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addabook - Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
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Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Jack Weatherford
read on November 1, 2011

I need to know more about history. Ever since I read that Moonwalking with Einstein book and realized that the more you know the more you remember (and thus the more you're able to learn - i.e., that knowledge is a positive feedback loop), I've been trying to branch out a bit and get some more general knowledge topics under my belt. I know pretty much nothing about Asian history, so what the heck.

Good book. Well written, well researched, and fairly presented. Things I learned:

  • A lot of what we know about the Khan's is from the "Secret History" scrolls, which were found relatively recently.
  • For the last several hundred years, no one has been around Khan's region in Mongolia - the Soviet's were creeped out by it and sealed off the area to everyone - it's only now reopened.
  • The Mongolian Khans were actually really great - Genghis Khan wasn't really the ruthless horrible guy he has the bad rap of. He was legit, and a fantastic ruler.
  • Apparently he spread propaganda about how horrible and ruthless he was intentionally so that enemies would surrender.
  • The Mongolians were very civil. They had some democratic features, free religion, experimented with paper money, and were all in all extremely progressive.
  • Genghis was a military genius on his own land - and ended up conquering most of Asia (his sons grew the empire even further, pretty much all of Asia and half of Europe).

Author Bio:

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. In 2006, he was awarded the Order of the Polar Star, Mongolia’s highest national honor for foreigners. His books in the late 20th century on the influence of Native American cultures have been translated into numerous languages. In addition to publishing chapters and reviews in academic books and journals, Weatherford has published numerous articles in national newspapers to popularize his historic and anthropological coverage of Native American cultures, as well as the American political culture in Congress in the 20th century. He has become a frequent commentator on TV and radio.