Saturday, September 23, 2023

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

My book for September was Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford, Dewitt Wallace Professor of Anthropology at Macalester College. When we were at Lake Almanor, the Nooters recommended the book.

The book is a narrative of the rise and influence of Mongol leader Genghis Khan and his successors, and their influence on European civilization. Weatherford acknowledges that Genghis Khan was a ruthless conqueror who committed many atrocities, but he also argues that he was a visionary leader who created a vast and prosperous empire.

The book is particularly interesting in its discussion of the Mongol impact on European civilization. Weatherford argues that the Mongols spread many important innovations to the West, such as paper money, gunpowder, and the compass. He also argues that the Mongols helped to break down the barriers between East and West, which contributed to the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration.

Kindle Notes from the book

The Mongol army had accomplished in a mere two years what the European Crusaders from the West and the Seljuk Turks from the East had failed to do in two centuries of sustained effort. They had conquered the heart of the Arab world. No other non-Muslim troops would conquer Baghdad or Iraq again until the arrival of the American and British forces in 2003.

Genghis Khan shaped the modern world of commerce, communication, and large secular states more than any other individual.
There is a lot of detail in the book about Genghis Khan life that is based on The Secret History of the Mongols. This book is a 13th-century Mongolian chronicle that tells the story of Genghis Khan's rise to power and the founding of the Mongol Empire. It is the oldest and most important surviving Mongol source on Genghis Khan.

Over the years, I have started to look at biographies with a more critical eye. Authors can spin the stories of a person's life in different directions by emphasizing some things and ignoring other aspects. This book has gotten a fair amount of criticism for its revisionist take on Genghis Khan.

I enjoyed the book, but I am not sure what to think about it historical accuracy. I would be interested in bouncing that question off Nooter.

[Note to self], I am going to add the Travels of Marco Polo to my reading list.

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