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Genghis Khan and the Quest for God: How the World's Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  522 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Thru history the world’s great conquerors have made their mark not just on the battlefield, but also in the societies they've transformed. Genghis Khan conquered by arms & bravery. He ruled by commerce & religion. He transformed the silk road into the world’s most effective trading network, established new laws & drastically lowered merchant taxes. But he knew that if his ...more
Hardcover, 435 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Viking (NY)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mongols
”As soon as one conflict subsided, people of faith easily invented another excuse to make war against nonbelievers, pagans, and heretics, or whatever they called people of other religions. In the name of a peaceful and compassionate God, the religiously devout found it easy to torture, rob, beat, blind, rape, burn, drown, starve, dismember, or enslave anyone. From infanticide to genocide, no punishment was too great or too evil when directed against someone perceived as a danger to the true reli ...more
Will Byrnes
In his discussion of Genghis Khan’s career, Gibbon inserted a small but provocative footnote, linking Genghis Khan to European philosophical ideas of tolerance and, surprisingly, to the religious freedom of the emerging United States.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single steppe. (sorry) In this case the author’s twelve-year sojourn began with a single footnote (among about eight thousand) in Edward Gibbon’s six-volume history of the Roman Empire. Was it possible that the n
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
My knowledge of Genghis Khan derives mostly from having watched, once and long ago, the Howard Hughes-produced film The Conqueror, starring John Wayne. Yes, that John Wayne. The one from Iowa. Playing the great Mongolian leader. Wooing Susan Hayward. Just like in the history books. The tagline from the movie poster is: I fight. I love. I conquer…like a Barbarian! (Reviewer's Note: Ditto). It goes almost without saying that The Conqueror frequently pops up on lists of the worst movies ever made. ...more
Jason Koivu
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, war, biography
Genghis Khan was a baaad man...if you were a shitty ruler who oppressed your people and lived fat off the sweat of those less fortunate.

Jack Weatherford knows his subject inside and out. He's written numerous books on the Mongols and the khan in particular. He did an excellent job in helping me garner a better understanding of perhaps the greatest ruler of all time.

Genghis Khan and the Quest for God: How the World's Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom succeeds in portraying Genghis Kha
Bryn Hammond
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: steppe-history
Jack Weatherford’s standing among historians has improved. In recent books by newer scholars I see him used and referenced without comment. Others are still averse: Morris Rossabi – whose work on the Mongols in China itself broke down prejudices and saw with new eyes – makes snipey remarks about the influence of Weatherford in forwards and prefaces, from the 2nd edition of his Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times, 20th Anniversary Edition, With a New Preface in 2009 to How Mongolia Matters: War, La ...more
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Back in the summer after I graduated high school, I spent a large chunk of time in Mongolia traveling along a north/south axis from Ulanbaatar first to the Gobi and other southern regions and then up towards the wooded parks of the north. Along that journey I briefly and unintentionally met Jack Weatherford and his party of Mongol scholars at one of the ger-camps set up along the route. He mentioned a book he was about to publish. A year(or two) later, that book, Genghis Khan and the Making of t ...more
Luke Gracias
Feb 15, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
There would be few living who could claim to know more about Genghis Khan than Jack Weatherford. The sub- title itself is intriguing "How the World's Greatest Conquerer gave us religious freedom" and therein lies the enigma.
Genghis Khan by his own volition believed he was on occasion an incarnation of God and on others, the Wrath of God. He was not alone. It was the fashion of the times for kings to portray their royalty as ordained by God. The common man would thereby take on their ta
Ganzorig Bayasgalan
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The book is quite well researched by all means. There are lots of quotations. But the problem arises with the author himself. Oh he writes vividly in a very imaginative way. And that is the problem I have with this book. It is riddled with speculations and assumptions. It is as if Jack Weatherford was there when Chinggis Khaan was alive. As if he was one of the first hand witnesses. The book is full of subjectivity. Not that I am complaining. At least he portrays Chinggis Khaan in a very positiv ...more
Conor Ahern
This was pretty skippable. From what I can tell, Mongols recognized the importance of freedom of religion for comity when ruling one of the most expansive and cosmopolitan empires of all time, and weren't zealous enough about their own religious practices and beliefs (which seem to have been mostly superficial) to insist on conversion. Toward the end the author tries to connect the thread from Khan to Voltaire to Locke to Jefferson to the rest of the world, but it's kind of ad hoc. Instead, this ...more
Dave Labranche
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
FYI, I am NOT a professional book reader :) This book is possibly the best historical non-fiction book I've ever read. Weatherford has great skill in keeping the reader engaged, the story flowing, and for deftly taking enlightening side trips. His style includes introducing complex groups of people and topics quickly, then revisiting them just often enough to remind the reader of key points while also giving more depth to the story. It was a bit like listening to a truly great kno ...more
John Martindale
Nov 19, 2016 rated it liked it
I listened to this audiobook directly after Weatherford's first book on Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world. This book I'd say is like an abridged version of the first. He retails the whole story just without as many details (which I actually found helpful, I was able to get the big picture) and adds a little more about religious themes than in the first book.

Genghis Khan pretty much made the state and his law the Absolute; it was to be the like a universal religion, as long as they
Margaret Sankey
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this because it synced with the way I always taught the Mongols in World History class--unable to directly rule their vast conquests, and possessed of a religion that didn't translate well to their new subjects, it made a lot more sense to take advantage of existing religions (especially those which preached, like the Orthodox Church, obedience to authority) for literacy, law codes and bureaucratic know-how, while not giving people additional reasons to resist. This is also a solid rec ...more
Friend of the Devil
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Despite not proving (at all) the attestation that Genghis Khan gave 'us' religious freedom, this was a page-turning good read of BASIC and fundamental Mongol military and religious history during the reign of the great Genghis Khan and his immediate descendants. Worth reading and would recommend to anyone with a blooming interest in said period/people or in religions and how they spread.
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wishlist
When I think of religious freedom, my mind certainly doesn't jump straight to Genghis Khan.

So when I saw this book, my curiosity took over and I knew that I had to read and find out more.

Weatherford takes us on a journey through Genghis Khan's life, and through that we are able to see how he dealt with the various religious sects and different religions he encountered during his conquers.

Something I really appreciate about this book is that we learn about Genghis as a person as well as a lead
Sean McGuffin
Jul 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Good overall history of religion under the Khans and their legacy, but does seem forgiving at times of the Khan's motives. However, this doesn't take away from its overall story, but maybe take parts with a grain of salt.

Peter A
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Over the Christmas / New Year holiday we visited relatives in New York City. When there, I do try to visit the Strand Bookstore, which has the tagline “18 Miles of Books.” It is a very impressive collection of books for sale, with great prices.

Right before leaving the store, I spotted the book, Genghis Khan and the Quest for God. Why did I buy it? For one, I had read two other books by this author related to Genghis Khan
• Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (around 2004)
• The Secret
James (JD) Dittes
I don't think there's a historian writing today who is better at finding the gaps in history and turning them inside out for readers' enlightenment as Jack Weatherford. Writing on subjects as diverse as Mongols and Native Americans, Weatherford never fails to instruct, never fails to illumine.

Weatherford is on familiar ground with Quest for God is his fourth book on Genghis Khan and the Mongols, and having previously read Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, I wasn't sure if there wa
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Weatherford is not a historian, and his adulation by the Mongolian government seems to have gotten to his head where he seemingly has no more objectivity towards the Mongols anymore. As a book, it's less engaging than its predecessors, with a bunch of errors and weird writing decisions visible even on a quick read through, including mixing old and new forms of Mongolian, using weird etymologies etc. I think this book pissed me off more than entertain me. ...more
Julian Munds
Weatherford is a Genghis Kahn apologist. He does a good job at showing through well studied accounts how the Mongols dealt with religion in the empire, but I don't buy his argument that GK was doing this out of some idealism. The idealism that he later proposes inspired the first American thinkers. This book is great for getting an idea on what the Mongol spiritual mind was like. But it often over glosses or even ignores the shear cataclysmic brutality of the empire. ...more
Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Its an enjoyable book, however, its basically a slightly expanded version of his first book on Genghis Khan. And while there is additional information on religion and spirituality and Genghis Khan, there's nothing much extra to really firm up the author's thesis on Genghis Khan being the originator of religious freedom, from his original book. Still enjoyed the read though. ...more
From Voltaire on, Genghis Khan has gotten a bad rap in the Western world. Jack Weatherford, in a follow-up to his original volume on the Mongol conquerer, has rectified that.

Genghis Khan was no more bloodthirsty than any other world leader of his day and age, and possibly less so. He was certainly no Tamerlane.

Weatherford has covered some of this, and some of Genghis Khan's influence outside his empire, in his previous volume. Now, he takes a look at Genghis Khan and his interaction with several
Joshua Claybourn
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book follows Weatherford's best-selling 2005 book Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Here he artfully guides us through a period of history which is too often a blur to the unfamiliar Western reader. How important is Genghis Khan to our study of history? Here’s an idea:

In twenty-five years, the Mongol army subjugated more lands and people than the Romans had conquered in four hundred years. Genghis Khan, together with his sons and grandsons, conquered the most densely populate
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
This book was really my first introduction to Genghis Khan. Weatherford does a great job developing the person of Genghis Khan from the beginning of his life to the end and is careful to reference where his information has come from. I find it so interesting that there is a "secret history" where it was safe to share personal information that one wouldn't find in official histories.
The things I found most interesting and want to remember....
Genghis had a strong mother and no father and because
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"From the cathedral of Kiev to the mosques of Baghdad, the Mongols treated religious buildings no differently from the opulent palaces or daily markets. They put the great stores of religious wealth back into commercial circulation. This wealth became the first global economic stimulus as they revitalized the Silk Route, opened an international network of hostels and banks for merchants to travel freely, suppressed bandits and pirates, built bridges, cleared harbors, lowered taxes, and tried to ...more
Fraser Kinnear
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
The closest history I've read to this was "Silk Road" last year. In both cases, it's been hard to retain much of the history because it's all so new to me. I'm not sure how much I've retained, being so ignorant of the geography or civilizations of the time - even the names have mostly escaped me :-(

The fundamental idea - that Genghis Khan promoted religious freedom - makes for a good journalistic blurb, and is in fact why I picked the book up. But one can get that point across in a short article
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Most history books on Genghis Khan and the Mongols focus on the supposed bloodthirstyness of the horde. This book takes a different tack - it focuses on Genghis Khan's quest for knowledge. As he conquered more and more nations, he wanted to be able to manage and rule them effectively. For this he needed administrators who could read and write, and also people familiar with management. He often turned to religious leaders among to help with these tasks. He also like to interview religious leaders ...more
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is certainly a worthy and impressive book, and the kind of history which one rarely encounters (though Weatherford is actually an anthropologist by academic training). The detail in this book is astonishing (and sometimes overwhelming), and there are an enormous number of characters, which can be challenging for a reader. But anyway, it's all there, and I will not summarize the text since other readers have already done that at length.

The question is how does one react to Genghis Khan..? Hi
Lance Johnson
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked up this book because I had read Jack Weatherford's other book on Genghis Khan and the Mongols and thoroughly enjoyed that one. While I did enjoy this one, comparatively, this book fell a bit short, hence my rating of 3.5 stars. While it presented some perspectives about Genghis Khan that I've not encountered before, most of the events in this book would be a recap for anyone who has read any other book on him or the Mongols in general. In this way, the book felt like it should have been ...more
Apr 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting read but it took me more than 4 months to finish it. I first started it to have some background before a trip to Mongolia and then I just set it aside.
Weatherford has done his research – 40 pages of notes and annotations! – but the reading got a little repetitive for me. It was as if he was bulking up the book, one of dozens he has written on the subject.
I found out so much about a world leader I never knew. Some quotes which struck out –
Page 29 – This wealth became t
Renuka Govind
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Mongols believed that everyone had an innate inclination to self-preservation and comfort, but each person also had an innate attraction to honor and correct behavior. They were free to decide for themselves which of these instincts they would allow to dominate.

This quote by the author sets the tone for the book. I never expected I would admire Genghis Khan, the so called barbaric monster. Jack Weatherford narrates the journey of Genghis Khan beautifully. The book is not a chronicle of his
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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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