Worth reading short account of Genghis Khan’s accomplishments through modern eyes.( f.sheikh)

(Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World Jack Weatherford.)

“In twenty-five years, the Mongol army subjugated more lands and people than the Romans had conquered in four hundred years. Genghis Khan, together with his sons and grandsons, conquered the most densely populated civilizations of the thirteenth century. Whether measured by the total number of people defeated, the sum of the countries annexed, or by the total area occupied, Genghis Khan conquered more than twice as much as any other man in history. The hooves of the Mongol warriors’ horses splashed in the waters of every river and lake from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. At its zenith, the empire covered between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles, an area about the size of the African continent and considerably larger than North America, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean combined. It stretched from the snowy tundra of Siberia to the hot plains of India, from the rice paddies of Vietnam to the wheat fields of Hungary, and from Korea to the Balkans. The majority of people today live in countries conquered by the Mongols; on the modern map, Genghis Kahn’s conquests include thirty countries with well over 3 billion people. The most astonishing aspect of this achievement is that the entire Mongol tribe under him numbered around a million, smaller than the workforce of some modern corporations. From this million, he recruited his army, which was comprised of no more than one hundred thousand warriors — a group that could comfortably fit into the larger sports stadiums of the modern era.”

“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 an 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.

“As Genghis Khan’s cavalry charged across the thirteenth century, he redrew the boundaries of the world. His architecture was not in stone but in nations. Unsatisfied with the vast number of little kingdoms, Genghis Khan consolidated smaller countries into larger ones. In eastern Europe, the Mongols united a dozen Slavic principalities and cities into one large Russian state. In eastern Asia, over a span of three generations, they created the country of China by weaving together the remnants of the Sung dynasty in the south with the lands of the Jurched in Manchuria, Tibet in the west, the Tangut Kingdom adjacent to the Gobi, and the Uighur lands of eastern Turkistan. As the Mongols expanded their rule, they created countries such as Korea and India that have survived to modern times in approximately the same borders fashioned by their Mongol conquerors.

“Genghis Khan’s empire connected and amalgamated the many civilizations around him into a new world order. At the time of his birth in 1162, the Old World consisted of a series of regional civilizations each of which could claim virtually no knowledge of any civilization beyond its closest neighbor. No one in China had heard of Europe, and no one in Europe had heard of China, and, so far as is known, no person had made the journey from one to the other. By the time of his death in 1227, he had connected them with diplomatic and commercial contacts that still remain unbroken.


  1. On reading Jack Weatherford’s praises of Genghis Khan, for a while I thought he was describing Gautam Buddha. May be he is correct but all accounts I have known of Genghis Khan have been different, to say the least. But of all the weird things Weatherford is saying is that Khan did not torture. Perhaps that may be because there was nobody left to torture.

    Coincidentally, I am reading a book from the Gutenberg Library, a book titled The New World of Islam, written in 1922 by a Lothrop Stoddard. And here are two paragraphs that I just happened to be reading the other day.

    “Toward the close of the twelfth century the eastern branches of the Turanian race were welded into a temporary unity by the genius of a mighty chieftain named Jenghiz Khan. Taking the sinister title of “The Inflexible Emperor,” this arch-savage started out to loot the world. He first overran northern China, which he hideously ravaged, then turned his devastating course toward the west. Such was the rise of the terrible “Mongols,” whose name still stinks in the nostrils of civilized mankind. Carrying with them skilled Chinese engineers using gunpowder for the reduction of fortified cities, Jenghiz Khan and his mounted hosts proved everywhere irresistible. The Mongols were the most appalling barbarians whom the world has ever seen. Their object was not conquest for settlement, not even loot, but in great part a sheer satanic lust for blood and destruction. They revelled in butchering whole populations, destroying cities, laying waste countrysides—and then passing on to fresh fields.

    Jenghiz Khan died after a few years of his westward progress, but his successors continued his work with[Pg 14] unabated zeal. Both Christendom and Islam were smitten by the Mongol scourge. All eastern Europe was ravaged and re-barbarized, the Russians showing ugly traces of the Mongol imprint to this day. But the woes of Christendom were as nothing to the woes of Islam. The Mongols never penetrated beyond Poland, and western Europe, the seat of Western civilization, was left unscathed. Not so Islam. Pouring down from the north-east, the Mongol hosts whirled like a cyclone over the Moslem world from India to Egypt, pillaging, murdering, and destroying. The nascent civilization of mediæval Persia, just struggling into the light beneath the incubus of Turkish harryings, was stamped flat under the Mongol hoofs, and the Mongols then proceeded to deal with the Moslem culture-centre—Bagdad. Bagdad had declined considerably from the gorgeous days of Haroun-al-Rashid, with its legendary million souls. However, it was still a great city, the seat of the caliphate and the unquestioned centre of Saracenic civilization. The Mongols stormed it (a.d. 1258), butchered its entire population, and literally wiped Bagdad off the face of the earth. And even this was not the worst. Bagdad was the capital of Mesopotamia. This “Land between the Rivers” had, in the very dawn of history, been reclaimed from swamp and desert by the patient labours of half-forgotten peoples who, with infinite toil, built up a marvellous system of irrigation that made Mesopotamia the perennial garden and granary of the world. Ages had passed and Mesopotamia had known many masters, but all these conquerors had respected, even cherished, the irrigation works which were the source of all prosperity. These works the Mongols wantonly, methodically destroyed. The oldest civilization in the world, the cradle of human culture, was hopelessly ruined; at least eight thousand years of continuous human effort went for naught, and Mesopotamia became the noisome land it still remains to-day, parched during the droughts of low water,[Pg 15] soaked to fever-stricken marsh in the season of river-floods, tenanted only by a few mongrel fellahs inhabiting wretched mud villages, and cowed by nomad Bedouin browsing their flocks on the sites of ancient fields”.

  2. Agree with comments by Dr. Shoeb. This is from wikepedia about the author; Jack McIver Weatherford is the former DeWitt Wallace Professor of anthropology at Macalester College in Minnesota. He is best known for his 2004 book, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. I think the author just omitted the dark side of Genghis Khan.

    It is true Muslims faced total destruction by Genghis Khan and Muslims have not recovered from that destruction for the last eight centuries. Perhaps It is too long a period to blame it all on Genghis Khan.

  3. Genghis Khan was a fierce warrior, rather a savage fighter. In warfare he was the greatest general in the history of world. He invented new techniques that changed the ways of war. He introduced a unique army system, where one out of three soldiers was a commander and then some units of three into a bigger unit and many small units would add into a brigade with a commander and thus it goes on and on like a pyramid to the top as Genghis Khan a supreme commander. Our modern armies still follow the system introduced by him.

    Since Genghis Khan believed in spirits, his second legacy is promotion of mystical outlook. This legacy was further inherited by his descendants who converted to Christianity and most of them to Islam. As an administrator, he was dependent on, first the Chinese civil servants of Confucian order and then, after conquering Islamic regions, on Muslim administrators who were mostly Sufi scholars.

    Genghis Khan went on conquering as a warrior without any ideology. Wherever he went, he would not leave any one to cry over the devastation he had done. His way was total destruction, burning, villages, towns, cities, and killing babies, young children and old people–as he did not know or waste his time and energy in taking care of those who were of no use to him. He would spare young men and women and enslave them. He burned libraries, schools, levelled to ground religious institutions and places of worship. After destroying Baghdad, the center of Islamic Civilization, his dream was to destroy Rome the center of Christian Civilization. His forces were stopped at Konya (in Turkey) the gateway to Rome, because he had died and his grandson Helaku Khan rushed back leaving his armies to junior generals.

    I would say, Genghis Khan’s major legacy is destruction, destruction, and destruction. His empire collapsed, because he had no ideology, no socio-political way or at least a kind of religion to keep his people following his dictates. Only conquering a region by force is just as the Taliban prevailed over whole of Afghanistan, but did not know how to rule in modern times.

    • ISIS might have been reading the legacy of Genghis Khan but American tactics of “Shock & Awe” probably is also borrowed from him. Terror of Genghis Khan preceded his arrival and made his battles easy.

      I won’t say Genghis Khan might have read Hazrat Omar’s strategy because he was illiterate and far away but what we will never compare is that Hazrat Omar conquered swiftly also because he distributed four fifth of the loot (with due apology I use this word) to his soldiers (Mujahids) and sent only one fifth back to capital. It was this incentive of “maal e ghaneemat”, (not sure if this term is correct) which motivated the Mujahids too just like Genghis Khan’s horse men and to feed this hunger more and more lands were conquered.

      Mirza Sahib, no ideology ever motivated people like this, if we can be honest there are other motivations stronger than ideology. And the fact is that not only Genghis Khan but Alexander also eventually was stopped due to the logistics of extending too far. To make this point further I would remind that our Ottoman Empire also fell because of the same reason.

      Lastly, this article is not about the conduct of the conqueror, or his legacy of destruction, it is about the change in the world order that emerged.


  4. A few months ago I was taken to task by Shoeb and Fayyaz Sahib when I had mentioned Genghis Khan in a different discussion (exterminating fundamentalists ruthlessly if I remember correctly) and equating such drastic action to jungle fire that rejuvenates the land as an unintended positive consequence.
    Once again, Shoeb Sahib has lost the message in the article above, merely by the association of torture and savagery with the name Genghis Khan. I suppose many historians have recognized how the world order was changed by barbarians who routed the empires of cruel Kings and Sultans. Author is analyzing the change, not the method that caused the change. Genghis khan’s savagery is not disputed and the para quoted below is what author has emphasized;

    “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 an 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.”

    Many changes in the human history will show brutal force as the root cause – colonial era ended when another brute Hitler reduced British empire to its original size eventually, Japanese ruthless empire brought to its knees by the atom bombs. Natural history is a bit similar too – last mass extinction (ending dinosaurs) gave chance to mammals to rise leading up to emergence of homo sapiens !!

    No conqueror, for that matter, was kind and less brutal. No revolution was bloodless or humble.


    • I apologize for causing such long lasting hurt. All I probably said then and what I would say now is such random and wanton destruction that Genghiz Khan caused should not be looked upon as a “necessary evil” to cause change – good or bad change. Killing all violence prone human beings would make the world a better place but would I – or you – welcome that action as a necessary evil?

      So even though I didn’t originally focus on the paragraph that you point out at my first reading, reading it the second time I agree that Genghis Khan caused major changes but I still would not want history repeating itself.

  5. Babar Mustafa, your comments are based on philosophy of history. I am glad that Babar the philosopher is growing out of Babar the scientist. Your comment is neither science nor history, but it is the way philosophy of history explains a subject. My comment on Genghis Khan has already been posted. But I would like to add one very important event, the destruction of the Assassins. For almost a century, the terrorist assassins remained unconquerable, until Hilaku Khan successfully finished all of them for ever. As “diamond cuts diamond” savagery destroyed savagery, and Pakistan badly needs a savage ruler like Genghis or Hilaku Khan.

  6. No lasting hurt at all – just that I am not that articulate to have explained my references well. I disagree, I do think sometimes “necessary evil” is necessary to cause change. We couldn’t justify revolutions like the French Revolution otherwise.
    As Mirza Sahib has articulated well (thank you Mirza Sahib), and borrowing from him, the philosophy of history is strange; We don’t look at another descendant of Genghis Khan, who in India had his wife buried in the wall alive just because he was a Muslim. We remember Halaqu Khan pouring molten gold down the throat of greedy Sultan but we don’t remember American soldiers in Vietnam drowning Vietnamese in their own shit (they hung them from trees upside down right on top of their shit and the hanging Vietnamese could only hold his nose away from shit, craning his neck only for so long before giving up).
    Now that Mirza Sahib has said it, I will also admit that yes, I do wish there was this evil person who could do the dirty job for us Pakistanis and pour molten necklace, that Turkish First Lady donated to poor Pakistanis (that ex Prime Minister Gillani gifted to his wife), down Gillani’s throat.

    I had read this book under discussion, some seven years ago and just realized it when I looked for it to give reference of Genghis Khan’s childhood. One should read this book to see where Genghis Khan was coming from – he was enslaved for ten years, his elder step brother took Genghis Khan’s mother for having sex when their father died which was normal for that culture (Genghis killed him), Genghis Khan had to leave his young wife and elder women of their household behind to be captured and raped to delay his enemies pursuing him …. his story is not well known, his culture and time is disregarded by historians. This book is worth reading.

  7. Babar Sahib, while it is true the Mughals were also cruel, however, if by this saying “We don’t look at another descendant of Genghis Khan, who in India had his wife buried in the wall alive,” you mean Anarkali, then I am setting the record right. Salim and Anarkali story was picked up by a French author who visited the ‘mazar’ of a beautiful damsel Anarkali which was then in a garden and now is within the enclosure of Lahore Secretariat. While there is also a ‘mazar’ of a Mughal notable Salim in a garden which has now become a residential area behind National College of Arts. There was no Anarkali in Akbar’s palace or any other girl whom Akbar buried in the wall. Jahangir and Anarkali is a fictional story. It was attribute to Jahangir only because his name was Salim. The most cruel ruler in Mughal dynasty was Aurangzeb. … Mirza

Comments are closed.