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Publisher's Summary

The Mongol army led by Genghis Khan subjugated more lands and people in 25 years than the Romans did in 400. In nearly every country the Mongols conquered, they brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization.

Vastly more progressive than his European or Asian counterparts, Genghis Khan abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom, and smashed feudal systems of aristocratic privilege. From the story of his rise through the tribal culture to the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed, this brilliant work of revisionist history is nothing less than the epic story of how the modern world was made.

©2005 Jack Weatherford (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"With appreciative descriptions of the sometimes tender tyrant, this chronicle supplies just enough personal and world history to satisfy any reader." (Publishers Weekly)
"There is very little time for reading in my new job. But of the few books I've read, my favourite is Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. It's a fascinating book portraying Genghis Khan in a totally new light. It shows that he was a great secular leader, among other things." (Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India)
"Weatherford's admiration for Genghis and his firsthand knowledge of many of the sites important in Mongol history give this text an immediacy and a visual quality that are enhanced by Davis’s presentation. When the narrative begins to lag in its final hour or two as it moves farther from the twelfth century, Davis's crisp pace maintains the listener’s interest to the end. An informative and provocative work of popular history." (AudioFile)

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Neglected and surprising story

‘Genghis Khan is generally considered to be one of the most blood thirsty conquerors to ever have lived. According to many sources, including The better angels of our nature by Steven Pinker, the Mongol wars resulted in about 40 million deaths which, if accurate, would make it the bloodiest conflict in history, per capita. Yet the author of this books points out that if this statistic is accurate, each member of the relatively small mongol army would have had to kill 100 persons each (on average), which seems unlikely. Rather, the author argues, the reputation that the mongols have received is in large part a testimony of historians biased against the mongols. Make no mistake, the Mongols were formidable and sometimes ruthless conquerors, however they were also in many ways efficient and sometimes fair rulers.

Take for example the fact that the Genghis and the mongol tribes, unlike so many other armies, were kind to those who surrendered to them without a fight. They usually offered everyone the chance to leave their army and join theirs instead. This was almost certainly a contributing factor to their success. I was also genuinely surprised by the claim that Genghis Khan was the first leader to announce that he as a ruler did not stand above the constitution that he put in place. It is not made clear whether this was actually fulfilled but just the announcement is pretty radical at the time.

Although Genghis Khan is indeed the protagonist, this book span a much wider piece of history. In the first part of the book we get to follow the fate of young Temujin, which was Genghis birth name. Unfortunately, one must doubt the honesty of the documents that this part of the story relies on. Information about Temujin’s childhood is mainly obtained from a book known as the secret history which did not appear to have the ambition to be historically accurate. It is as much a history book as it is a work of propaganda. In any case no one seems to dispute that after years of conflict with other mongol leaders Temujin became the leader of all the mongol tribes. Having attained this power, Temujin, now Genghis, stopped kidnappings and wars within Mongolia. This was of course bad news for the rest of the continent because when the mongols were no longer fighting each other but rather looked at their neighbours...

In the second part of the book we get to follow Genghis campaigns into what is now northern China, and into the muslim empire. He was of course a master general, and even though he was often outnumbered he prevailed in battle after battle. One of his strengths was that he did not abide by any type of honor system. To break a siege he occasionally pretended to withdraw his forces, leaving valuable goods outside the wall of the previously besieged city. When the enemy forces opened their gates to collect the bounty, he came in with a surprise attack together with his swift horsemen.

Because I always imagined Genghis to be a genocidal maniac I was also surprised when the book stated that towards the end of his life Genghis admitted that he had not been as succesfull in peace as in war. He told his sons that a leader could only be happy if their people was happy. His sons however would not listen because they were obsessed with the approaching power struggle.

In the remainder of the book we get to follow how Genghis sons and grandson make new war campaigns invading a huge landmass spanning all the way into western Europe (where the Jews were blamed for their invasion). In the end however, the Mongols returned from these campaigns with very little.

One thing I liked with this book was that after having described the story of Genghis and his successors the author explains how the Mongols got their reputation which is still with us today. Influential people, such as Voltaire, created Mongol stereotypes that were not particularly flattering.

All in all I think that this is a good book if you are interested in getting an overview of the Mongol empire and what it meant to the world at the time as well as today. Be prepared to learn that Genghis was a human being (not a monster), and as a human being he had flaws as well as good traits. I think that after having read this book I no longer bundle him with ruthless dictators such as Hitler or Stalin. Perhaps the Mongols were more like the Romans, but with poorer technology….

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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surprisingly entertaining

If you could sum up Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World in three words, what would they be?

informative, enlightening, engaging

What did you like best about this story?

This book brought flesh and bones to names we all recognize. I was fascinated by the many things Genghis Khan brought to us. I also appreciated the honesty of the writer concerning Genghis Khan's personal failure as a father and how it impacted his legacy.

What about Jonathan Davis and Jack Weatherford ’s performance did you like?

It was very easy to listen to this book for long spells at a time.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Epic story of a great leader.

Any additional comments?

I try to read nonfiction once in a while to balance my leaning toward dark fiction. This book was a surprise. It was so interesting. I found myself telling my husband about Genghis Khan over coffee in the morning, poor man. I really got caught up in the story. The end of the book is a bit sad as his children and grandchildren were not able to carry on his values.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Detailed and comprehensive!

Where does Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Detailed and comprehensive account of the rise and fall of the Mongol empire. This book ranks in the top 5 of the audio books I've listened so far.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The principal character - Genghis Khan - was my favourite. How a troubled young boy overcame incredible odds to shape his own destiny as the ruler of the largest empire in history.

What about Jonathan Davis and Jack Weatherford ’s performance did you like?

Jonathan Davis did an excellent job in narrating the story.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Surprisingly good!

Any additional comments?

As a modern day environmental resources specialist I found it fascinating (and exceptionally quote worthy) that he had instituted breeding season restrictions on the hunting of certain animals, recognizing the need was impressive!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe
  • lexington, KY, United States
  • 09-06-12

What an exciting ride!

Genghis Khan was a visionary who loved and was loved. He was vicious and just, a ruthless hero in the annals of history. Sinister, wise, heroic, fearless, feared and amazing. He changed the course of history more than any other man in History. This book gives a logical understanding of how it probably happened.

This is a must read even if you're not a History buff. It's amazing to read how an uneducated man was wise enough to conquer the known world, smart enough to allow the vanquished to pay him homage and the spoils of war. The most amazing fact to me was Khan allowed those he vanquished to keep their Religious views. If only other conquerers were smart enough to do this the world would be place.

This story flows effortlessly and tells a tale that is interesting and believable. This vicious warrior was a genius at planning battles, a visionary that conquered much of the known world. This man loved his wife in a way stronger than the love in "Love Story" and "The Notebook". It made me wonder how the world would be if he conquered Western Europe rather than turning back to Mongolia.

Like great men before him his progeny didn't live up to their Father's legacy. The world might, probably would have been a better place if Khan successors could have kept his conquests under the Mongolian Empire.


3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Excellent - worth listening to

I found it excellent.
It was highly informative, well presented and highly educational.

This book gives a good account of Gengis Khan and how his innovations had a very long lasting impact on the world as a whole

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Angela
  • Arkansas, United States
  • 06-08-12

Fascinating individual, well written book

I have wanted to find a good biography of Genghis Khan for several years and I throughly enjoyed this one. The research that went into this work makes it as worthwhile as it is enjoyable. I only wish that we could know more. The understanding of the places the author addresses as well as insights into Mongolian/nomadic culture bring more depth to the people and the time they lived in. Showing how cultures spread in multiple directions through the connections forged by the Mongol empire helps show the legacy we have from them still today. A great read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • BrentDC
  • Portland, TX, United States
  • 06-07-12

STUNNING! Uncovering the man behind the myth!

What made the experience of listening to Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World the most enjoyable?

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!

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

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.

Which scene was your favorite?

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.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

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.

Any additional comments?

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!)

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • PT
  • PA
  • 11-17-11

A Pleasant Surprise

I really enjoyed this book. Not only a good history of its subject but a good look into contemporary warfare, diplomacy, culture, and such for peoples besides the Mongols.

This is not the sort of subject I'm usually drawn to. Which proves again that a good writer can make anything interesting and entertaining. (I am a professional writer myself.)

P.S., The story of Ghenghis Khan ends with Part I. Part II is the story of what happened to the empire after that.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Daryl
  • Perth, Australia
  • 07-03-11

Really enjoyed this one

I would recommend this to anybody with even a glancing knowledge or interest in this subject. The Khans, and Genghis as the founder of the dynasty, have had a more far reaching impact on the modern world than I ever could have known. Exceptionally engaging, truly informative, and an all round great book. I have listed to it a few times already.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • john_m
  • 09-05-16

Long reach of Genghis Khan

Cogent and fair minded analysis of Genghis Khan and the empire he bequeathed.
Discovered much new information and good insights into the enduring influence of the Mongols.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Rich
  • 08-15-16

Excellent listen

Excellent narration and fascinating subject matter.

I would recommend this audiobook to anyone with an interest in the story of Gengis Khan and the Mongol people and their amazing history.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • r
  • 08-12-16

RDHH...🇯🇲/🇬🇧

Very informative and I learn a lot what I didn't know about Khan. It has given me a wider knowledge to appreciate the mongrel 11 century to the 12th century. This makes one not ignorant. RDHH

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jan
  • 06-07-16

Fascinating!

Completely changed my view on the Mongols and taught me a lot about history of Asia and the way it's connected with the history of the world. A little slow at the beginning but picks up later on. Definitely worth listeing to. Well read.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert Goldie
  • 05-23-16

Couldn't put it down

really interesting insight. highly recommended lots of fascinating insight and detailed analysis. so good will listen again in 6 months

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-14-16

An amazing insight into the culture

Would you listen to Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World again? Why?

I am very likely to listen to this book again. I also bought an e-book version and I am going through it for reference.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Genghis Khan, of course.

What about Jack Weatherford and Jonathan Davis ’s performance did you like?

They did a great job. As Jonathan Davis was the one main narrator, I have to vote for him as a superb interpreter of this kind of book.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

It would be an excellent documentary, but I would expect it to be longer, perhaps done in series, to grasp the vastness of the topic.

Any additional comments?

I can compare the book to The Secret History of the Mongol Queens by the same author. I think the two books should be sold as twin as they both describe the period from a slightly different point of view.
Genghis Khan is divided into three parts - first one deals with Temujin's childhood and youth a tries to explain the forthcoming events. Second one emphasizes on raise of Genghis Khan and his conquering successes. Third part talks about Genghis Khan's descendants, of Mongols' cultural and political impact on the rest of the known world and also very briefly peeps inside the modern age.
Jack Weatherford is a renowned scholar with deep insight into the region's history, acknowledged among researchers of both, West and East. He uses as basis for the book only recently found and translated The Secret History of the Mongols, a historical document that provides valuable account of Genghis Khan's life and of early beginnings of the Mongol empire. Thanks to his personal experience with the region Weatherford is able to grasp different aspects of foregone era and the present world and to connect them into a comprehensive whole.
I can recommend the book to anybody interested in the topic as well as to the ones for whom the Far East history is a novelty. It is partly biography partly history and the way it is written kept me looking forward to my next listening time.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Danny
  • 05-07-16

Fascinating and exciting

Incredible, fast paced history of the Mongolian empire and its influence over the world. Well presented, very enjoyable.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 04-27-16

Fantastic history of a long maligned people!

A really excellent book that utterly reshapes what you think of the Mongols, which have been become the epitome of evil barbarism in pretty much every culture around the world, but were actually for the most part liberal rulers valuing trade and innovation. And through the movement of ideas that the pax mongolica allowed, helped to kick start the renaissance in Europe and by extension the world as we know it today.

The performance by the reader was very good, the most calmly spoken American I have ever heard!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Frankieg3
  • 04-25-16

Good in Parts

I was really looking forward to this as I was in Mongolia last year. I expected a book on Genghis Kahn but only got half a book as the second half was about his grandson. This could have been two books with the first half expanded as parts felt very sketchy.

It was really shown up because I followed it with SPQR by Mary Beard. Now there is a stonkingly good history book.

The narrators did very well as they kept me awake at a couple of points when I would have gone to sleep.

If I had paid full price for this it would have been sent back, fortunately I got in on the daily deal.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-21-16

A history book, not a story

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Not really. There is too much covered too fast and if you can't take it all in the rest doesn't make a lot of sense

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

yes, though it's a bit flat.

Did Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World inspire you to do anything?

return the book for a refund

Any additional comments?

I've read the Conn Iggulden Gengis series of books that fictionalise the story and if Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World did one thing, it confirmed how accuratly Conn Iggulden told the story, and how much better it is to get the histroy as a story rather than a text book.
This book rushes the most exciting parts of the story that Conn Iggulden focussed on. Gengis's invasion of China is covered in a matter of minutes. Gengis dies before you get half way through the book and test is about his ancestors... ok they are as important to the Mongol story as Gengis but not what the title of the book says it is about.
Generally, if you know nothing about Gengis Khan and like history you'll enjoy this book. But if you know some Mongol history already, this won't tell you anything new.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful