Bryn Hammond's Reviews > Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan by Paul Ratchnevsky
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Dec 22, 2011

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I have severe issues with this book. It's the standard biography of Genghis/Chinggis Khan, and how I wish that wasn't so. On a positive note, it's stuffed full of information.

Its most egregious negative: have other people noticed this weird habit? Time and again he writes a paragraph, and at the end tacks on a sentence, 'which was because he was a power-mad tyrant'. And you go, eh? Where'd that come from? As a conclusion... there's nothing to suggest he was, in the paragraph. Or at least, the facts he gives in the paragraph can be interpreted in quite another way. It's like he thought, oops, I haven't mentioned lately, 'and he was a power-mad tyrant' - lest the gist of my paragraph be misunderstood.

Rave over. But if you want a cogent portrait of Genghis, do not come here: he doesn't attempt one. Other people attempt one, and you can argue with them, of course; 12th-13th century figures are hard to pin down. This author, however, is merely confused on what sort of person he thinks Genghis was.

The stars are for the info. It's still useful for wide quotation from the sources, though these can be indiscriminately put together. It in fact gathers an unusual amount of material, as if biographers these days think such material extraneous. It's less help, however, in judging or weighing this raw source material. Even the redactor into English once politely mentions that he contradicts himself, in a view expressed; the sources, written in different circumstances and to different purpose, are in frequent contradiction, and I don't think that they are adequately unconfused for us here, or indeed critiqued. Another negative is an inconsistency in how much attention he pays or doesn't to a campaign or other event.

In short, it's well outdated. Perhaps the up-to-date choice of biographies is by Michal Biran, a scholar in the thick of Mongol studies today, as Mongol studies undergo a sea-change: Chinggis Khan. Exactly the same can be said for Ruth W. Dunnell who also has a biography out: Chinggis Khan: World Conqueror
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 22, 2011 – Shelved
December 22, 2011 – Shelved as: steppe-history
October 26, 2012 – Shelved as: website-widget

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