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on 12 April 2007
This book offers a well laid out history that is both easy to follow and an interesting read. The description of the life and times of Genghis Khan are well complimented by the concluding chapters covering Genghis Khan's impact; after death and importantly, today.
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on 16 October 2014
This is one of those type of books that contradicts the archetypical description of a so called despot.The truth though comes out in this brilliantly described and honest look at the true life and times of a leader who ranks atop of the list of so called world leaders?The outstanding and some what shocking difference is that this man did all his outstanding conquests when europe was still burning witches.The details of this mans achievements and his intellectual understanding of the option of a bloodless conquest put the rest of the eurasian empires on the same level of stone age man.A brilliant book that clears the mud from the water. Well Done.
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on 31 May 2014
The book on Mongol tribes and history of it rulers written by Jack Weatherford is very revealing and informative. The Travels of Marco Polo was the first I have read and came to know about world history in the 13th century. In addition to the bloody events ( which the western scholars only emphasize ) I was very intrigued by technological ,social and commercial progress of the times. The Globalization as we are familiar with, started more than 800 years ago. They are far ahead of our recent times in conduct of global commerce, technological exchange, universal education, plant hybridization and conduct of warfare. Khublai Khan started to introduce social welfare and benefits system, paper money, mass production of goods, digital system of organization in the army and blitzkrieg which I thought the Nazis first used it. The Chinese bureaucracy was further refined, record keeping was enhanced and multinationalism encouraged. While Europe was in the Dark Ages, cosmopolitan East with millions population in the cities were in existence in the East. And I don't mean China only. India, Champa, Java, Bagan and richness of Middle Eastern civilizations are in evidence. But for the excesses of Mongol armies, cultures such as in Baghdad was reduced to the ashes. You can surmise that European renaissance was based on eastern civilizations as the author alleges. But everything was ruined by the plague, both in east and west. We can learn the lessons and apply to present urban metropolitan civilizations of the 21st century. The book is given five stars by the reader.
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This is an odd book. On the one hand, it is supposed to be a kind of narrative based on new source materials, an intimate biography if you will. As such, the author tries to tell it like an interesting story, with quirky personal details, the ascription of emotion at crucial moments, and some (surprisingly poor) evocative language. On the other hand, as an anthropologist and scientist but clearly not an historian, he tries to analyze the meaning of what the Mongols accomplished in the context of their times. This he does with an overly indulgent bias towards thinking that the Mongols were a force for the good, that much of their fearsome reputation was the result of propaganda from both sides, which he is seeking to moderate while lavishing praise on extremely subjective interpretations.

Genghis was a first-rate military and political genius: from destitute poverty, he first united the Mongol tribes, in the process overcoming centuries-old customs of tribal vendetta, kidnapping, and simple rapine. Once united, he forged a fighting force - based on cavalry without infantry - that was unequalled in its time. He and then his successors over 4 generations or so, created the largest empire that the world has ever known. Once it had reached its apogee under Khubilai Khan, the Mongols created a vast region of trade, technology and art exchange, and a certain kind of law. The unitary Empire was carved up between the grandsons of Genghis Khan, whose cross-ownership in each others' territories of trade networks and manufacturing facilities moderated their war-making on each other. Once the Black Death disrupted their networks, the Empire collapsed as the grandsons started fighting amongst themselves. The book covers these developments competently, and there is nothing whatsoever new in this.

Where the author loses me is that he sees something uniquely positive underlying this, like the Empire was an indispensable predecessor to the modern world. My interpretation is that Genghis Khan turned the traditional hostile energies of his tribesmen on outsiders, basically seeking to overtake and steal as much as his forces could take back home, yes, sacking the richer and more sophisticated civilizations on its ever-expanding borders. Like all empires, his had to pay his soldiers in booty, which required continual expansion. After all, once you expropriate the accumulated goods that someone else built - destroying their cities and even their cultures in the process, making their regeneration all the more difficult - you have to find fresh victims. The victims were given a choice: fealty or destruction. While I do not mean to argue that what they did was any worse than what other empires had done, the destruction cannot be ignored in order to emphasize the positive aspects of what the author claims were later sees as advances.

The author's treatment of the destruction of the Abbasid dynasty, decayed as it was, is a case in point. The Mongols sacked Baghdad after numerous attempts to subjugate it, burning irreplaceable manuscripts, smashing masterpieces of architecture, and murdering an unknown though high percentage of its population. To create grassy pastures for their horses, an ancient and unique irrigation system was also destroyed, creating a desert out of a once fertile region; it has never recovered. This was one of the greatest despoliations of a center of civilization in the history of mankind, but the author glosses over it, mentioning in passing that the Mongols were careful to take skilled craftsmen and scientists back to their homeland in order to use their skills and knowledge.

The most useful part of this book for me (due to my own ignorance) came in the final chapters, mostly about Khubilai Khan and the way he managed his Empire when it had reached it maximum breadth. Describing a Mongol golden age, the author rightly points out the dazzling array of innovations that can be ascribed to his reign: the advent of paper money, passport that provided access to the entire Empire, the syntheses of knowledge that came from all corners of the Empire, bringing together Arab, Chinese, and European savants. I will want to read more on this period and had never thought of the Mongol Empire quite in this way. What I wonder is if it was worth the cost to the conquered - much of this ended after a single generation - and whether it actually served as a beacon of civilization to the Empires that followed, which I doubt.

My greatest disappointment with this book is the near-complete lack of consideration (i.e. learned refutation) of other points of view, which is what a scholar should at least attempt. There are also so many factual errors - he asserts, for example, that the Huns were early Mongols, which is not at all proven - that I was skeptical of his interpretations and assertions. I also didn't like the way he writes: this is writing 101, but he uses too many adjectives, making it sound almost melodramatic at times. Finally, I suspect that there is something anachronistic in the author's assertion that the Mongols were key players in the "making of the modern world".

I would recommend as an interesting, if flawed, interpretation.
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on 28 March 2013
The book is just amazing, it teaches you the Mongolian history mostly intertwined with global affairs during the great Mongol empire from the beginning till the end when the empire began to lose its core strength. Just a great read for anyone wishing to learn more about Mongolian history and world history between 12th and 15th century.I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has had a distorted often biased teachings in their history classes about Genghis Khan.
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on 19 December 2008
A revision of history with respect to Genghis Khan and the enmpire he created has been long overdue. For 800 years we have a history of the Mongols being sourced almost exclusivly from the writings of the Chinese, Russians and Persians ... all people conquered by the mongols. Its inevitable that whoever writes history, writes it according to their prevailing biases. And its inevitable that the history of the mongols as written by the Chinese, Persians and Russians in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries now needs serious revision.

This book provides that revision and joins the growing movement to re-assess "the daddy" of the Mongol nation, and the worlds largest land empire. What comes out is a bright and positive view of the contributions of Genghis Khan and the empire he founded.
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on 7 February 2017
Prior to this book my knowledge of Genghis was limited – I had thought he was the leader of the Asian equivalent of the barbarians who destroyed the Roman Emperor but significantly more brutal. This book, however, dispels this notion and, more than that, portrays Genghis as a man of vision and strategic thinker with great organisational ability as well as a creator of fearsome military might. He saw the big picture and had the ability to make it happen. The trust Genghis had in his wife and daughters and the responsibilities they carried was impressive particularly his wife Borte. I was unaware of the exact extent of the Mongol Empire. As ever succession was problematic and consistently so with various factions of the family flexing their muscles. Although Kublai was a strange character through his perceived lack of endeavour and laxity under his brother Mongke he transformed the Mongol Empire from one based solely on military power into a vast trading network (the EU of its’ time?) and thus generator of prosperity. He revolutionised China during his time. How the Empire disintegrated is also well covered. An excellent read.
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on 15 March 2013
The autor, who admires very much the Khan, makes a very clear description of the period and the expantion of his conquests.
It must have been terrible to assemble all that information, and he tells the story in a very clear and simple way. No simple task
due to the immense size of the where the "action" develops.
Loved the book and learned a lot. Thanks to Mr Weatherford
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on 2 July 2013
Essential reading for anyone interested in history and the making of the middle east. Genghis Khan has been so thoroughly villified in Europe over the last 500 years because of incorrect or confused information it's about time someone tried to put things straing. A wonderful effort, and an exiting read.
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on 29 March 2016
A fascinating read which provides an incredible and unexpected insight into one of the great powers of human history. Surprisingly relevant to today, no history of Asia and the wider world is complete without understanding this period of events. Very readable and to the point. Strongly recommended.
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