Jack Weatherford’s Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Exploring the Mongol Empire at Its Greatest

One could say that the popular perception of Genghis Khan conjures up an image of pillaging and carnage. Yes, the founder of the great Mongol Empire definitely inflicted chaos, panic, destruction, and death, but he also may have significantly helped shape the modern world. This book presents what the author asserts is a factual view and an objective analysis of a very interesting period in history.

Bitten by the Mongol Bug

At the start of the book, Weatherford reveals that he had no intention of writing about Genghis Khan, but instead wanted to write a historical account of world commerce. After traveling to Mongolia as part of his research, the author read about and became fascinated with the Mongols’ accomplishments. He then began working on a study of the Mongols’ impact on the world and researched the subject with the help of a diverse team that included a Mongolian army officer, a political scientist, a consultant on shamanism, and an archaeologist.

Weatherford Takes a Logical Approach

True to his academic self, Jack Weatherford organizes the book extremely well. It contains:
A genealogical table

  • An introduction
  • Three concise sections
  • An epilogue
  • Notes and a glossary
  • A bibliography

Despite being an academic, Jack Weatherford writes in a surprisingly engaging style. He mixes narrative with analytics, giving the reader a factual account with a bit of flair. It doesn’t feel like you’re reading a history book, but it also doesn’t quite read like a work of fiction.

History Books Should Be Written Like This

Weatherford argues that Genghis Khan and the Mongols played a pivotal role in transforming the world from medieval to modern. This is controversial, of course. The contention that the illiterate and barbaric Mongols were responsible for the Renaissance does not necessarily have broad consensus. Nevertheless, the book grabs readers’ attention and stirs the mind in a way that makes them ask questions and think outside the box. If all history books in schools could do this, we’d have a lot less bored and uninterested kids in the world.

On the Downside

Although Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World is certainly an interesting read, it doesn’t quite cater to those seeking a thorough study of Mongol history or to anybody just looking for a good story based on the infamous historical figure. The work lacks dates and could use footnotes in many areas. The only way to see references is to keep looking back to the notes section, which could get annoying to some readers. However, the book does a good job of stimulating the reader to question popular beliefs, such as that the Mongols were less civilized than their enemies. Overall, it is a surprisingly good read.

 

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