There is hardly anyone who does not know the name of the great master of the steppes who managed to conquer a significant part of the Eurasian continent and who kept the power over those lands efficiently for nearly a century – Genghis Khan has firmly entered the world history as a great man with a great power. Genghis Khan has become an embodiment of the whole Mongol culture, nation and traditions: when speaking about Mongols and their reign in the course of the 12th and 13th centuries everyone will first of all recollect the name of Genghis Khan and his achievements in the warfare, in the development of his lands and in the cultural prosperity the area under his power experienced while being a part of the Mongol Empire.
There is much spoken and written about the personality of Genghis Khan, his ability to conduct war actions and his treatment of conquered tribes and areas. A considerable part of literary sources has been dedicated to the studies of the Mongol era in Eurasia, and the opinions shifted in the course of time, with some historians depicting Genghis Khan as a cruel and inhumane pagan who conducted terrifying massacres for the sake of his wish for power. However, there have been some historians who doubt such a negative image of the Khan and his army, stating that they have done much for the development of the region over which they had established power and where they were considered masters for a long time.
The work being analyzed in the present paper is the one of Jack Weatherford – this author produced a detailed historical study of the Genghis Khan’s epoch that was published in 2004. The book looks really grounded on the historical facts because the main source that Weatherford used to construct the plot of the book and to take historical facts was “The Secret History of Mongols” – the authentic Mongol text dedicated to the description of their traditions, customs and events that took place during the reign of Genghis Khan. This apart, the approach to Genghis Khan’s personality that Weatherford took causes surprise and hesitations because the author made a considerably more positive emphasis on the personality of the outstanding ruler as well as on the history of his reign over the major part of Eurasia. It is surely hard to understand whether everything stated by Weatherford in his book is true and justifiable, but to understand this one should analyze the work in detail.
Despite the fact that there is so much historical evidence of how cruelly Mongols arranged their massacres, simply committing genocide and killing all people on their way, turning others into slaves, Weatherford tries to argue that point and to state that in fact such massacres happened very rarely, and were committed only over those who fought with Genghis Khan’s army and resisted their conquest. Thus, the author assumes, Genghis Khan did not have a blood-freezing massacre of huge scales as his initial and ultimate goal but only used such tough measures to make others scared and not to meet any resistance in the upcoming conquests.
Another distinguishing peculiarity of the work by Weatherford is that he looked much farther than only investigating the Mongol Empire in the period of time when Genghis Khan was at the peak of his power and prosperity. He looked for the initial sources where the ruler was depicted as a noble and generous king of his lands and went on by studying the change of the paradigm under which Genghis Khan was studied later. His discovery is really stumbling – Weatherford states that in general Genghis Khan never represented the beast as he is known nowadays, and the tragedy of misinterpretation of his personality and his actions in the distant past is the annihilation of the ruling class that he committed to subdue the lands conquered, and the further power of literacy concentrated in the hands of that same upper class.
This point of view, though it cannot be fully proven, has the right for existence because of the repeated practice like that. During the Middle Ages, and further on in Renaissance and Enlightenment many historical events were rewritten and interpreted in the way that the community of that time considered necessary. Ordinary people having no opportunity to write were urged to leave all their remembrances with them, unable to share them and restore the justice; however, the ruling class wrote their own history, created their own religion and philosophy, thus offering the upcoming generation a false history that they considered more appropriate and more appealing for their own self-interests. Weatherford mentions the way Jeffrey Chaucer paid tribute to the contribution of the Mongol race to the future development of the European society, and wonders how the image of Mongols could have changed so drastically within a short period of time.