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Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World Paperback – March 22, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (March 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609809644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609809648
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.8 x 5.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (400 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.

More About the Author

Jack Weatherford retired as a professor of anthropology from Macalester College in Minnesota. His research interests are in Mongolia, and he is a resident of Ulaanbaatar.

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Customer Reviews

I hope to read this book again and again.
Brian D. Moore
The author is clearly biased towards the Mongols and exaggerates the truth on occasion, but this style of writing makes the book a pleasure to read.
T. Lane
Dr. Weatherford's book is an incredible account of the Mongol world of Genghis Khan and his descendents.
J. R. Clary

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

150 of 153 people found the following review helpful By E. N. Anderson VINE VOICE on November 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a well-written account of Genghis Khan and his successors, the Mongols who conquered an amazing chunk of real estate. Weatherford debunks the nonsense about "millions" killed in cities of 100,000, and so forth, and correctly notes a lot of this came from Mongol propaganda intended to scare people into submission.

The best thing in the book, to my taste, is Weatherford's own knowledge from anthropological on-the-ground research. He knows the steppe and the feel of a Mongol horse under him. He can thus get a real perspective on how the Mongols actually experienced the world (like the great old-timers--Pozdnyev, Curtin--but unlike many modern Mongolists). Next best is his proper crediting of the Mongols for introducing new knowledge all over Eurasia--gunpowder and printing and much else to Europe, Greco-Persian-Arab medicine and foodways to China.

The worst is his inattention to detail. He makes some astonishing errors. Some reviewers have picked out a few. He retails the old chestnut (reportedly from a romantic novel) that the Mongols introduced noodles from China to Europe. No, Europe had them 800 years earlier. Worse is his repeating (p. 87) the old nonsense about the Mongols eating raw meat warmed between their thighs and the horses' backs. This factoid was spun by Ammianus Marcellinus, talking about steppe nomads centuries before the Mongols. It was almost certainly wrong then, and it is quite certainly wrong for the Mongols. The Mongols had the good sense to avoid raw meat, especially dirty raw meat.

So, read with caution. If this book whets your appetite, the next step is the books by Paul Ratchnevsky (on Genghis) and Morris Rossabi (on his successors and their world). And you might even tackle the Secret History, now made available (though expensive) by the indefatigable Igor de Rachewilz, who is properly acknowledged by Weatherford.
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310 of 333 people found the following review helpful By Jeffery Steele on January 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When Genghis Khan and his armies exploded out of the steppe in the early thirteenth century, no one on the Eurasian continent was prepared for his innovative style of warfare. Through years of what was essentially civil war, the Mongols of that period, as well as the surrounding tribes, had already refined various elements of shock warfare. But Temujin - Genghis Khan's birth name - added much to the Mongols' arsenal that was previously missing. He integrated surrounding tribes into his Mongol army; he ensured looting was strictly controlled and that shares of it were divided on a pre-assigned basis; he killed off the aristocracies of the tribes, cities, and empires he defeated, thereby ensuring they would not rally their people to turn on him at a later time; he organized his armies, and even his society, through a decimal system that smoothed the functioning of his eventual empire; he instituted laws that even he, a great khan, must obey.

What resulted from these innovations was unprecedented: an army with the same benefits of speed and maneuver that had always been a part of the traditional tactics of the tribes of the steppe melded together with an effective bureaucratic leadership that was very different from the typical kin-based and ad hoc tribal relationships. This was Temujin's creation, and he perfected it in numerous battles to unify Mongolia under his leadership. In 1206, two years after the final battle to assume control of all Mongolia, he took the name Genghis Khan, and prepared to take his army out into the world.

Jack Weatherford's remarkable narrative of these events captures the creativity of Genghis Khan and the Mongols in a way that no book I've read before ever has.
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195 of 213 people found the following review helpful By Donald B. Siano on April 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a revisionist history (isn't it all?) of a truly remarkable figure, who created an empire greater even than the Romans, and he did it from scratch in just a few decades. He was a law-giver who essentially outlawed the culture he came from--transforming it from a Scots-like clan of cattle rustlers and raiders, to a monolithic, highly disciplined cavalry of conquerers. He devised entirely new military tactics that were as successful against the cities of the Chinese as against the armored knights of the West. And they started out as a people, he claims, who did not even know how to weave cloth!
Weatherford here takes up the challenge of accenting the positive impact of his brutal conquests. Among other things he makes the case for his setting the West up for the Renaissance, the introduction of paper money, the postal system, Religious tolerance, and new vegetables. He bases much of this on new scholarship, rather than the hysterical propaganda of the aristocrats whom he threatened. Partly based on the mysterious "Secret History of the Mongols," the author's own travels in Mongolia, and contacts with Mongolian revivalists, he makes this bit of history accessible even to the most prejudiced reader.
Strangely omitted, though, is the fascinating tale that the geneticists have discovered about his Y chromosome, which appears to show that he might just have been the most prolific lover in the last couple of millennia! Too recent, maybe.
One of the remarkable features of his style was that he hated the elite and the aristocrats, and slaughtered as many as he could. He loved the professional men, the teachers and doctors, and especially the craftsmen and engineers, and did not even tax them. My kinda guy!
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