, the Ilkhanate in Persia and Iraq, and the Yuan Dynasty in China), the Mongol empire persisted for over a hundred years, finally falling apart, ironically enough, largely due to the rapid spread of the Black Death over their efficient trade networks. The Mongols' global culture continued growing long after their empire ended, with modern ideals like diplomatic immunity, international law, state over church, religious tolerance, and free trade. Weatherford argues that the Renaissance mostly derived from Mongol fostered innovations in things like printing, gunpowder, art, and the compass. Indeed, in the Renaissance many learned people idealized the Mongol Empire and Genghis Kahn as utopians and wrote of a "Pax Mongolica."
According to Weatherford, that positive image changed when the Age of Enlightenment intelligentsia rewrote history to degrade the Mongols into savage destroyers of civilization rather than developers and distributers of it. Voltaire wrote about Mongol iniquity, barbarism, slavery, etc. in contrast to supposed European democracy and enlightenment, while de Buffon described them biologically as the lowest human beings. This all led to the idea that the "Mongoloid" features of retarded children resulted from earlier Mongol rapes of European women and to the Yellow Peril concept, providing a rationale for the European colonization of Asia. At the same time, Asian cultures like India and Japan began gaining inspiration from Genghis Kahn in their struggle to maintain or regain their independence and even to build a united Asian culture to balance the power of the west.
As he relates the above history, Weatherford mentions interesting features of Mongol culture. Because they believed, for example, that the essence of the soul lay in body odor, they smelled friends and relations when greeting them and avoided smelling enemy soldiers by keeping them at a distance with arrows and spears. And they efficiently communicated battle orders in what was at first an oral culture by putting information into lines of poetry and singing them to the tunes of popular songs.
Jonathan Davis, one of my favorite audiobook readers, is in fine fettle here, his pauses and emphases increasing historical interest and narrative suspense.
The book closes with a moving half-hour "Epigraph" read by Weatherford in which he recounts traveling with some Mongol scholars, students, and local herders to the sacred mountain Burkhan Khaldun. This is followed by his reading the "Introduction" of the print book, oddly moved to the "Afterword" of the audiobook, in which he summarizes his findings about Genghis Kahn and explains how he found them (by teaming up with Mongol scholars, students, and local herders to retrace Genghis Kahn's formative experiences, armed with the Secret History).
Weatherford can be given to hyperbole, as when he says that no other leader in history had such loyal generals, or to spin, as when he says that the Mongols "trod lightly on the world they conquered," but he is mostly convincing in his interpretations of history, and I enjoyed gaining a new vision of the subject. Anyone interested in empires, history, and the Mongols would find this book of great interest.