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.
Love a good mystery, but don't care much for pure thrillers.
I barely started the book before being alerted to the fact that the author makes exaggerated claims that are not facts and, in the print version, provides little by way of documentation. Then, since audible makes it impossible to search reader reviews or to bin them by ratings, I turned to some of the one- and two-star reviews on amazon and goodreads by people who already know Mongol culture and history. (I did find one good one here by Mamoun on 11/23/11.) Turns out Weatherford is not a historian but a cultural anthropologist who, as a scholar, apparently committed the sin of losing objectivity and identifying with the culture that he is "studying." Since I bought this to learn history and cannot easily separate the wheat from the chaff, I choose not to fill my head with Weatherford's imaginative notions. I do know enough to recognize that the Mongols are not responsible for the European Renaissance. I'm turning this book back in for a refund.
According to reviewers, this is a repeat of what was done earlier in his "Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World." (Indian here refers to all the native peoples of South, Central, and North America.) No doubt, they are insufficiently credited in areas of agriculture (potatoes, maize,...) and herbal medicines, and, gosh knows, they have been exploited mercilessly by their conquerers. However, given its drafters and their backgrounds, I find it difficult to believe that the "writing of the United States Constitution" owes much to Indian polity or heritage.
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
Love listening to books.
Opinionated pseudo-history at best, revisionist nonsense at worst.
Weatherford uses fragments of selectively chosen historical facts to create a view of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire that is not only benevolent, but responsible for everything that shapes the modern world. He credits them as either cause or directly responsible party for paper money, modern medicine, diplomatic immunity, the German Blitzkrieg, public education, international law, printing press, the European Renaissance, international trade, global postal mail, and more. Anything the Mongols did since Genghis is the biggest, best, or just simply the foundation of anything else in the west. As if all the positive reasons aren't enough to create a new view of the Khan, he also declares that Genghis is the reason why European's grew to hate all asians and considered them so backwards they needed European colonialism to rescue them.
Weatherford glosses over the massive slave trade of the Mongols that was unmatched until Stalin and Mao enslaved many in their countries. He ignores the documented brutality of the Mongols, stating that they are simple exaggerations by uneducated writers years after the fact. He even states that the rapes historically described did not really happen - despite the DNA evidence (8% of Asian men, and 0.5% of worlds population).
Bottom line is that this is more a propaganda work that Genghis Khan (who appreciated and utilized propaganda) would have happily approved of for our modern times. It reshapes this bloodthirsty leader into a model for todays world leaders. A lover of peace and commerce that sought to help everyone and protect his mother (yep, another reason given by Weatherford for Khan's conquests).
Some may like this, but I say skip it. It doesn't qualify as history, and probably not even historical fiction. More likely fantasy.
For my part a bad narration is a deal breaker. This was outstanding. Even pronunciations of names and locations. in several languages were pretty authentic. Of course some of the geographic points are not the same as they were but current regions and nations were used to keep the reader engaged.
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!
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
The story of Genghis Khan is not so well-known as other parts of history. Jack Weatherford did us a tremendous service by seeking the man behind the myth. He made the customs of the Mongols easy to understand, ensured heartfelt empathy with the Khan and showed the influence of the Mongols on the whole world. Just to think that paper money, cannons and firearms are part of this nation's gift to humankind!
I thought Jonathan Davis did an excellent job of narrating this book. I didn't opt out while listening.
This book comes highly recommended, especially to those who love history and biographical works. The book is a bit of both.
To think that this information has only come together in the past couple of decades, what an amazing eye opener to the influence and impact that the Mongols had on shaping the west and the whole world. So many missing pieces here on my fascination with Europe’s history, this is a must read. Excellent narration, astonishing material, amazing discovery.
The author of this book cannot be called a scholar of repute. This book is littered with the attitude that the Mongols did nothing wrong and were out to save the world but those dastardly white people ruined it for us all. The book is sourced from the Mongol Secret History which is a dubious at best source with a clear cultural and political bias. This book read's like a love letter from a fan not a honest piece of scholarly work. Yes Genghis Khan is one of the greats in human history but no he was not the almost angelic being of providence the author makes him out to be. If you are interested in a more fair and balanced approach to the Mongols I recommend Dan Carlin's podcast Hardcore History: Wrath of the Kahns.