“In a flash, only thirty years, the Mongol warriors would defeat every army, capture every fort, and bring down the walls of every city they encountered. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus would soon kneel before the dusty boots of illiterate young Mongol horsemen.”
“Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World” by Jack Weatherford
I can’t quite recall when I last read Jack Weatherford’s Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, but I do recall reading it. I feel like it was in my college dorm room, but, at the same time, I have a feeling this was a book I picked up on a vacation, so the timeline doesn’t quite match up. I remember being really fascinated by this clear and concise biography of the great Mongol ruler and namesake for one of my cats, Genghis Khan, and, rereading it several years later, I’m just as impressed. Weatherford is clearly passionate about the subject (sometimes too passionate, as his bias tends to shine through) and he writes it in an extremely accessible way. His painting of Mongolian society is vivid and inspiring, and it’s a great resource not only for this era of history, but also for realistic world-building for other projects.
There’s no denying the power and magnitude of the rise of power of Temujin, who would come be known as Genghis Khan and rule half the world. His story is a defiance against culture and stature, rising from a lowly position on the steppes to one of the most powerful men in the world. It’s a tale of how this illiterate Mongol established some of the basic foundations of modern society (such as paper money, efficient commerce, and the spread of ideas and religion in an open, tolerant way), as well as a story of a man who would show no mercy. If one conquered followed the rules of Temujin’s reign, then there was no problem, but defy the Great Khan, and prepare to be destroyed. Though the Mongol rule diminished quickly after the death of Genghis Khan, there is no denying the profound influence this man had on the development of the world, and Weatherford explores this in his book, as well as a brief section explaining how such a powerful and admired figure earned such a notorious bad prestige in the modern world, despite all the things he helped bring to it.
As I said before, sometimes a clear bias surfaces when Weatherford demonizes those who try to demonize the Great Khan, which gives off the impression of trying to paint Genghis is a purely positive light, as if to counteract all the negativity surrounding his name. For me, that made be doubt all the golden praise for the Golden Horde (surely, some of those tales held a kernel of truth, though they were likely incredibly exaggerated), but it’s still a great lead and transports the reader to a very incredible age of a very incredible man. A very good read, highly recommended. You’re likely to learn something new, as well as long to take a trip out to the wild Mongolian steppe which sets the stage for this epic life.
Books read: 006/100.