Genghis Khan and the Rise of the Mongol Empire: Violent Barbarians or Egalitarian Nomads?

Most people think of the Mongols as bloodthirsty pillagers, but is this a fair assessment?

Genghis Khan, born around 1162, was a brilliant tribal general. He won a civil war and united the nomadic Mongol nation, owing his success to promotions based on merit and the inclusion of poor members of vanquished tribes in his own.

He died in his sleep in 1227, having vastly extended the empire. His son and grandsons continued this pattern of conquest, and 16,000,000 of his descendants are alive today.

Genghis Khan loved to punish enemies brutally; he didn’t care about art; and his empire broke into four parts after his death. On the positive side, he reinvigorated Eurasian trade and made it safe; introduced an excellent road communications system; tolerated all religions; deployed able people intelligently, and developed a topnotch cuisine. It seems a reasonable legacy.

I graduated in English language and literature with Latin subsidiary. I write poetry, act, and have worked in reference and educational publishing for decades. I was commissioned in 1994 to write The Ladybird Book of Kings and Queens, did extensive editing and writing for Harraps 20th-century History series, and was one of the contributors to Helicon's Book of the Millennium, a 4-volume children's world history book.