Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

genghiskhanMost of us have heard about Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire. More often, he and his people are regarded as brute, ruthless and hostile. Almost always in a negative setting. Nevertheless, his and the empire’s story is captivating and needs to be told.

In this book, the author, Jack Weatherford tells us the story of Genghis Khan and his empire and how it shaped the beginning of the modern world. Weatherford asks us to reconsider our view of this great leader and his descendants.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World starts in detailing the early life of Genghis Khan, who was brought into the world in the steppe between Mongolia and Siberia. He was named Temujin by his father which means “of iron” or “blacksmith.” It was in year 1206 (if I remember it right) that he became the leader of the great Mongol nation and was then named Genghis Khan. The information on his early life was based on a document discovered called The Secret History of the Mongols. He did not have an easy childhood. He was confronted with many difficulties as a child. He didn’t have a formal education but he knew tradition and he knew that he lives in a dangerous world. His father was murdered and their family was cast out of the clan and so they were forced to live and survive on their own. He was also kidnapped and was forced to be a slave and this started his determination to seek revenge on every tribe that made his life difficult as a child.

The book focused more on the classic Mongol era — the period from Genghis Khan to Khubilai Khan. The stream of details will truly captivate the reader. And well, yes, Genghis Khan and his armies killed many people, sure, but warfare was important in creating the Mongol empire. Through his organized warfare, he unites everyone in every place he conquers regardless of their race and religion. Warfare and uniting the people were big steps that contributed to the foundation of the modern world and Genghis Khan made many laws. Genghis Khan is an extremely reformist leader. He made sure of everyone’s fundamental freedoms, everyone including women. He also advocated for human rights and education.

Genghis Khan and the other rulers of the Mongol empire practiced universalism. Since they didn’t have their own system to impose on their people, they were open to combine systems from the different places they have conquered. They looked and tried for what worked best for the empire. It is also notable that one of the best achievement of the Mongols was their great ability to blend with different local cultures thus giving the empire’s rule an exceptional degree of stability.

In the end, though, the empire was defeated by an unexpected enemy which was the plague. It spread like wildfire. Millions of people died. Eventually the empire started to fall and left divided into smaller kingdoms. Consequently, there came a growing anti-Asian attitude specially focused on the Mongols.

I enjoyed reading this book and hope to read more about Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire. Genghis Khan rocks!

Quotable Quotes:

“Genghis Khan recognized that warfare was not a sporting contest or a mere match between rivals; it was a total commitment of one people against another. Victory did not come to the one who played by the rules; it came to the one who made the rules and imposed them on his enemy.”

“Without the vision of a goal, a man cannot manage his own life, much less the lives of others.”

” …there is no good in anything until it is finished…”

Rating: 4/5 stars