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on 22 October 2016
Great as a hagiography, good as entertainment...but bad as an accurate biography.
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on 23 March 2017
It's kind of dull after the first few chapters.
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on 17 August 2007
This is not just a history, it is re-invention of our world. No one has told Genghis Khan 's story as effectively. Texts by other
historians like Paul Ratchnevsky may consult more primary sources [JW bases his work on the Secret History of the Mongols, Juvayni, and Rashid-ad-Din, Ratchnevsky consults some additional Chinese sources like the Shenwu qinzheng lu]. Texts such as Saunders may be more scholarly and are more nuanced in their conclusions, but this footnote-free story (notes are indexed to sentences only at the end) is eminently readable, and like Timothy May has said in a review, it is the kind of writing that, unlike "dusty monographs", can fire one's "love for history".

Writing with rare lyrical sensitivity, Weatherford brings across a dramatic narrative of the military conquests. The first part deals with Genghis Khan consolidating the tribes of Mongolia (Chapters 2-3). Most of the book (Chapters 4-8), deals with world conquest. Genghis Khan launched his series of conquests when in his late 40s, and within fifteen years (1212 to his death in 1227), he had conquered four times the territory of the Roman or Macedonian empires at their peak; after his death, it would be grow half as much larger.

However, the most interesting aspect of the book is its discussion of the impact of this large trade-friendly empire, lasting over 200 years, may have had (Chapter 9). Printing, firearms, the use of the compass in navigation, bowed instruments such as the violin, all came to Europe through Mongol interactions. Furthermore, processes such as codification of laws, lightning mobility in war (the inspiration for Nazi "blitzkrieg"), religious freedom, and participative government, all taken for granted today, were practiced in the Mongol Empire and may have influenced European thinking during the Renaissance that immediately followed the breakup of the empire.

Maybe he over-dramatizes things when saying: "Under the widespread influences from the paper and printing, gunpowder and firearms, and the spread of the navigational compass and other maritime equipment, Europeans experienced a Renaissance, literally a rebirth, but it was not the ancient world of Greece or Rome being reborn. It was the Mongol Empire, picked up, transferred, and adapted by the Europeans to their own needs and culture." But on the whole he presents overwhelming evidence of our debt to the Mongols, an aspect that was covered up during the Age of Enlightenment (Chapter 10 deals with this historiographical process).

I found the book extremely thought-provoking; it led me to read Ratchnevsky and I am now looking through Saunders. I also went to several online sources simply to verify the claims he makes; I found most of them well-corroborated. Reading this book was absolutely eye-opening. It has completely changed my world view.
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on 22 April 2005
This is one of those rare and irresistable books, which provide another side of the coin (history). A truly facinating book with detailed facts and descriptions making it both a very good read and thought-provoking one.
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on 21 May 2008
This is a fantastic book, very well written, the more I read the more I couldn't put it down!!
Incredible how advanced Genghis Kahn ideas were, especially about religion.
Do yourself a favour and read this book!
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on 11 August 2009
After reading the reviews of all the available books about Genghis Khan i decided this would be best. I was NOT dissapointed. A book extremely well constructed, explains much more than i expected and does its its best to dispell some modern myths. Some of the reviewers of other Genghis Khan books should read this before giving opinion based on legend and thier own bias. If you choose one book on this subject matter choose this one.
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on 23 June 2015
It only took me three days to read this relatively thin paperback. Genghis Khan had a huge role in history and there is rather a dearth of information on him, considering the massive scale of the Mongol Empire he created. At its peak, it ran from the Pacific in the East to the Mediterranean in the West, bigger than the Roman Empire and that carved by Alexander the Great. The author based his account primarily on new revelations prompted by his research team re-examining the Secret History of The Mongols, an ancient document which was very difficult to translate and had laid hidden for many years due to the political upheavals in the region. Genghis has a mixed reputation throughout history, with the likes of Chaucer elevating him and Voltaire and Montesquieu later deriding him. The Mongols uniquely placed world culture in a position to develop into what we now know, with international trade, religious tolerance and mass migration of peoples. The Mongols are perhaps looked down upon for not bequeathing us anything unique from their own culture, but rather amalgamating and developing existing ideas from the races and civilisations of other people’s they conquered. They practised some novel ideas for the time such as diplomatic immunity, not torturing prisoners, allowing all religions to flourish under the empire with an emphasis on secular law. The book covers the rise of Temujin from his downtrodden youth, to the height of his power and then looks at the maintenance of his legacy after his death, with the separation of the great Khanate into four primary regions. It is a great look at medieval history from an Asian perspective and has enlightened me about various subjects from that time and added to knowledge I already had on the Crusades, Marco Polo, the Black Death and The European Renaissance. The decline of the Empire was sudden and could only arise through a natural disaster which engulfed the whole world, in the Great Plague. What would have occurred had this devastating illness never erupted? The book was brief and precise and covered a vast array of topics though in my opinion for such a good subject matter, it could have been more expansive in volume. It has given me a taste for Genghis Khan and I shall try to dig out some more similar biographies on the great Steppes people. https://wezgbooks.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/review-genghis-khan-and-the-making-of-the-modern-world/
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on 23 October 2012
Although many object that this is a ''revisionist history... (and that) Weatherford is not a historian but an anthropologist'', for me this worked well as the essence of anthropology is cross-cultural comparison, and cultural relativism has become the canon of anthropological inquiry. I therefore enjoyed this perhaps Asiatic-ally favored introduction to a wider world view of hidden histories that have indeed shaped our modern world to this day.

Despite popular misconceptions and his unquestionably cruel methodologies in war, few scholars would today claim that Genghis Khan was a blood-thirsty barbarian.
Among his accomplishments once he had subdued his target tribes, cities, Empires and Nations, was The Pax Mongolica from Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe of which has been said "a maiden bearing a nugget of gold on her head could wander safely throughout the realm.". Rule of Law which included accountability for all people (Kings as well as peasants). Freedom of Religion, Free Trade, Diplomatic Immunity. Science prospered - unlike Europe where people were persecuted, tortured and murdered by Church and State for ideas outside their current orthodoxy (but ironically accepted by them today).

Whilst the author does state that ''The Mongols made no technological breakthroughs of their own, founded no new religions, wrote few books or dramas, and gave the world no new crops or methods of agriculture...Yet, as their army conquered culture after culture, they collected and passed on those skills from one civilization to the next.'' In this context they actually did create new applications for their assimilated technologies, for example the Chinese explosives that they employed in siege warfare, and by contrast their encouragement of new crops in diverse environments - to provide their workforce subjectry with further tools to create the material wealth that they coveted. In many other areas the ensuing Mongol Emperors are shown to have fostered creativity from religious debate between faiths, to better production and management of resources, even creating and trialling a paper money system.
That their system proved unsustainable however was perhaps due to the lack of a principled leader such as Genghis had proved to be, cruel indeed -but he also outlawed torture, ruthless - but if you accepted his rule then you would share in his new world order.

Nevertheless I share other readers reservations over the authors claims that ''this transfusion of culture and trade led to the European Renaissance'' - although the Mongol Empire certainly contributed by various means including creation of channels of communication and sharing of information along them. Yet, despite earlier adulation (as in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales) and perhaps because of a lack of understanding of the wider world that the Mongol Empire had encompassed, as the Empire was increasingly torn by conflict between inheritances of the title and power of the 'Great Khan' (and although despite all these pitfalls some descendants ruled on until the 19thC in various kingdoms) the overall conflict led to breakdown - the power diminished, the communication routes dwindled away. In an absence of ongoing relations with a Mongol Empire - our brief European visits by the Golden Hordes had shown them a Europe still relatively poor compared to the wealth of the East which they plundered. This loss (of an enduring Mongolian-European association) in my view denied the West an earlier introduction to many of the later Mongolian Empires constructive and tolerant social reforms, Europe chose in absence of any other impetus to explore and revive the ancient classical cultures of Rome and Greece instead, giving rise to the Renaissance period .

I would also mention perhaps against the favorable view that I have here held of the Mongolian Empire at its apogee, that the only culture which I know of that calls unlimited perpetual growth to be positive would be that of a cancerous culture (or perhaps some of the modern trans-global world's short sighted social, ecological and environmental businesses ethics). Once Genghis and other Khan's exhausted the possibility to furnish their nomadic lives with the opulent trappings of more sedentary cultures (stability is essential to cultivate, mine and refine resources into merchandise), their very success at taking over other cities and societies left them no alternative, other than to change their modus operandi and thus themselves, to extend ever further on new conquests in search of greater resources. This endless extension can be seen to have divided the center and left the Mongol Empire(s) open to internal faction and external forces.

Recommended as a lively and entertaining introduction to the Mongolian formation of the modern world.
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on 17 February 2010
Fantastic book. Make no mistake this is an historical narrative but written in such a way as to keep the reader's attention. Informative and interesting.
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on 12 February 2015
This book would serve as a half decent introduction to a very wide ranging subject. Rather unfortunately it felt at times like I was reading a National Geographic documentary on the subject. But in amongst the predictable, suposition and at times needlessly speculative there are some real gems. For example, there is a reference to the only known contemporary description of Temujin.
Overall I feel it could benefit from a different style of writing which at times feels shorn of an academic voice. It is a solid if unspectacular work that is rewarding if you persevere but would be nice if you didn't have to work at it.
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