Karen Mardahl's Reviews > Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
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's review
Jan 27, 2012

really liked it

I finished reading or listening to this book today, and I enjoyed it. I really didn't know much about Genghis Khan, which is why I wanted to read about him to fill in gaps in my knowledge of history. I made a slight mistake by getting curious about the book shortly after I started and reading some reviews on Amazon. A few were scathing and said it was full of errors. Some said the author was blindly impressed by someone who was basically a murderer. At first I was disappointed in having my impression of the book tainted. Then I thought, OK, let me judge for myself. I recall one factual error that was called out - about the Mongols not riding with raw meat under the saddle to tenderize it. I thought, how do any of us know? There are details of Mongol life written up in a book called The Secret History, but anyone writing all those many years ago may have been biased, forgetful, etc. If indeed some details are incorrect, I think the big picture is still valuable. I don't think Genghis Khan was a murderer as we see it today. Life was completely different from what we know today, and there is evidence that he did introduce some very different ways of life that made a major impact on his world. It sounds like some other leaders were far, far worse. The first half of the story covers Genghis Khan's life, and the latter half covers how his legacy was managed by his children and grandchildren. Then there was a quick hop to the present. The audiobook had an afterward that sounded more like a forward. I wish I had heard it first to put things in perspective, but it actually helped in tying up all the details of the book. I cannot remember all the names and details, but I do realize that what he achieved at that time was incredibly impressive. One of the reviews complained that the book was written by an anthropologist and not a historian. Maybe the anthropologist was the best qualified to look for the human-interest angle. I heard a good story, and that made this quite enjoyable. If there is any issue that I want to investigate for accuracy, I can do so. I see this as a fine introduction to this historical period. One thing that did intrigue me, if that is the right word. It seems like some religious fanaticism in Europe and ignorance about the Mongols may have initiated some of the persecution of Jews. The Mongols also brought the bubonic plague to Europe, and again, the Jews were often given the blame and persecuted quite horribly. Later, in the 1800s and early 1900s, the idea of barbarian Mongols was brought up in support of the "yellow peril" fear campaigns. it is so ironic and tragic because it seems the Mongols were very tolerant about religion and different cultures. Fighting ignorance about cultures that differ from our own is one reason why we need good history books to tell more nuanced stories about the past. It felt like this author tried his best to do so.
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Jenny I very much enjoyed this book!

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