Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Length: 14 hrs and 20 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (15,932 ratings)

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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)

Editor's Pick

Even if you don’t pick up this title, please say ‘JENG-iss.’
"As an anthropologist studying and teaching in Mongolia for decades, Jack Weatherford collected stories: the facts of Genghis Khan’s life (few, but significant), his legacy (huge), and the intimacy and specialness of Mongolian culture that changed and spread across the world under his aegis. Jonathan Davis’s stellar narration of every novelistic detail guarantees that this audio is the BEST. HISTORY. EVER."
Christina H., Audible Editor

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

I guess the Mongols needed a cheerleader?

While I guess it is a decent account of the Mongol empire, and and excellent account of 18th and 19th century European prejudice, the book felt like a cheering section for the Mongol empire. All of their motivations were just for the betterment of mankind and they were forced into all conflicts through no fault of their own. It does accurately recognize contributions made by the empire as well as those innovations which are still felt in the modern day. But it would be as if saying the Roman empire only did good things and for the betterment of civilization. While the Roman empire did do lots of good things and some of their legacy is still being felt to this day, it wasn't all good. I feel the presentation of the Mongol empire as completely egalitarian
and mostly altruistic is unbalanced.

85 people found this helpful

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Golden Horde/Platinum Listen

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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570 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant, insightful, intriguing.

What a comprehensive and fascinating detailed history of the great Khans. Weatherford's mastery as a researcher is on full display and is truly up to the task of investigating and sharing the incredible evidence he witnessed being uncovered. The performance is also brilliant. Just to hear the reader pronounce so many names which are difficult to pronounce and read in English with so much confidence, clarity, precision and consistency is worth the price of admission alone. To me this book is a high water mark for its combination of content, performance and new information. Its an instant classic highly recommended. Flawless.

195 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic

Western histories tend to avoid this bit - this book fixes that big time. It is a history, but with about as much characterization as is possible. It is filled with details and I learned a lot and enjoyed every minute. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history. The story is filled with action and intrigue, technology and religion, war and even a little peace. It is more than just the novelty that makes this a wonderful listen, it is the story and the characters.

198 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Chills

I listen to audiobooks commuting to and from work and until Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World never had listened to one that actually kept me in the car for longer than necessary. I'd be idling for extended time while it got later and later listening to this incredible work.

The narration is great and the story is spellbinding. I bought the book on a whim and have no regrets.

The first half is much better than the second half, but I enjoyed the story immensely from start to finish and highly recommend.

118 people found this helpful

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Nobel Savage

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

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.

227 people found this helpful

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OK, but misleading

This is not a biography of Gengis Khan like the title implies. It spends a lot of time about his childhood (irrelevant to the flow of the book) then speeds very fast through the rest of his life. It is an attempt to give the history of the Mongolian people, however it is more like looking out the window of your car as you speed down the interstate.

Additionally, the narrator's voice works well, but he regularly mispronounces simple words. The story is so-so and the narrator's voice shines far above the quality of the book.

If you're looking for a book about Gengis Khan, look elsewhere, this isn't it.

68 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A passionate, eye-opening chunk of history

The writer, Weatherford, is not what you'd call a great prose stylist, but the story he tells is stunning, and he did all the leg-work. His heart is in it. If you want to know how the modern world was born, listen to this.

Davis' narration is thrilling. Loved it all.

86 people found this helpful

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An interesting insight, but outrageous analysis

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.

129 people found this helpful

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MYTHS & FLIGHTS OF FANCY as REVISIONIST HISTORY!

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.

201 people found this helpful

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  • luke2thesky
  • 07-24-18

A joy to listen to!

I chose this book as I'd heard that Genghis Khan's terrible reputation was ill-deserved. And I came away with a feeling of awe and incredulity that a young man from a low caste from the wooded steps of Mongolia rose to become one of the greatest leaders of men in history.
The book begins by fleshing out his origins, before moving onto his early military victories, and then exploring his family and heritage. His military acumen seems almost preternatural, in that he was able to achieve victory against heavy odds, and out-think each of his opponents. Once he brought all of the warring Mongolian factions together, he then struck out to conquer the known world.
And unlike many other military masterminds and leaders of massive empires, Genghis chose to rule in an unheard of manner. He believed in a system of meritocracy, where it was ability, and not blood ties, that dictated progression through the social ranks. He had learned early on that being related to someone does not necessarily mean that they will show you loyalty when it comes to the crunch.
When Genghis died, his heirs continued his mission to conquer neighboring civilizations, bringing with their hoards new social norms and bringing into effect more noble laws. The book explores his large and varied descendants, and the legacy that he left to the world.
This is a book that teaches so much about a much-misunderstood man, while painting a vivid picture of the world in which he lived. The narrator is a joy to listen to, as he breathes life into the words with his lively delivery. And the afterword and post-script, narrated by the book's author is a splendid way to end the audiobook.
I can't recommend this book highly enough.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Nik Jewell
  • 05-16-18

An enjoyable hagiography(?)

This is an immensely enjoyable listen but a questionable history book, tending more towards hagiography than accurate biography.

I have had the good fortune to spend a couple of months traveling around Mongolia, where 'The Secret History of the Mongols' is treated almost as scripture, and Temujin/Genghis/Chinggis is the national hero.

That, however, doesn't make it true, but Weatherford, nevertheless, bases his book around it. This leads to a revisionist history that somewhat glosses over the inconvenient details of cultural eradications, massacres of entire cities and up to 40 million deaths. Not for nothing was the Great Khan known in the West as "accursed of god".

That said, I still feel that this is a great addition to the literature and one which, like Frankopan's 'The Silk Roads', opens our eyes to the narrow perspective of our Eurocentric historical tradition. Genghis brought free trade, freedom of religion, freedom from torture etc., but only as long as you didn't resist him. If you did ...

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Simone Teufel
  • 06-30-10

Amazing! Wonderful! Couldn't get enough!

I stumbled onto this one by chance, and quickly grew to love it -- who'd ever know that much about the Mongols and how they changed the world? Years of research have gone into this book, and it shows. The 'Secret History', an original Mongol document about Gengis Khan's life, only became available for researchers quite recently, so there is now a wealth of brand new information. Many surprises, many really astonishing facts are waiting for the listener! The prose is at the right pace, not patronizing, not too scientific. One can also feel how much the author simply loves Mongolia... Good reader too. I simply couldn't get enough and was thirsting for more when it was over. I am now going to read his other books...

44 people found this helpful

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  • Phil vH
  • 01-25-15

Liked it so much I didn't want it to end

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

I actually already did start to listen to it again. This book is so packed full of interesting stories and information, I found it hard to retain them all from one listen.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World?

I never thought a history book would keep me so entertained and interested. This one certainely did, the story of Gengis Kahn and his sucessors is told so well it almost reads like a novel. I loved the way this book changed my understanding of world history, illustrating the impact of the mongol empire on the world.

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

Despite being packed with historical information, place names, dates and significant people, this book does not read like a history book at all. The story flows incredibly well and keeps you coming back for more. The reader has a voice that is very nice to listen to, becomes noticable when the reader changes for the afteroword.

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

I wouldn't say "moved" but I did get excited about this book and recommended it to friends and family.

Any additional comments?

The ultimate measure of a non-fiction book must be if it changes the way you think and see the world. This one absolutely changed my understanding of history.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Scythian
  • 11-24-15

A book that fully illustrates the power of history

This is fascinating interpretation of the history of the Mongol empire and it's Khans, particularly Genghis Khan and their influence, direct or otherwise, to the modern world, and long overdue recognition of its contribution to the modern western world.
This, to me, illustrates the importance of history, and how from it we learn to understand more of what we have now, and could have in the future. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this, and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in seeing the world from a different perspective.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Nicholas
  • 12-18-18

Glorious hagiography

The story of Genghis Khan is told as a panegyric. Not only was GK the bravest, most intelligent and brilliant general of all time, he also showed a level of moderation, compassion and justice to rival Jesus or Mohammed. So positive an assessment was unexpected and gave a certain elan to GK's story. However, the more general analysis of Kubla Khan's reign was so gushing, I had to give up before the end.

3 people found this helpful

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  • David Jackson
  • 09-18-15

simply amazing

I thought I knew something about the Mongol Empire. I was wrong. This book has shown me the richness of the legacy of an empire that changed the course of all of world history in infinite ways but of which my education has taught me next to nothing. I am incredibly thankful for having come across this book.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Tristan Fisher
  • 01-30-16

An excellent history.

Starting and focusing on the life of Genghis Khan this book manages to give a insightful look at the rise and eventual fall of the mongol empire founded by Genghis Khan.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Mukesh
  • 06-05-15

Great book

I really did not know much about Genghis Khan and this book was brilliant in teaching me something. The narrator was so impressive. It is one of the best books that I have listened to.

8 people found this helpful

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  • S. King
  • 11-27-18

A great book

I’ve listened to this at least 5 times. I love it. While it may minimise some of the atrocities of the Khans, it is a fascinating account of their history.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-25-17

Surprisingly good

I wasn't sure if I would like this book when I purchased it, but after the first chapter I was hooked. I knew that the Mongolians played an important part with intertwining east with west, after reading this it's hard to believe how the world would be with out Genghis Khan.
Anyone with the tiniest once of curiosity should listen to this book.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Brendan
  • 09-02-15

Brilliant

A well researched story that not only goes into the the great Genghis Khan but also his legacy and family history. The most interesting parts were probably of his descendants taking over Russia, China and the middle East. The narration is also top notch and he's excited about the topic ,very easy listening. Definitely a must listen for anyone who appreciates history.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Benny Paleoski
  • 05-20-20

Totally AWESOME

My favourite audiobook ever!
This will change much of your view of history. Chinese history, Middle Eastern history, Western history, the history of Christianity, of invention, of warfare, to name a few. The parts on Japan are unforgettable.
A fascinating view of history by an archaeologist who had access to the recently rediscovered tomb of Genghis Khan.
Well composed, well narrated.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Simon
  • 02-05-18

Great insight into history of the Mongols

Really enjoyed this book. Gave a completely different perspective on the role of Genghis Khan and the Mongols in world history, can definitely recommend to anyone with an interest in the major drivers of world history.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tsai Evan
  • 03-31-20

The must-known missing history

The hidden history of Genghis Khan provides an unique opportunity to understand and imagine the world in the 13th century. Stories cover not only Genghis Khan but also his descendants. Some parts of the stories truly disrupt my stereotypes toward Mongolian. Great historical values!

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  • Ishaq Khan
  • 02-18-20

loved this

Really enjoyed this book. It was an easy and enjoyable listen. It could be more detailed, but its understandable.. since so much of that era is unrecorded.

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  • Mike
  • 09-09-19

Great insights into a significant history

I found this book fascinating. I really enjoyed having my previous (ill-informed) misconceptions about Genghis Khan shattered and discovering how influential he was, not just at that time and place, but through the centuries and across the world.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-19-19

Fascinating

I am hooked on the history of the Mongol empire and have read many books. Great to get different perspectives. Some focus on the brutality, others like this one take a more pragmatic approach. Enjoyed this immensely.

Highly recommend Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Podcast ‘Wrath of the Khans’ series. The best audio story of Genghis Khan and the Mongols ever!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 05-07-19

Brilliant new detail

This is a fabulous combination of existing data on Mongol history, which is parse, and new information and perspectives based on new research. I most appreciated the broader context of this history.

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  • Rod Baxter
  • 03-29-19

Very Impressed

To coin a phrase, this really is a case of the truth being stranger than fiction. Well, not necessarily strange, but more impressive. It is difficult not to be impressed with Genghis Kahn. Arguably, the greatest conqueror the world has known.
I must admit to not knowing very much about, the great Kahn. Not many of us do, or did. This History was put together over many years, by quite a few people and in some cases, at great risk. I think the story of the writing, the research, the digging up of the facts, the hardships, to get it written, is maybe as interesting, as Genghis Kahn's own story and the history of the Mongolian Empire.
while reading this book. I kept having this internal wow. This awe. Not just at the battles and conquests, impressive as they were. It was the achievements and the innovations that were set in place, to put the modern world on track, that are truly spectacular.
Without the contributions that came from the Mongolian Empire, the modern world may still be in the Middle Ages.