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

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Key Takeaways


  1. Genghis Khan came from a small tribe in the middle of nowhere where he was captured and used as a slave for a while and managed to escape through the help of some friendly citizens. He went back to his family and killed his older stepbrother and this disgusted his mother. He had a “blood” brother who would end up being his biggest rival to claim title of Great Khan, or leader of the Mongols.
  2. He was ruthless to anybody who betrayed him and to the aristocracy but was unprecedented in his tolerance of different religions and customs. This made integrating new people that he conquered much easier.
  3. Genghis created the largest trade route of the time and split the spoils of his conquering amongst all his people instead of hoarding it all like the vast majority of other rulers.
  4. Weatherford argues that Genghis’ image changed to that of a brutal pagan during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe
  5. Weatherford attributes the following to Genghis Khan's rule:
    • Advances in Astronomy
    • The compass
    • Spread of paper and printing
    • Gunpowder
    • The violin
    • Democracy and Government: Some of Kublai Khan 's reforms in China, which localized power and gave political strength to individual farms, was the first democratic experience in China. The tribal government of the Mongols had many democratic elements such as Mongol leaders being selected by council
    • Unprecedented religious tolerance
    • Low level of discrimination toward other races
    • Low level of meddling with local customs and culture
    • The idea of rule by consensus within Mongol tribes
    • Culture of meritocracy
    • Culture that believed in the rule of law
    • Strong sponsorship of Eurasian trade
    • Building of roads to support trade
    • First culture to promote universal literacy
    • First international postal system
    • First widespread use of paper money
    • Reduction of the use of torture in the penal system
    • Belief in diplomatic immunity for ambassadors/envoys

What I got out of it  

  1. Amazing what this one man was able to accomplish in a lifetime. It was fascinating to learn the amount of positive influences Genghis Khan had on civilizations from Europe to the Pacific even though he is traditionally portrayed as a barbarian in Western cultures.