GENGHIS KHAN AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD
“The Mongol Empire . . . became the foundation for the modern world system with the original Mongol emphases on free commence, open communication, shared knowledge, secular politics, religious coexistence, international law, and diplomatic immunity.”
SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
How important, according to Jack Weatherford, were the Genghis Khan and the Mongols to the “making of the modern world”? What are the various ways in which Weatherford suggests they shaped the modern world?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of Weatherford’s presentation? To what extent do you accept his argument that the Mongols are the pivots upon which modern world history turns?
How would you begin to describe the Mongol way of war? How and why did the Mongol empire spread so quickly? Where, when and how was the Mongol expansion halted?
What other features of Mongol culture seem most interesting, and why? What was most distinctive about such social institutions and relationships as religion, law and gender roles?
How and why has the image of Genghis Khan and the Mongols shifted over the centuries? What has been the story of this “afterlife” in Europe from the 14th century onwards? What have been the most important positive and negative stereotypes and how would you begin to account for these? How have the Mongols been viewed in Russian and Chinese historiography? Who has adopted Genghis Khan as a hero, and why? What do Weatherford’s stories about modern Mongolia suggest about the relationship between history, archaeology and nationalism?
To what extent does the historic clash between nomadic groups and urban cultures provide a key to understanding both the Mongols and they ways in which they have been portrayed down through the ages?
Does the life of Genghis Khan offer backing for the “Great Man” theory of history? How important were his individual character and decisions for the rise of the Mongol Empire? How is it possible that an outcast child could rise from such a lowly beginning to become the Great Khan?
How would you compare and contrast Khubilai Khan with Genghis Khan? How did the process of empire-building change the Mongols? To what extent is it appropriate to speak of a Pax Mongolica?
What comparisons or connection points would you highlight in bringing together discussion of the Mongol Empire with discussion of the Crusades? What are the most striking similarities and differences between the Mongols and the Crusaders?
What, in your own opinion, are the most important legacies of Genghis Khan and
the Mongols? SOME EXTRA RESOURCES
SOME EXTRA RESOURCES
"Revising Genghis Khan's Legacy," All Things Considered, March 25, 2004: A short radio interview with Jack Weatherford.
Timothy May, "
Alexander Rose, "A Kinder, Gentler Khan," National Review, 56 (June 14, 2004): 49-50.
Jack Weatherford, "A Scholarly Quest To Understand Genghis Khan," Chronicle Of Higher Education, 46 (April 14, 2000).