Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World


Book: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Author: Jack Weatherford 

Illustrator: S. Badral

Publisher: Crown, republished 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0609610626 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0609610627 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0609809648 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0609809644 Paperback

Website(s): (publisher)

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Teens and adults

Rating: **** 4 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: Biography

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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     Weatherford, Jack.  Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (Published in 2004‏ by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY).   Genghis Khan (c. 1158/1162 – August 18, 1227), born Temüjin, was the founder and first Great Khan (Emperor) of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death. He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia, and, after being proclaimed the universal ruler of the Mongols, or Genghis Khan, he launched the Mongol invasions, which ultimately conquered most of Eurasia, reaching as far west as Poland and as far south as Egypt.  While I have categorized this book as biography, it is not strictly a biography of Genghis Khan, though much of it contains a lot of biographical material about him, but is rather an attempt to place Genghis Khan in historical context and explain how one extraordinary man from a remote corner of the world created an empire that led the world into the modern age.

     The biggest complaint that I saw about this book was expressed by two critics.  One wrote, “It’s embarrassing to get through this book, given the dumb, naked hero worship that the author engages in. GK is responsible for peace/prosperity/trade/diplomacy/progress and pretty much anything you can think of.”  The other said that “this account is so ridiculously one-sided as to be untrustworthy.  [The author has] fallen in love with his subject and it shows.”  I perhaps wouldn’t go that far, but I must admit that whenever the West and Christianity are compared to and contrasted with Genghis Khan and the Mongols, the latter always seem to come out on top.  It is true that in nearly every country the Mongols conquered, they brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization.  It is also true that we know how many people the Mongols killed and we know the harm that they caused multiple civilizations. 

     The introduction explains the grounds on which the book stands.  “Genghis Khan became the stereotype of the barbarian, the bloody savage, the ruthless conqueror who enjoyed destruction for its own sake.  Genghis Khan, his Mongol horde, and to a large extent the Asian people in general became unidimensional caricatures, the symbol of all that lay beyond the civilized pale.”  Surely we can recognize the turmoil that Genghis Khan and his armies caused while still realizing the beneficial effects of many of his policies.  And we can appreciate his good qualities and their consequences without resorting to hero worship and ignoring his more severe side.  I enjoyed reading the book for its history but understand that is merely one man’s interpretation of the great Khan and his times.

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