Saturday, January 5, 2019

The History of Genghis Khan

Few personalities in history have aroused more interest and held greater fascination than Genghis Khan. Even eight centuries after his death, he stands as a symbol of both power and destruction - perhaps unfairly so. In a short time, he created what remains still the largest contiguous land conquest in history. In doing so, he generated an unprecedented mixing of cultures, churning of ideas, and flourishing of trade across most of the Old World. The world that followed was so indelibly stamped with his influence that his personal biological signature can still be seen in populations across the world. In a real sense, Genghis Khan was fundamental to the making of the world we live in today.

The Mongols had no systematic writing system, and were quite cagey about their own history. Thus, a lot of what we know about the Great Khan and his immediate successors comes from the writings of others - mostly writers among the conquered. Historian-administrator Ata Malik Juvaini, though also from a conquered group, became an insider in the Mongol administration of Iran, accompanied Hulegu, Genghis Khan's grandson, on his conquests, and eventually became governor of Mesopotamia. He also visited the Mongol capital, Karakorum, on multiple occasions. His hisory of Genghis Khan, titled History of the World Conqueror (Tarikh-e Jahan-Gusha), is the most direct, near-contemporary history of the great conqueror, and one of the most valuable historical treatises from the entire period.

An updated version of the definitive 1958 English translation of the book by J.A. Boyle is available here to read for free.

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