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1-Page Summary of Genghis Khan And The Making Of The Modern World
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World is a nonfiction book divided into three parts. Part one deals with Temujin’s early life and rise to power, including his conquests and establishment of an empire that changed the world. The second part discusses what happened after Genghis’ death, while the third part describes how Mongolian leadership shaped modern society. Weatherford argues that people underappreciate how influential Genghis was in shaping today’s world. His research included trips to Mongolia as well as studying The Secret History of Mongols.
The book describes the political and cultural situation in Mongolia prior to Temujin’s birth. It also details his early life with a family that was outcast from its tribe, as well as his marriage, wife’s abduction and rescue, friendships and rivalries, forging of alliances with powerful warlords and taking on the name Genghis Khan. The section concludes by describing how he consolidated power while simultaneously adhering to traditional Mongol customs while also reforming them in radical ways.
The book starts off with Genghis Khan’s conquests of the Jurched and Khwarizm empires. He was unable to conquer China, but his son, Ogodei, built a permanent capital city after defeating those two empires. After this time period, other sons and generals conquered Eastern Europe and the Near East. In 1241, Guyuk became emperor until he died in 1248; Mongke then took over as the next leader of the Mongol Empire. The empire reached its “high water mark” under Mongke’s reign because he had many successful military campaigns against foreign kingdoms that were part of their territory at this time in history.
The third section of the book focuses on Khubilai Khan’s empire. The Mongol empire reaches its greatest extent and trade flourishes as a result. Printing and literacy increase across Europe and Asia, thanks to the free flow of ideas between the West and East. However, even though they were once warriors who conquered vast territories, their rulers grow more distant from their warrior roots with each passing year. Their empire is dealt a crippling blow by the Black Death in 1328-1332 that causes social, economic, and political upheaval across Europe and Asia. The plague weakens them militarily while also weakening their commercial power; therefore it collapses into several smaller states after rebellions in Persia (1335)and China (1368).
Weatherford invites his audience to reassess the legacy of Genghis Khan. He recounts a personal story about his research trip in Mongolia, where he learned that Mongolians revere the memory of their imperial rulers.
The author announces his intention to debunk the myths about Genghis Khan. He points out that many people think of him as a bloodthirsty barbarian, but he wants to show that this is not true. In fact, there are sources which portray him in a favorable light and call him wise and just.
Weatherford believes that the Mongol empire’s primary aim was not to conquer and rule, but rather to spread humanistic ideals. He cites the great cultural projects undertaken by the Mongols such as a common language, standardized currency, a postal system and religious freedom. The empire served as a conduit for cultural exchange on an unprecedented scale in history.
Weatherford says that although the Mongol empire has been credited with many technological and cultural advances, most of these were not well understood to be “advanced”. For example, they left no enduring architecture and their material artifacts would be regarded as primitive by modern standards.