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

Jack Weatherford
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 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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Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World + The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire
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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
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow What a Great Book! May 1 2004
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It All Started With the Mongols July 7 2004
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 gained supreme power over the Mongols, whom he unified and turned into a superb fighting machine, then proceeded to conquer much of Eurasia. Weatherford occasionally has to refute some romantic legends that have grown up around Genghis Khan and his family, but the truth is dynamic enough.
Of especial interest is Weatherford's coverage of the after effects of Genghis Khan's empire. The Mongol Empire lasted for only about a century, but its influence lingers on. Cross regional trade tied Europe, Asia, and the Middle East motightly together than ever before. An efficient communications system enabled information to spread at an unprecedented pace. So much of what we regard as essential accoutrements of our modern world can be traced back to the Mongols.
Yes, the stories of Mongol cruelty and ruthlessness are accurate and Weatherford fully covers them, but this book makes clear that without the Mongol influence, our world today might be much poorer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have a new religion... June 12 2005
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 job describing, making it entertaining, yet without needing to dress it up at all. This book is a must read for anyone who likes to ask "Why?" A great deal of historical answers lie within this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating June 26 2004
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 their broad theses. Weatherford's book about Genghis Khan is a welcome reversal of that trend. His big picture approach synthesizes knowledge from many sources to show the astonishingly original contributions of the early Mongol empire - religious freedom, universal laws, public schools that included students from outside traditional elites, relatively free trade, paper money, even an efficient postal system. These innovations did not survive Genghis Khan's later successors. But eyes had been opened, and the ideas introduced by the Mongols returned to play a major role in subsequent civilizations, particularly in Europe.
Yes, the Mongols were ruthless conquerors. But Weatherford shows that many reports of slaughtered populations were wildly exaggerated. The vast Mongol empire, while hardly a paradise of democratic government and civil rights, imposed a kind of peace for a century. The Romans were sometimes brutal too, but the Pax Romanica imposed a similar peace on much of the Mediterranean world, enabling the growth of ideas and practices that influence us today.
Understandably, Weatherford does not go into as much detail as more narrowly focused histories. Yet there is enough to make his writing interesting as well as easy to understand. This is one of the most readable of all Big Histories. The few maps help to establish a geographical framework, though the pen and ink drawings really don't add to our knowledge.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So much new information about a part of the world ...
So much new information about a part of the world that was closed off for so long and has been slandered for hundreds of years.
Published 1 month ago by Lesley A. Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars The Untold Backstory of Western Civilization
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... Read more
Published 6 months ago by David Siemens
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd
A great book for someone interested in Genghis Khan's legend, not so good for an actual historical recounting. Read more
Published 16 months ago by A customer
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 16 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
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but the gentleman protests too much
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. Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2008 by Jack Blatant
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
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
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