119 of 122 people found the following review helpful
Good account, some flaws,
This review is from: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (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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Initial post: Oct 19, 2008 8:37:32 AM PDT
N.E.Anderson: "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."
Thank you for references to further reading, and thanks also for clearing up the raw meat warming aginst the horses' bodies. I wondered why no ongoing outbreaks of food poisoning were mentioned. Just joking, but it didn't seem quite right to me because I got the impression off and on through the book that the Mongols were very discriminating at picking and choosing the best of the best. As you say, dirty raw meat doesn't fit the picture.
Posted on Oct 13, 2009 6:27:19 PM PDT
Thanks for editing that part. Raw meat??? What??? It's true that Mongolians love meat and consider a dinner without meat as a snack (I'm exaggerating a little bit). Most Mongolians won't eat raw meat (even including borts, which is dried meat using sublimation). A steaks unless it's well cooked can be considered raw for some Mongolians. It's also true that Mongolians can be very picky when it comes to meat, like Indians when it's time to cook rice.
Posted on Oct 4, 2010 5:00:04 AM PDT
Le Thanh Tam says:
I believe the raw meat on horse's back is accurate. Atilla the Hun's army did the same. A little salt in the pack, then place it under the seat. After a day's ride, the meat will be tenderized and cured.
Posted on Sep 23, 2011 7:22:10 PM PDT
All Access Customer says:
Bottom line is that Genghis Khan was not such a bad chap afterall. Sure he killed, murdered and enslaved, but not nearly as much as we have been led to believe. It is time to give credit where credit is due.
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