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The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  1,907 Ratings  ·  309 Reviews
The Mongol queens of the thirteenth century ruled the largest empire the world has ever known. Yet sometime near the end of the century, censors cut a section from The Secret History of the Mongols, leaving a single tantalizing quote from Genghis Khan: “Let us reward our female offspring.” Only this hint of a father’s legacy for his daughters remained of a much larger stor ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by Crown (first published August 2008)
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Nov 02, 2011 Zana rated it did not like it
Okay, it's not that this was a bad book. In fact, it was a four-star book (well, a three-and-a-half, but let's call it four). Except.

Except that Jack Weatherford wrote a brilliant book called Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, which precedes this book. It was the story of how Genghis Kahn and his four sons shaped the modern world in the 1200s. It is everything you want in a history book: well-researched, aware of and respectful of and inclusive of a drastically different culture fr
Alice Poon
Dec 15, 2014 Alice Poon rated it it was amazing

In my opinion, the author deserves even more credit for this book than "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World", simply because historians tend to play down women's contribution to shaping the world in official records. His mere efforts to glue together a chunk of Mongolian history related to women from bits and pieces he uncovered during research deserve commendation. By presenting such important historical facts, he gives readers better insight into Genghis Khan's philosophy about mai
Nov 11, 2010 Dori rated it it was amazing
Okay, I'm obsessed with the Mongol Empire. Otherwise, why would I write a novel about a princess who lived in that era? But this book really captured my imagination.

Most of us think of "barbarians" and "plunder" when we hear the words "Mongol" or "Genghis Khan." But did you know that Genghis Khan gave power to his daughters? While he and his sons were off with the army, conquering lands far more advanced than Mongolia, he left the already-conquered lands under the control of his wives and daught
May 25, 2012 Beka rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I have probably recommended this book to more people than any other book I have read in the past year. In part, this is because it is extremely readable and easily accessible even to people who have no knowledge of Central Asia or its history, but mostly it is because its subject matter is so fascinating. Before reading this book, I had no idea of the role that the daughters, daughters-in-law, and granddaughters of Genghis Khan played in ruling, destroying and preserving his empire. It's not a b ...more
Kirsti (Melbourne on my mind)
So here's the thing: basically everything I knew about Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire comes from playing Civilisation II as a kid. Which is to say that I knew Karakorum was the capital and Genghis Khan developed one hell of an empire (except in Civ II because I was a BIG fan of the cheat menu and would just obliterate anyone who came near me), but almost nothing but that.

I've also been trying to read more non-fiction this year that tells women's stories. So this seemed like a prime opportun
Missy J
Jan 24, 2016 Missy J rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-books
Ger on the move
Mongolian ger (yurt) transported on a cart.

Inside a ger
Inside a Mongolian ger.

The Mongolian practice of tsatsal, which consists of tossing fermented mare's milk into the air as an offering to the spirits (usually after the departure of loved ones to war or to join another family upon marriage).


When I was in university, I studied Chinese studies, and the last semester of my undergraduate studies was spent in Beijing. While studying there, I got to meet a Mongol girl called Qiqige (棋棋歌). Ethnical
This is how you write historical non-fiction. This is definitely how you write about badass women in history.

I honestly feel kind of bad as a feminist for not knowing about Mongol women earlier. Not that the early Mongols were feminists, per se, but the treatment and history of women is so vastly different from almost any historical culture that I've read about--it should be a huge point in women's history. We all know about Genghis Khan (or at least we all should). But what of his wives, his da
Tumeeb13 Bold
Jul 26, 2010 Tumeeb13 Bold rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, not exactly this version, but a Mongolian translation I read. Just too lazy to add a new book. It was really interesting to read it. How some historical facts were buried. At some point, it felt like a story being made up. But as the author is fairly accurate about historical facts, it's convincing. As I'm a Mongolian, and a woman, I've always felt like women in Mongolian society and families have more value than anything. Even they marry someone, and leave their home, even they are said, ...more
Lauren Albert
This was one of those books where I wished the author would allow a good story to speak for itself. There was way too much melodramatic language:

"The Mongol nation and the once glorious Golden Family sank so low and suffered so much abuse that it would possibly have been a blessing for the whole family to have died and the name of the nation to have disappeared into the wind like the cold ashes of an abandoned camp."

It was a constant irritant through an otherwise interesting book.
Undrakh Ganzorig
Mar 10, 2012 Undrakh Ganzorig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Түүх гэдэг миний хувьд хэзээд бүдэг бадаг ,тодорхой барьцтай мэдлэг гэхээр юмгүй зүйл байсаар ирсэн. Нууц товчоо уншиж байхдаа ч түүхт ингэж дурлаагүй юм , ерөнхийдөө хаа сайгүй л эзэн Чингис Хаан гэж ярьдаг боловч тэр хүний сүр хүчийг , байгуулсан гавьяаг өөрийн зүгээс мэдрээгүй байсан билээ . Харин Жак Уэторфордын “Монголын Их Хатдын нууц товчоо ”ном түүхийн тэр бүдэгхэн ойлголтыг тодруулахад их тус боллоо . Бичсэн бүхэнд нь шуудхан итгэчихэд мэдээж тийм ч амар биш байна л даа, өнгөрсөн юм гэ ...more
Jan 25, 2015 Stacia rated it really liked it
Fascinating pieces of lost &/or censored history. There are still plenty of gaps in the information, but Weatherford has done a good job of tracking down various sources of info in an attempt to uncover & save the history. (FYI, there are some harrowing sections in there re: violence toward girls & women.) Be sure to also read the epilogue, note on transliteration, & notes at the end of the book. It does get a little confusing to read at times, mostly owing to the previously ment ...more
Karolinde (Kari)
Apr 10, 2010 Karolinde (Kari) rated it it was amazing
A truly good history book is one that opens your mind and awakens your curiousity. This book definitely fits those requirements. Weatherford writes about the female descendents of Genghis Khan and their legacy. It all starts with a missing chapter in the "official history" of the ruling family and Weatherford's own relucantance to believe in the folk tales of powerful warrior queens. Forget Mulan, this is the real deal, women who ruled and fought and did so well.

Perhaps the most surprising part
Apr 06, 2016 Fanny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book! Before this I had no idea that Genghis Khan even cared about his daughters let alone give them free reign to do anything important. Manduhai's story is especially salient not only because she was the last major queen in the book, but because she literally did the same thing that GK did generations before her. More people need to read this :)
Jan 13, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it
Five years ago, when I read Weatherford's "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" I was struck by the role of women in Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire. I thought it worthy of a book, and, voila! It is!

Weatherford is uniquely qualified to write this book and his knowledge shines through. He writes of tribes, customs, places and events giving enough description to enable westerners to understand the unfamiliar. There is a useful map and several genealogy charts.

Weatherford tells how Genghis
Nov 16, 2010 Jen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history, 2010
This book is a fascinating look at a period of history I knew very little about - and then goes even deeper.

Many people know the basics of the story of Genghis Khan, but what I hadn't realised is what happened after he died. The short answer is: his daughters were a lot more competent than his sons, and more than that, it was the female descendents of his line who kept coming back to try and restore stability to the empire.

However, the name of the book comes from the fact that while most Mongo
Saruul Erdem
May 13, 2014 Saruul Erdem rated it it was ok
Хил хязгаар, улс төрийн философи, техник технологи, зэр зэвсэг, худалдаа, хувцас хунар, урлаг, утга зохиол, хэл, хөгжим гэх мэт манай ертөнцийн амьдралын бараг бүх хүрээнд Чингис хаан болон түүний эмхлэн байгуулсан Монголын Эзэнт гүрэн арилшгүй ул мөрөө үлдээсэн билээ. Манай гарагийн алс бөглүү хязгаарын гайхамшигт нэгэн хүмүүн дэлхий ертөнцийг хэрхэн өнөөгийн шинэ эринтэй золгуулсан тухай гайхалтай бөгөөд үнэн түүхийг энэхүү номонд өгүүлнэ.
Уэтерфорд тогтсон уламжлалыг эвдэн, Монголчуудын байл
Aug 14, 2010 Cindy rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Did you know that Genghis Khan was noted as a fair and enlightened ruler? Well, in part. He believed in a fair trial, a code of rules, and women's rights. In fact, his sons were all mostly washouts. But his daughters were pretty darn talented. So he made them administrators and generals and sent them out to maintain order along the borders of his empire. But then he died, and his heirs starting squabbling.

I really enjoyed this. Every once in a while, I got a little bogged down in details. But ov
Rebecca Huston
I found this one to be worth finding, full of things I had never found out before, and one that blew most of my notions about the Mongols right out of the water. For those of you who think that history is dull, this book just might change your mind. Well written, with plenty of stories to fire your imagination. Four stars overall, and heartily recommended.

For the longer review, please go here:
Sep 08, 2016 Alvin rated it really liked it
Apparently some women make history, just like men. Who knew? Along with the hyper-dramatic stories of various queens, one gets a pocket history of the rise and fall of the Mongol empire that should be of interest (for comparative purposes) to observers of the American empire. The middle of the book was bogged down with details about dynastic relations, and I wouldn't have minded a few more anthropological details about the Mongols, but on the whole this was a fascinating read.
Jan 26, 2017 Jan rated it it was ok
I enjoyed Weatherford's earlier book on Genghis Khan, but I'm bailing halfway through on this one. Too much tedious detail, too much torture, too much "This thing happened, and then this other thing happened." Life's too short.
Steve Cran
Jan 26, 2016 Steve Cran rated it it was amazing
In 1206 ad after a decades of hard fighting, Genghis Khan unified the Mongol Nation and began the job of empire building. Before they came nation the Mongols were nomadic and semi nomadic tribesmen with no unity to speak of . Oft times they fought among each other and no one took them seriously. The Turks and the Chinese looked down upon them with scorn. They were considered the scum of the Earth. Genghis Kahn, or Temujn would change all that.

Born of the Borjiin clan, he was the son of a warrior
Weatherford is one of the foremost living scholars on the Mongols and he doesn't disappoint--the book assumes a basic knowledge of Genghis Khan and his descendants but this time the focus is on his daughters, daughter-in-laws, and finally, Queen Manduhai, probably the most powerful woman in Mongolian history (not counting Genghis' mother, Hoelun). Genghis' daughters became the administrators and Queens of neighboring kingdoms while their husbands, Genghis' sons-in-law, were packed off to fight i ...more
Feisty Harriet
There is significant evidence that Genghis Khan's daughters (and grand daughters, and grand nieces, and so on) ruled with aplomb throughout the vast Mongol Empire that lasted from the early 1200's to the 16th century across vast tracts of central Asia, China, and Russia, and even as far as Korea. Much of the history of these women was destroyed, literally the pages were cut from the Mongol written record, and only through combing third-party legends and stories can some of their histories be rec ...more
To me, the most intriguing parts of this book where when Weatherford married anthropology and cultural descriptions to highlight the importance of certain historical moments. Facts I'd previously known took on richer significance when I finally understood the (cultural) perspective of the historical players. Places, names, even seasons were shown to have particular significance that has been lost in the retelling in other histories because of the sheer scale of Mongolia's history.

Many people cr
Shawn Bird
Mar 09, 2013 Shawn Bird rated it really liked it
When I first read the promotional material that said Weatherford is a "fantastic story-teller" I expected this to be written in novel form. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

It's a well-researched non-fiction telling of assorted details in chronological order. The plain telling is a trifle tedious, and I managed only a chapter or two at a time. However, there are many, many tidbits here that someone inclined to write a novel could grab hold of, because it's a fascinating topic.

There might be forty nove
Nov 28, 2012 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Super interesting, this book will give you a new view of Genghis Khan. He was a feminist, and so so so ahead of his time. He actually trusted his daughters more than his lazy sons, giving his daughters parts of his empire to rule. And boy did they!...Until Genghis died and things kind of fell apart, as did this book. When Genghis was around and his daughters and granddaughters were able to rule as he wanted them to, this book kept moving for me and kept my interest. It then waned in the middle s ...more
May 30, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Few of you in my present life remember that I faced a choice in 1990: get a Ph.D. in LIS, or one in Mongolian studies, in Indiana where I was accepted for the program. This book is the kind of research I would have loved to have done had I gone in that different direction. It is absolutely mind-blowing to view Chinese and European history from the perspective of Central Asia, and the author does a fantastic job putting together a coherent picture out of jigsaw pieces from dozens of contemporary ...more
Jun 13, 2012 Janej rated it it was amazing
A fascinating, well-written history of the real heirs of Genghis Khan -- his female descendants. The sons of Genghis (the male descendants)became Khans in their own rights, but because of power carried to excess or fondness for luxury,wine and other excesses basically didn't build lasting empires. The political and social architects of the Mongol Empire were Genghis' daughters. These khatuhns held the tribes together while the Khans and their Armies took lands, then were active in administrating ...more
Apr 02, 2015 Elsi rated it really liked it
With such a long and detailed blurb provided by the publisher, I don't have to tell you what the book is all about. Instead I can focus on how much I enjoyed it.

Listening to Robertson Dean read Jack Weatherford's The Secret History of the Mongol Queens is like attending a series of university lectures. And no grades hanging in the balance! Subtitled, “How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire”, Weatherford exposes the truth of the legacy left behind after Genghis Khan died in 1227.
May 11, 2012 Caroline rated it liked it
I'm glad that I read this -- it opened my eyes to a piece of history that I knew very little about -- though I found the book itself frustrating. This doesn't quite work as a narrative (too many disconnected stories, and, for instance, the subtitle is actually not an accurate description of the book's thesis -- Weatherford distinguishes between the empire, which was lost, and the nation, which was saved, a distinction that the subtitle eliminates), nor does it hold up as a presentation of histor ...more
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Jack McIver Weatherford is the former DeWitt Wallace Professor of anthropology at Macalester College in Minnesota. He is best known for his 2004 book, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. His other books include The History of Money; Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World; and The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescu ...more
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“Every society produces its own cultural conceits, a set of lies and delusions about itself that thrive in the face of all contrary evidence.” 7 likes
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