950: Genghis Khan by Jack Weatherford

by Gerard

950.21092: Weatherford, Jack. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004. 271 pp. ISBN 0-609-80964-4.

Dewey Construction:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 950: General history of Asia
  • 950.21: Reign of Genghis Khan
  • +092: Biography

In the early parts of the 13th century BCE, one man united his people and conquered an entire continent. He founded one of the first meritocratic governments, established the first form of religious freedom, and re-organized the social landscape. His rule codified the first laws in the region and brought untold riches to his people. This wasn’t an enlightened feudal European or a forward-thinking Western ruler. The founder of this vast empire was born a lowly peasant to a kidnapped woman in a remote encampment in Asia. He was Genghis Khan.

Jack Weatherford’s Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World chronicles not only the life of Temujin (Genghis’s original name), but of his family and their maintenance of the Mongol Empire. His source material is The Secret History of the Mongols, which was only recently translated and made available to researchers. Weatherford’s detailed reading of this and many other contemporaneous chroniclers brings the story almost to the point of a full-blown historical novel, but it’s all true.

From his beginnings as an adopted child to his death attempting to bring yet more land into the empire, Genghis Khan created a new world that had never before been seen on the Russian steppes. His government tried to establish laws that would allow all citizens to prosper. He moved workers with technical training to places where they were needed. He re-organized the way that the Mongol army fought. After reading The Art of War, it’s easy to see how his strategies worked against every foe he faced.

This book is incredibly detailed yet very readable. Weatherford’s research and bibliography is probably the best I’ve seen thus far. Anyone who watches the CrashCourse videos on Youtube knows that the Mongols broke every historical rule. But you don’t get a sense of what means until you really read about it. For one person to design an empire that was completely different from everything that came before is truly awesome. If you’re a history buff, pick this one up immediately (if you haven’t already).