Thursday, June 17, 2010


A review of Stephen Turnbull’s Genghis Kahn & the Mongol Conquests 1190-1400 (2003)
Part of the Essential Histories Series #57

(Rating 3 of 5)

I have always wondered when discussing the Mongol Empire if one should pluralize the word ‘empire.’ The Mongol Empire was the largest land continuous empire the world had ever seen before or since. Genghis Kahn had two things Alexander the Great did not: a longer life, and successors to continue the conquest. I have long believed that had Alexander lived, however, his empire would have stabilized and lasted, instead of dissolving away leaving the world almost sooner then it came. The Mongol Empire fragments into many empires and kingdoms and despite their many organizational enhancements they were not every good at governing what they had conquered. In many ways, those who were the conquered had a stronger effect, culturally, on those who conquered them the Mongols had on those they had conquered.

Stephen Turnbull’s work is a good look brief look into the juggernaut that was the Mongol Empire. He discusses some of the inaccuracies and misconceptions that are associated with the Mongol army. As I have stated in other reviews of this series, these books are very interesting because they are in an almost textbook format with out really having a textbook feel to them. In this book, there are maps, classical paintings of events, and art from various cultures that had to deal with the Mongol armies. One chapter even deals with horror ordinary people who were their victims had to experience.

“Throughout all the accounts of the Mongol conquests we can discern in the background an echo of great human suffering. Ordinary people from Poland to Java, who under any other circumstance might have lived lives that may have been short but were certainly uneventful, suddenly found their world turned upside down by a horde of demons apparently let loose from the depths of Hell.” p.76

The Mongol Empire had fought peoples all the way from Europe into Japan, a great deal of their success was owed to organization and their ability to change and adapt. This book serves as a good little into the Empire and Army of the Golden Horde.

{Video was from he History Channel's Barbarians, which is better then this book}

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