Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

This book was overall a 9/10 for me. 12/10 for the first half and a 7/10 for the second. You can learn so much from the rise of Genghis Khan, and the story reads like an actual story. Rather than just saying there was X battle in Y year, Weatherford lays out the motivations behind the powers and the conflicts that erupt, and the narrative comes alive. This is a perfect book for somebody who wants to begin reading history or learn about an infamous figure who deserves a much better reputation.

What It’s About

The book is, as the Washington Post review notes, “Part travelogue, part epic narrative.”

It is a history of Genghis Khan’s rise, and some of the rulers after him, but woven into a story and presented as such, rather than a dry chronological presentation of facts.

Because of that, it probably has some dramatizations and the reader should take most everything with a grain of salt, but on the whole, it’s an incredibly interesting, inspiring, and educational read.

Why I picked it

I picked it honestly because after I read Progression by Sebastian Marshall, I wanted to read more history and this happened to come into my hands soon after Progression.

What I got out of it

I got an incredible amount out of the first half of the book, the part more focused on Genghis Khan. Pages and pages of handwritten notes come from that first half.

A screenshot of just a few of the transcribed notes and quotes.

Strategy: Genghis Khan implemented some brilliant policies in war and government, and understanding some of them led me to a much better understanding of the current political scene (the controversy of 2016 presidential nominations). If you can see the parallels, you can see more clearly just why people like Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders have supporters who are vocal to the point of it being newsworthy again and again.

Productivity and learning: The (in)famous Mongol ruler didn’t actually have plans for world domination; he focused on one thing at a time until he was satisfied with the results (which were usually excellent) and then moved on to the next thing. He knew good techniques and applications when he saw them, and immediately found ways to incorporate them into his habits or assets.

Inspiration: He went through a lot. A lot. His hands were bloody at twelve, he faced similar defeats in middle age that he thought he’d overcome twenty years earlier, and he came back from some very tough situations. In an age where we have much more resources and opportunity than Genghis Khan did, we could draw from his steel resolve and learn to be the same.

Who I’d recommend it to

Professional and academic historians aside – you know better than a college student what historical sources you ought to be reading – I recommend this to everyone.

Learn some tactics and strategy from Genghis Khan. Learn about how people thousands of miles and years away lived.

Be inspired by a leader and thinker whose innovative ways shaped the face of that age’s world, a warrior and administrator who fought and bled for and believed in his people, himself, and the things greater than him.

A few of my favorite quotes from

“His flight before the warriors of Ong Khan must have seemed so much like his flight, more than two decades earlier [emph. Huan], from the Merkid when they kidnapped Borte… Despite everything he had done in his life, little had really changed as he, once again, fled from those who were ranked socially higher than him and politically far more powerful.”

“Though he had sought to create a quiet life apart from the constant turmoil of steppe warfare, the Merkid raid had taught him that such a life was not to be had. If he did not want to live the life of an impoverished outcast, always at the mercy of…raiders…, he would have to fight for his place…”

“In American terms, the accomplishment of Genghis Khan might be understood if the United States, instead of being created by a group of educated merchants or wealthy planters, had been founded by one of its illiterate slaves, who, by the sheer force of personality, charisma, and determination, liberated America from foreign rule, united the people, created an alphabet, wrote the constitution, established universal religious freedom, invented a new system of warfare, marched and army from Canada to Brazil, and opened roads of commerce in a free-trade zone that stretched across the continents. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope of Genghis Khan’s accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination and tax the resources of scholarly explanation.”

Pick up the book on Amazon, it’s $5 at the time of writing. So very worth it.

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