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Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Cover of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

The name Genghis Khan often conjures the image of a relentless, bloodthirsty barbarian on horseback leading a ruthless band of nomadic warriors in the looting of the civilized world. But the surprising truth is that Genghis Khan was a visionary leader whose conquests joined backward Europe with the flourishing cultures of Asia to trigger a global awakening, an unprecedented explosion of technologies, trade, and ideas. In Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford, the only Western scholar ever to be allowed into the Mongols' "Great Taboo"--Genghis Khan's homeland and forbidden burial site--tracks the astonishing story of Genghis Khan and his descendants, and their conquest and transformation of the world.

Fighting his way to power on the remote steppes of Mongolia, Genghis Khan developed revolutionary military strategies and weaponry that emphasized rapid attack and siege warfare, which he then brilliantly used to overwhelm opposing armies in Asia, break the back of the Islamic world, and render the armored knights of Europe obsolete. Under Genghis Khan, the Mongol army never numbered more than 100,000 warriors, yet it subjugated more lands and people in twenty-five years than the Romans conquered in four hundred. With an empire that stretched from Siberia to India, from Vietnam to Hungary, and from Korea to the Balkans, the Mongols dramatically redrew the map of the globe, connecting disparate kingdoms into a new world order.

But contrary to popular wisdom, Weatherford reveals that the Mongols were not just masters of conquest, but possessed a genius for progressive and benevolent rule. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope
of Genghis Khan's accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination. Genghis Khan was an innovative leader, the first ruler in many conquered countries to put the power of law above his own power, encourage religious freedom, create public schools, grant diplomatic immunity, abolish torture, and institute free trade. The trade routes he created became lucrative pathways for commerce, but also for ideas, technologies, and expertise that transformed the way people lived. The Mongols introduced the first international paper currency and postal system and developed and spread revolutionary technologies like printing, the cannon, compass, and abacus. They took local foods and products like lemons, carrots, noodles, tea, rugs, playing cards, and pants and turned them into staples of life around the world. The Mongols were the architects of a new way of life at a pivotal time in history.

In Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford resurrects the true history of Genghis Khan, from the story of his relentless rise through Mongol tribal culture to the waging of his devastatingly successful wars and the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed. This dazzling work of revisionist history doesn't just paint an unprecedented portrait of a great leader and his legacy, but challenges us to reconsider how the modern world was made.

From the Hardcover edition.

The name Genghis Khan often conjures the image of a relentless, bloodthirsty barbarian on horseback leading a ruthless band of nomadic warriors in the looting of the civilized world. But the surprising truth is that Genghis Khan was a visionary leader whose conquests joined backward Europe with the flourishing cultures of Asia to trigger a global awakening, an unprecedented explosion of technologies, trade, and ideas. In Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford, the only Western scholar ever to be allowed into the Mongols' "Great Taboo"--Genghis Khan's homeland and forbidden burial site--tracks the astonishing story of Genghis Khan and his descendants, and their conquest and transformation of the world.

Fighting his way to power on the remote steppes of Mongolia, Genghis Khan developed revolutionary military strategies and weaponry that emphasized rapid attack and siege warfare, which he then brilliantly used to overwhelm opposing armies in Asia, break the back of the Islamic world, and render the armored knights of Europe obsolete. Under Genghis Khan, the Mongol army never numbered more than 100,000 warriors, yet it subjugated more lands and people in twenty-five years than the Romans conquered in four hundred. With an empire that stretched from Siberia to India, from Vietnam to Hungary, and from Korea to the Balkans, the Mongols dramatically redrew the map of the globe, connecting disparate kingdoms into a new world order.

But contrary to popular wisdom, Weatherford reveals that the Mongols were not just masters of conquest, but possessed a genius for progressive and benevolent rule. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope
of Genghis Khan's accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination. Genghis Khan was an innovative leader, the first ruler in many conquered countries to put the power of law above his own power, encourage religious freedom, create public schools, grant diplomatic immunity, abolish torture, and institute free trade. The trade routes he created became lucrative pathways for commerce, but also for ideas, technologies, and expertise that transformed the way people lived. The Mongols introduced the first international paper currency and postal system and developed and spread revolutionary technologies like printing, the cannon, compass, and abacus. They took local foods and products like lemons, carrots, noodles, tea, rugs, playing cards, and pants and turned them into staples of life around the world. The Mongols were the architects of a new way of life at a pivotal time in history.

In Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Jack Weatherford resurrects the true history of Genghis Khan, from the story of his relentless rise through Mongol tribal culture to the waging of his devastatingly successful wars and the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed. This dazzling work of revisionist history doesn't just paint an unprecedented portrait of a great leader and his legacy, but challenges us to reconsider how the modern world was made.

From the Hardcover edition.

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  • From the book

    The Blood ClotThere is fire in his eyes and light in his face.

    The Secret History of the Mongols

    Of the thousands of cities conquered by the Mongols, history only mentions one that Genghis Khan deigned to enter. Usually, when victory became assured, he withdrew with his court to a distant and more pleasant camp while his warriors completed their tasks. On a March day in 1220, the Year of the Dragon, the Mongol conqueror broke with his peculiar tradition by leading his cavalry into the center of the newly conquered city of Bukhara, one of the most important cities belonging to the sultan of Khwarizm in what is now Uzbekistan. Although neither the capital nor the major commercial city, Bukhara occupied an exalted emotional position throughout the Muslim world as Noble Bukhara, the center of religious piety known by the epithet "the ornament and delight to all Islam." Knowing fully the propaganda value of his actions by conquering and entering the city, Genghis Khan rode triumphantly through the city gates, past the warren of wooden houses and vendors' stalls, to the large cluster of stone and brick buildings at the center of the city.

    His entry into Bukhara followed the successful conclusion of possibly the most audacious surprise attack in military history. While one part of his army took the direct route from Mongolia to attack the sultan's border cities head-on, he had secretly pulled and pushed another division of warriors over a distance longer than any other army had ever covered--two thousand miles of desert, mountains, and steppe--to appear deep behind enemy lines, where least expected. Even trade caravans avoided the Kyzyl Kum, the fabled Red Desert, by detouring hundreds of miles to avoid it; and that fact, of course, was precisely why Genghis Khan chose to attack from that direction. By befriending the nomads of the area, he was able to lead his army on a hitherto unknown track through the stone and sand desert.

    His targeted city of Bukhara stood at the center of a fertile oasis astride one of the tributaries of the Amu Darya inhabited mostly by Tajik or Persian people, but ruled by Turkic tribesmen in the newly created empire of Khwarizm, one of the many transitory empires of the era. The sultan of Khwarizm had, in a grievously fatal mistake, provoked the enmity of Genghis Khan by looting a Mongol trade caravan and disfiguring the faces of Mongol ambassadors sent to negotiate peaceful commerce. Although nearly sixty years old, when Genghis Khan heard of the attack on his men, he did not hesitate to summon his disciplined and experienced army once again to their mounts and to charge down the road of war.

    In contrast to almost every major army in history, the Mongols traveled lightly, without a supply train. By waiting until the coldest months to make the desert crossing, men and horses required less water. Dew also formed during this season, thereby stimulating the growth of some grass that provided grazing for horses and attracted game that the men eagerly hunted for their own sustenance. Instead of transporting slow-moving siege engines and heavy equipment with them, the Mongols carried a faster-moving engineer corps that could build whatever was needed on the spot from available materials. When the Mongols came to the first trees after crossing the vast desert, they cut them down and made them into ladders, siege engines, and other instruments for their attack.

    When the advance guard spotted the first small settlement after leaving the desert, the rapidly moving detachment immediately changed pace, moving now in a slow, lumbering procession, as though they were merchants coming to trade, rather than with...

About the Author-
  • JACK WEATHERFORD is the New York Times bestselling author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World; Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World; The Secret History of the Mongol Queens; and The History of Money, among other acclaimed books. A specialist in tribal peoples, he was for many years a professor of anthropology at Macalaster College in Minnesota and divides his time between the US and Mongolia.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 2, 2004
    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 embellishments—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.

  • Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

    "There is very little time for reading in my new job. But of the few books I've read, my favourite is Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford (Crown Publishers, New York). It's a fascinating book portraying Genghis Khan in a totally new light. It shows that he was a great secular leader, among other things."

  • Washington Post "Reads like the Iliad. . . Part travelogue, part epic narrative."
  • Harper's "It's hard to think of anyone else who rose from such inauspicious beginnings to something so awesome, except maybe Jesus."
  • Kirkus Reviews "Weatherford's lively analysis restores the Mongol's reputation, and it takes wonderful learned detours. . . . Well written and full of suprises."
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune "Weatherford is a fantastic storyteller. . . . [His] portrait of Khan is drawn with sufficiently self-complicating depth. . . . Weatherford's account gives a generous view of the Mongol conqueror at his best and worst."
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