Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack WeatherfordGenghis Khan and his Mongol Horde were good news for the world. Really. Not convinced? Consider the following:
1. Genghis Khan was an advocate of human rights, specifically freedom of religion, freedom from torture and free trade (he got two of the Four Freedoms right, which is pretty impressive by medieval standards, especially when they still, like, burned heretics and unbelievers in Europe and elsewhere). GK forbade the use of torture in trials and as punishment. He also granted religious freedom within his realm, though he demanded total loyalty from conquered subjects of all religions. His own immediate family was religiously diverse: besides those who were Shamanists or Buddhists, a significant number were Monophysite Christians --- and later also Muslim converts. As for the free trade thing, it was more of a byproduct of the commercial opportunities that developed along the Silk Road (“history’s largest free-trade zone”), once the interior of the Eurasian landmass became safe enough to travel under the Pax Mongolica. Free trade as human right is still a pretty iffy concept, anyway.
2. GK created a hitherto unprecedented egalitarian society where men and some women (more on this later) advanced through “individual merit, loyalty and achievement”, instead through birth and aristocratic privilege. This egalitarian society was also incredibly diverse, comprising of people of different religions and nations. The Mongols hired European artisans to decorate their HQ in Xanadu, Chinese engineers to man their siege engines, and Muslim astronomers to chart their horoscopes. And they might have hired an Italian guy called Marco Polo to govern the city of Hangzhou --- who knows? But there’s no independent proof of it whatsoever.
3. GK was a proto-feminist --- well, he was sort of pro-woman, in the context of his era. He made it law that women are not to be kidnapped, sold or traded. Through marital alliances, he installed his daughters as de facto rulers over conquered nations. In Mongol culture, when the men went off to war, the women ruled the roost. And since Mongol men in the time of GK went really far away to conquer distant nations and did not return for years, the wives and daughters were the real boss at home (and also at the various Mongol courts, when many of GK’s male descendants turned out to be drunken incompetents). A successful queen like Sorkhothani, the wife of GK’s youngest son, was able to rule in her dead husband’s stead and made all of her sons Great Khans. Failure, however, could doom such women into cruel and unusual punishments, such as being sewed up naked into a rug and then pummeled to death (Mongols abhorred the sight of blood, thus the rug).
4. The Mongols promoted pragmatic, non-dogmatic intellectual development in the countries that they ruled. Although himself an illiterate, GK and his family recognized the value of learning and actively encouraged the development of the sciences. Under the Mongols, learned men did not have to “worry whether their astronomy agreed with the precepts of the Bible, that their standards of writing followed the classical principles taught by the mandarins of China, or that Muslim imams disapproved of their printing and painting.” New technology, such as paper and printing, gunpowder and the compass were transmitted through the Mongol realm to the West and sparked the Renaissance a few generations later.
5. The Mongols were for low taxes. GK lowered taxes for everyone, and abolished them altogether for professionals such as doctors, teachers and priests, and educational institutions.
6. The Mongols established a regular census and created the first international postal system.
7. The Mongols invented paper money (it was soon abandoned because of hyper-inflation, but they got the right idea) and elevated the status of merchants ahead of all religions and professions, second only to government officials (this is in contrast to Confucian culture, which ranked merchants as merely a step above robbers). They also widely distributed loot acquired in combat and thus promoted healthy commercial circulation of goods.
8. The Mongols improved agriculture by encouraging farmers to adopt more efficient planting methods and tools, as well as transplanting different varieties of edible plants from country to country and developed new varieties and hybrids.
Okay. So Pax Mongolica was basically good for the world. But wait, how about all of those terrible massacres, rapine and wholesale destruction of cities? Didn’t Genghis Khan famously stated that “the greatest joy a man can know is to conquer his enemies and drive them before him. To ride their horses and take away their possessions. To see the faces of those who were dear to them bedewed with tears, and to clasp their wives and daughters in his arms?”
Actually, Muslim chroniclers attributed that quote to him and it is highly unlikely that he ever uttered it. Muslims writers of the era often exaggerated Mongol atrocities for Jihad purposes.* The Mongols were very aware of the value of propaganda as a weapon of war and actively encouraged scary stories about themselves.The Mongols decimated cities that resisted them, such as Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, but they generally let those that surrendered remain unmolested. At the end of the fourteenth century, Tamerlane piled up pyramids of heads outside the cities that he conquered, and as he (flimsily) claimed to be a Mongol, “his practices were anachronistically assigned back to Genghis Khan.” Three centuries later, Voltaire adopted a Mongol dynasty play to fit his own personal political and social agenda by portraying GK, whom he used as a substitute for the French king, as an ignorant and cruel villain. So basically, GK got an undeservedly bad rap.
Yay for Genghis Khan!
* “…more conservative scholars place the number of dead from Genghis Khan’s invasion of central Asia at 15 million within five years. Even this more modest total, however, would require that each Mongol kill more than a hundred people; the inflated tallies for other cities required a slaughter of 350 people by every Mongol soldier. Had so many people lived in the cities of central Asia at the time, they could have easily overwhelmed the invading Mongols. Although accepted as fact and repeated through the generations, the (inflated) numbers have no basis in reality.”
27 Genghis Khan Facts That Capture His Larger-Than-Life Legacy
He was only half joking. Ever since Mongolia emerged from the Soviet Union's shadow in the early s, the lore and myth surrounding the khan, the original bad boy of history, have captured the imagination of the country. A popular and official movement to reassess Genghis Khan's marauding image is being marshaled by admirers who say he was a truly great, if irascible, ruler. The communists very brutally cut us off from our traditions and history and got us to adopt the ways and views of Western civilization - with a red color of course, but still Western. Now we are becoming Mongols again.
From an early age, Genghis was forced to contend with the brutality of life on the Mongolian Steppe. Rival Tatars poisoned his father when he was only nine, and his own tribe later expelled his family and left his mother to raise her seven children alone. Genghis grew up hunting and foraging to survive, and as an adolescent he may have even murdered his own half-brother in a dispute over food. During his teenage years, rival clans abducted both he and his young wife, and Genghis spent time as a slave before making a daring escape. Despite all these hardships, by his early 20s he had established himself as a formidable warrior and leader. After amassing an army of supporters, he began forging alliances with the heads of important tribes.
The Mongol leader, one of history's great bogeymen, was a visionary Genghis Khan leads his troops into battle in the BBC's re-enactment.
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1. “Genghis” wasn’t his real name.
Genghis Khan is a name that resonates with all who have heard of his harrowing exploits. History books portray him as a brutal emperor who massacred millions of Asian and Eastern European people., Of all the images the name Genghis Khan brings to mind, that of a visionary who brought literacy, law and culture to his people rarely springs to mind. His name is usually synonymous with evil, his image that of a brutal barbarian who slaughtered millions in his quest for power.
Genghis Khan accomplished what no other human before him had ever done and what none have done since. Through brutal military force, he amassed one of history's greatest armies and built the largest contiguous empire the world has ever seen. Second only to the British Empire in terms of overall size, Khan's Mongol Empire controlled much of Asia and laid claim to a quarter of the world's population during the 13th century. His conquests not only changed the ancient world but the ripple effect can still be seen today. For example, some fairly recent research has suggested that 0. A conqueror of such great power and influence, Genghis Khan was destined to be a leader from birth according to Mongolian folklore.
Genghis Khan Photo credit: Wikipedia. On one end of the leadership spectrum, there is Machiavelli—conniving, ambitious and ruthless. On the other there is Cyrus the Great—humble, generous and loyal. Along this spectrum of great leaders and motivators, used so often in business books, speeches and anecdotes, there is one unmentionable: Genghis Khan. A man so evil, unwashed and bloodthirsty that he is impossible to learn from.
From humble beginnings in the steppes of Mongolia, he forged one of the largest empires the world has ever seen. Born in c. Determined to get her back, Temujin launched a daring rescue mission which succeeded. After many years of fighting Temujin managed to unite the various steppe tribes that inhabited the Plains. With his horde, that consisted mostly of light cavalry archers, Genghis now targeted kingdoms outside Mongolia. He first subjugated the neighbouring Western Xia kingdom in , before declaring war on the much larger Jin dynasty that at the time controlled much of northern China and Manchuria. At the battle of Yehuling in Genghis and his Mongol horde won a crushing victory in which they killed many thousands of Jin soldiers.