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Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection Paperback – February 6, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

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Man posits that this engrossing book is the result of his ambition to travel to somewhere remote, and that Mongolia, China, and the Gobi Desert are such places. He maintains that secrecy is an important theme of the book: how and where Genghis Khan died, and how and where he was buried. Man chronicles the early history of Mongolia, the coming of the Mongols' conquests of China and other Asian kingdoms, and what he calls the Muslim holocaust. He cites that "there were 100,000 to 150,000 soldiers, each with two or three horses . . . they could cover 100 kilometers a day, cross deserts, swim rivers, and materialize and vanish as if by magic." He says that prisoners had a triple use: as a slave labor force of specialist artisans, as soldiers in the army's nonnomadic contingents, and as "cannon fodder." Genghis Khan fell seriously ill, perhaps with typhus, and died in 1227, and not much is certain about his burial site; the record is, according to the author, "infuriatingly vague." George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Absorbing and beautifully written . . . A thrilling account. (The Guardian (U.K.))

Man has scholarly gifts as well as an acute intelligence and a winning way with words. This is a fine introduction to the subject, as well as a rattling good read. (The Independent (U.K.))

Every bit as gripping as its subject deserves. History doesn't get much more enthralling than this. (York Evening Post (U.K.))

Chaucer lauded Genghis Khan in his Canterbury Tales, while others have compared him to Satan (sometimes to Satan's advantage). In this lively volume, historian and travel writer Man presents parallel yet conflicting views of the imperialist and Mongolian national hero. The Great Khan unified the nomadic Mongols, destroyed obstructive empires, built the largest land empire in history, opened trade from Japan to Europe, and in general made way for the modern world. His tactics included murderous but focused terror, multicultural statesmanship, and sheer energy (DNA studies estimate that his genes are in eight percent of the men of Eurasia). (Library Journal)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312366248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312366247
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


I usually write non-fiction, mainly exploring interests in Asia and the history of written communication. So 'The Lion's Share', available only on Kindle, is something different - a new edition of a thriller written some 25 years ago when I wasn't sure what I wanted to focus on. It's about the 'real' - in quotes, i.e. fictional - fate of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia.

Most of the time, I like to mix history, narrative and personal experience, exploring the places I write about. It brings things to life, and it's a reaction against an enclosed, secure, rural childhood in Kent. I did German and French at Oxford, and two postgraduate courses, History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (to join an expedition that never happened).

After working in journalism and publishing, I turned to writing, with occasional forays into film, TV and radio. A planned trilogy on three major revolutions in writing has resulted in two books, 'Alpha Beta' (on the alphabet) and 'The Gutenberg Revolution', both republished in 2009. The third, on the origin of writing, is on hold, because it depends on researching in Iraq. (On the fourth revolution, the Internet, many others can write far better than me).

My interest in Mongolia revived in 1996 when I spent a couple of months in the Gobi. 'Gobi: Tracking the Desert' was the first book on the region since the 1920's (those by the American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews). In Mongolia, everything leads back to Genghis. I followed. The result was 'Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection', now appearing in 20 languages. Luckily, there's more to Mongol studies than Genghis. 'Attila the Hun' and 'Kublai Khan' came next.

Another main theme in Asian history is the ancient and modern relationship between Mongolia and China. 'The Terracotta Army', published to in 2007, was followed by 'The Great Wall', which took me from Xinjiang to the Pacific. 'The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan' (combining history, character analysis and modern leadership theory) and 'Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East' pretty much exhausted Inner Asian themes for me.

So recently I have become interested in Japan. For 'Samurai: The Last Warrior', I followed in the footsteps of Saigo Takamori, the real 'Last Samurai', published in February 2011. After that, more fiction, perhaps.

I live in north London, inspired by a strong and beautiful family - wife, children and grand-children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By William D. Shingleton on November 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Genghis Khan by John Man is a strange mix of history and travelogue that doesn't seem to hang well together. Man has attempted to meld his personal experiences travelling Mongolia to visit the major Genghis-related sites with a history of Genghis Khan. As a result, you will find out not only about that 13-th century builder of the Mongol nation and empire but also about Man's trevails attempting to find Burkhan Khaldun, Mongolia's sacred mountain. If you like to see some of the author's personality injected into a story about someone else, this may enhance the book for you. If you find such things unprofessional or uninteresting, this is not the history of Genghis Khan that you want to read.

Genghis Khan the book is clearly written as a popular history. There are few footnotes and little in the way of new ground is broken when it comes to research on Genghis. Instead, Man appears to rely on the established (albeit conflicting) sources that have been used by other scholars. Significantly, Man goes to great lengths to point out and discuss the major debates when it comes to Genghis Khan's life, a major positive point for this book. He also mines previously uncovered primary sources such as The Secret History for all that they are worth.

The book really falls into three sections. The first deals with many of the legends that surround Genghis Khan and his early youth. Due to the lack of sources on Genghis this section reads almost more like mythology than history. The beginning is also marked by a stretch of Man discussing his travels in Mongolia to sites where Genghis may have been born.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on April 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mainstream historians may object to some of the claims in this book, but John Man has created quite a readable mix of travelogue and history. This is more a work of interpretation, rather than direct research, as Man has combined his own past learning about Genghis Khan and the Mongols with his modern-day travels to Mongolia in search of surviving relics. So do not expect newly detailed research breakthroughs, because this is one of those "living history" books. One particular problem is that Man uses a lot of conjecture and opinionating when tackling gaps or contradictions in the historical record. But in the end, we do get a very good summary of all the present knowledge on Genghis and his descendants, and Man engagingly discusses this very intriguing and complex historical personage. This especially applies to how Genghis was surely a genius in military strategy and administration, and was a remarkable leader of men, while also being responsible for the destruction of dozens of classic cities and the slaughter of probably a few million people. Man also discusses the sheer hugeness of the Mongols' empire-building practices, why these once-anarchic nomads decided to destroy every settled civilization in the known world then return to their simple pastoral lives, and how Genghis has been deified as both a god and a devil by multiple societies ever since. Add to this Man's exploration of the modern landscape and the Mongols' ongoing influence, and this conjectural but still very readable book really shows what made Genghis and his boys tick. [~doomsdayer520~]
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul D on July 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
John Man's Genghis Khan is a chalenging and rewarding read. It will come as a bit of a jolt to readers used to reading popular biographies of more modern figures. This is a very different experience to reading about, say, Churchill or Kennedy. More modern subjects have a wealth of source material available to the historian, whose task becomes one of selection and condensation. Not so for a 13th century leader whose life was often deliberately shrowded in secrecy. Man's task is not to wade through volumes of material, but to actually find material. And he does a terrific job.

He has pieced together a rivetting account of Genghis Khan's life, from birth to death and beyond. He takes the reader on a journey in search of Genghis, through the steppes and deserts of Central Asia, into Europe, and to China.

One strength of this book is Man's depth of knowledge and experience. He has clearly spent a great deal of his life in Mongolia, has picked up the language and immersed himself in the culture of the Mongols. He still sees himself as an outsider, an indication of his great humility, but he is certainly not typical of many modern writers who adopt a subject only until their book is published. The scope of this book is truly impressive.

A word should also be made about the illustrations. The book has two sections of illustrations, and many seem to be photographs taken by Man himself. They add to the enjoyment and experience of the read, as do the several maps included in the text.

Another great strength of this book is in capturing the present day spirit and influence which Genghis still holds in Mongolia and beyond.
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