Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

by Jack Weatherford

This book had been on my to-read list for several years, but every time I looked at it I thought it'd be over my head. So I started with trepidation but immediately got sucked into the narrative. Weatherford bases his account on "The Secret History of the Mongols" and therefore he is presenting a kinder perspective of Khan than the traditional idea of a massacring conqueror.

Some interesting things about Genghis Khan: he seemed committed to the idea of community. He introduced ideas that were counter to current culture, in particular that all people were subject to the laws, including the rulers. He purported equality of all people and freedom of religion. His battle tactics were also unique. He began by sending in scouts to a region, having them get a sense of the people, their skills and their ability to be influenced. He would find ways to use their own weaknesses against them, confuse them and cut off their food and supplies. According to Weatherford, he did not use massacre campaigns, but killed only those unwilling to subject themselves to his rule. He attempted to take advantage of each culture's skills and use them for his advancement. Afterward he would begin spreading rumors of annihilation in the hopes of scaring surrounding communities into subjection.

Unfortunately, the account of Genghis is really abbreviated. I would have preferred more information on him before the successor follow up. I am sure scholars could find all sorts of flaws in this version, but it is a different outlook that was easy to read and I found interesting. If you like history you should read this book. 

1 comment:

  1. Loved it too. Have been fascinated by several historical summary books like this one. Most of this was a complete unknown to me. Recommended.