Genghis Khan

Our primate relations on the tree of life go on raiding parties. ( They have a deep instinct to conquer and dominate, establishing rule over territory. So it is with us. None of the empires in human history (Roman, Chinese, Persian, Mongol, British) got established without violence, massacre and repression. And if one had to ask who has been the most murderous killing machine in human history (following this deep instinct), step (or one might say Steppe!) forward – Genghis Kahn. He established the largest land based empire ever.


Genghis Khan conquered more people than Napoleon or Alexander. He only achieved fewer massacres than Hitler and Stalin because he lacked their industrial means. It wasn’t for want of trying. He destroyed more states, razed more cities, demolished more monuments, uprooted more fields than any predecessor. He left at his death an unequalled reputation for bloodlust. ‘My greatest joy’, he was remembered for saying, ‘is to shed my enemies’ blood, wring tears from their womenfolk and take their daughters for bedding’.


John Man ( shows us all this plus the constructive aspects of Kahn’s empire which emerged as a result.  At his death in 1227, it spanned Eurasia, creating havens of peace around the silk roads and steppelands. Accelerated contacts enriched Eurasian civilisations. Technologies that transformed Europe’s future – gunpowder, the blast furnace, paper money – arrived in the West. Traditions of scientific empiricism, dormant in Europe since antiquity, revived as Westerners began to share attitudes to nature formerly confined to China. Italian merchants, French craftsmen and Franciscan missionaries met in the depths of the Gobi.



John Man’s book is as much a travelogue as straight history because he describes his researches in Mongolia, trying to unearth facts about this semi-mythical leader. We read of him swimming the Yellow River, arriving at ‘Treasure Mountain’ and investigating the museum of Guyuan. His account is a highly entertaining read, painting a vivid picture of the Genghis Kahn himself, the places where he lived and fought, and the passions that surround him still.


Check if this entertaining and informative history is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at



388 pages in Thomas Dunne Books

First published 2005

ISBN  978-0312314446


Common Ground Conferences

John Man

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