Friday, February 10, 2017

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
© 2005 Jack Weatherford
325 pages




For all the differences and tensions between the West, Iran, and China, all can agree on one thing: the Mongols were mean. Genghis Khan roared out of the steppes of Central Asia after uniting regional tribes to create an empire which spanned from the Pacific Ocean into western Russia. His armies emptied Central Asia and under a successor would crush even Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphate. This history of the Mongolian khanate, from the rise of Genghis to its delayed division after his death, attempts to give the Khan the same sort of hearing that other world-conquerors like Alexander and Napoleon receive, weighing the positive aspects of his realm against the negative mass-slaughter, which in the west renders Genghis as an uber-powered barbarian. Among the virtues of the Khan's realm: general religious tolerance, as Genghis supposedly regarded religion as a private and not a public thing, and liked to hold debates between clerics of competing faiths; Eurasian trade, as Mongolian rule allowed east-Asian goods to flow across to Europe; and a state that valued merit and loyalty more than caste. The author's story is helpful and convincing, but having read Lost Enlightenment only a few weeks ago, I started this extra-conscious of how much vanished under the Khan's wake in central Asia. However, I can now grudgingly admit that some of Khan's destruction had a creative aspect to it as well.

11 comments:

  1. dunno... "mean" is pretty accurate... from what i've read, GK's invasion method involved giving cities in his path one chance to surrender to rape and pillage and, if refused, resulted in burning the whole place and murdering all the inhabitants... not much civilized behavior there...

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    1. Oh, it certainly wasn't only the Mongols who did that sort of thing!

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    2. no, you're right; but i got the impression they were more thorough than most...

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  2. War must be barbaric. Otherwise it is absurd. The idea of civilized warfare is oxymoronic. Bravo GK! Now, ponder that!

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    1. I believe that was the fiend Sherman's philosophy, too..

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    2. War without horror would be war without end.... wouldn't it? If the act of war didn't disturb us in any way where is the motivation to stop it once it (inevitably) starts? War should cost - and not just the 'enemy'. Low cost (or Nil Cost) wars only promote more and more until the bill comes home BIG style. If only war was so horrible that we stopped doing it!

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    3. Rather like that Star Trek episode where Kirk discovers two planets waging a war by computer simulation...coldly but cleanly executing people as the simulation suggests, but saving themselves from losing their buildings.

      On the other hand, the cost of wars keeps them going: we don't want to withdraw from Iraq because we'd "waste" the lives committed...I think that's how the Great War lasted so very long.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Re: A previous conversation - I've just posted a reasonable list of SF Classics on my Blog. I thought it was just too long to post in a comment here. Hope its of some use to you!

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