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Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World [Paperback]

Jack Weatherford
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 22 2005
The Mongol army led by Genghis Khan subjugated more lands and people in twenty-five years than the Romans did in four hundred. In nearly every country the Mongols conquered, they brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization. Vastly more progressive than his European or Asian counterparts, Genghis Khan abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom, and smashed feudal systems of aristocratic privilege. From the story of his rise through the tribal culture to the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed, this brilliant work of revisionist history is nothing less than the epic story of how the modern world was made.

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From Publishers Weekly

Apart from its inapt title, Genghis Khan dies rather early on in this account and many of the battles are led by his numerous offspring. This book is a successful account of the century of turmoil brought to the world by a then little-known nation of itinerant hunters. In researching this book, Weatherford (Savages and Civilization), a professor of anthropology at Macalaster College, traveled thousands of miles, many on horseback, tracing Genghis Khan's steps into places unseen by Westerners since the khan's death and employing what he calls an "archeology of movement." Weatherford knows the story of the medieval Mongol conquests is gripping enough not to need superfluous embellishmentsâ€"the personalities and the wars they waged provide plenty of color and suspense. In just 25 years, in a manner that inspired the blitzkrieg, the Mongols conquered more lands and people than the Romans had in over 400 years. Without pausing for too many digressions, Weatherford's brisk description of the Mongol military campaign and its revolutionary aspects analyzes the rout of imperial China, a siege of Baghdad and the razing of numerous European castles. On a smaller scale, Weatherford also devotes much attention to dismantling our notions of Genghis Khan as a brute. By his telling, the great general was a secular but faithful Christian, a progressive free trader, a regretful failed parent and a loving if polygamous husband. With appreciative descriptions of the sometimes tender tyrant, this chronicle supplies just enough personal and world history to satisfy any reader.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–An interesting, thought-provoking account of the conqueror's life and legacy. From his early years as the son of a widow abandoned by her clan, he showed remarkable ability as a charismatic leader and unifier. In 25 years, his army amassed a greater empire than the Romans had been able to achieve in 400. Whether judged on population or land area, it was twice as large as that of any other individual in history. This colorful retelling discusses many of the innovations that marked Khan's rule and contributed to his success. Although his name is now erroneously associated with terror and slaughter, he showed surprising restraint during a time when few others in power did. He allowed freedom of religion, encouraged free trade, developed a paper currency, and observed diplomatic immunity. As he encountered new cultures, he adopted or adapted their best practices, and constantly updated his military strategies. Although Khan's death occurs at the midpoint of this book, the tales of his survivors' exploits and the gradual fall of the Mongol dynasties are engaging and informative. Weatherford's efforts to credit Genghis Khan and his descendants with the ideas and innovations that created the Renaissance are a bit bewildering, but readers will be left with a new appreciation of a maligned culture, and a desire to learn more.–Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening to the Amateur Historian July 14 2004
Format:Hardcover
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World was exciting and enlightening read. Jack Weatherford's style of writing is easy and flowing making what could be a dry historical work into a tale that explain or debunks many of the myths surrounding the Mongol empire.
Whet your appitite:
-The Mongols had an aversion to physical contact with their dying enemies.
-Both the Russians and Nazis used Mongol military tactics on the Russian front in WWII.
-The Mongols connected the known world inadvertently spreading the bubonic plague.
A few things to note:
-Genghis Khan dies half way through the book. The remainder of the book discusses the man as defined by his legacy which is the influences he had on the future of government, religious tolerance, military tactics, commerce, science and exploration.
-Khubilai Khan rightly takes up a fair number of pages. It is interesting how Khubilai Khan succeeded in conquering the Sung using politics where Genghis Khan had failed with military force.
-I would have like to have seen a family tree starting with Temujin's (Genghis Khan as a boy) parents. The lineage is well covered in the book and I was easily able to draw out the tree myself.
This was a very enjoyable and easy to read book that took many of the myths about the Mongols and either laid them to rest or explained them from the Mongol perspective. It turns out the 'Mongol horde' was actually a well organized society driven with the purpose of increasing trade in manufactured goods.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but the gentleman protests too much Nov. 27 2008
Format:Paperback
This was a great read. There surely can be no doubt that Genghis Khan deserves a greater place in history than he has been granted by the historians of the west. This book contains a great deal of fascinating information, including a narrative of Temujin's early childhood. As a new history of the Mongols, this book adds a great deal of interesting and useful information to our general body of knowledge.

That being said, the author goes too far in his attempts to redress the imbalance of previous historians. This first becomes clear when you compare accounts of numerous Mongol victories with the story of the first major Mongol defeat, by the Mamluks at Ayn Jalut. Mongol victories merit page after page of description; Ayn Jalut merits a single sentence. You cannot redress imbalance with further imbalance. Things only get worse when the author turns to the rule of Khubilai Khan; when it comes to Khubilai's supposed influences and achievements, the gentlemen most definitely protests too much. Some of the claims which the author makes are beyond speculative, and have no evidence or foundation whatsoever. It's a shame; this book moves all too rapidly from useful scholarship to the sort of exaggeration that makes revisionist history so suspect.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Untold Backstory of Western Civilization Feb. 20 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Talk about under reported information: The triumph of Genghis Khan is the story behind the 'indigenous' peoples of North America, populations displaced by the Mongol conquests of China.

This book explains and dispels the great prejudice the western world has for this great leader and is important background information for any informed historian.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Odd May 15 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A great book for someone interested in Genghis Khan's legend, not so good for an actual historical recounting. If I had to classify this it would be "history light" laced with accounts of what Genghis may have said. If you are looking for an interesting story and aren't so worried about details of battles and sieges etc you will enjoy this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow What a Great Book! May 1 2004
Format:Hardcover
I recently made a discovery while browsing through the new releases at the bookstore. With no intentions of buying the book I read the first few pages. Once I had read the introduction taken from a 1989 story in the Washington Post I was hooked. The author Jack Weatherford is a professor of anthropology in Minnesota and has done a terrific job of creating an interesting read. Once you start the read it is hard to stop. As part of his research he spent time in Khan's former homeland of Mongolia doing in depth studies, interviews, research, and even camping on the steppes. He has included many references, notes, and comments at the end of this 300 page book including a glossary of Mongol terms.
When one thinks of great historical figures, the Mongols and Genghis Khan are not the first names that pop into your mind. But here is a boy, raised in dire poverty and living right on the edge of survival in central Asia approximately 800 years ago, that somehow survives, and then who rose from insignificance to become a leader of the region. He started a family that conquered most of Asia from Hungary to Korea, from India and China to Russia and south to Israel - and all areas between, and left huge foot prints that lasted hundreds of years in an area of the globe where most people (60%) of the earth lived. He did this with a small group of peoples - the Mongols - and they became the masters of all they could find. It is sort of similar to someone conquering Asia and Europe with the Swiss army, and then changing the histories of these vast regions forever. He amalgamated Russia and China from a series of provinces, created Korea, among other things, and left in place an organization that lasted over 200 years.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars read better chingis khan stories
first of all i didn't like cover picture. it gives the readers wrong impression. Chingis is of Asian origins and doesn't look like one on cover. In general story is very boring. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Gonchigdanzan Sukhbaatar
4.0 out of 5 stars A very engaging and subtly biased history
Weatherford has produced an astonishingly engaging history that succeeds in redefining Genghis Khan and enshrining him with a crucial role in history. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2011 by Rodge
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Wondeful Reading
Really enjoyable, very well balanced and wide-ranged and providing a big perspectives. The book reads very easily and the story flows smoothly and fast. Read more
Published on April 20 2011 by SEOUROCK
4.0 out of 5 stars Unknown in the West, Until Now.
In the west we always hear of the Great Khan, as some sort of devil. Genghis Khan created the largest land empire that ever existed. Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2008 by Patrick Sullivan
1.0 out of 5 stars How could an illiterate warlord shape the modern world?
First off, the book's title is misleading and subject to debate. Readers should understand the desire that the author want to have its book stand out of many Genghis Khan bio... Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2006 by L Chen
5.0 out of 5 stars I have a new religion...
I've always liked the idea of Genghis Khan; now that I know the facts, I like him even more. The work of the first Great Kahn is inspiring and Jack Weatherford does a phenomenal... Read more
Published on June 12 2005 by Tony Djukic
5.0 out of 5 stars REVISIONIST HISTORY AT IT'S BEST
I liked this work. Like most, I must admit to have had a very narrow view of the Khans and the contribution the Mongol people. Read more
Published on July 8 2004 by D. Blankenship
5.0 out of 5 stars It All Started With the Mongols
This is a dual biography, of Genghis Khan the man and of the empire he created. Born Temujin in an obscure branch of an obscure group of nomads in Central Asia, Genghis Khan first... Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by John D. Cofield
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
For too long, the writing of Big History was discredited. Critics seized on the occasional errors or incompleteness in sweeping works like Toynbee's Study of History to attack... Read more
Published on June 26 2004 by M. A Michaud
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