06 January 2007

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford is a fascinating book. Not only is it an informative and well-written history of the Mongol Empire, it comes as close as almost any popular non-fiction I've read to telling the history of the Mongols from a Mongol perspective than from a European one. Weatherford has clearly spent a lot of time in Asia and understands what he is talking about, particularly in the first half of the book that is devoted to the life of Chinggis Khan.

This is much more than a biography of Chinngis Khan (I love the name; one of my English students in Bishkek was named Chinngis), it's a history of the Mongols from the birth of Chinggis to the death of Kubilai, with a very quick summary of what happened to Chinngis' descendants after 1300. Weatherford also writes about the major impact the Mongols had on Europe and Asia and the common misperceptions many in Asia and Europe have about the Mongols. The fact that many Mongols were Christian, their religious tolerance, the role of women, and especially the ability of many Mongol leaders for administration, and so much more are often ignored

and only slightly more about the A few complaints- Weatherford writes very little about the Golden Horde and the ChaghataisIlkhanids. The chapter on the Kublilai and the Yuan dynasty was very good, but I felt that focusing only on China after Mongke Khan's death was a bit limited. Weatherford is also rather optimistic in his evaluation of Mongol contributions in the opening and closing of the book. While the Mongols had a much bigger impact on the making of the modern world than most Westerners give them credit for, they also were not the sole instigators of modernism in Central Asia, the Middle East, China, or Europe. But maybe his exaggerations help balance the ignorance that most have about the real impact of the Mongols. And these very small drawbacks should in no way keep you from reading the book.

The Mongols weren't a bunch of nomad warriors sweeping out of the East to wreak havoc and destruction on the civilized world. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousMay 27, 2007

    Here are some basic historical facts about Genghis Khan:

    Genghis Khan ,(Chinggis Khan), is one of history’s greatest leaders.During his lifetime, he conquered more territory than any other conqueror and established the largest contiguous empire in world history.Today his legacy continues in Asia,Mongols today celebrate him as the founding father of Mongolia....read more