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Mason Green
Mason Green

Genghis Khan And The Making Of The Modern World... __TOP__

Thus with Weatherford's Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, the reader is left in a quandary. Many may have thought of using this book in a class. Considering the numerous factual errors and misguided etymological speculations this reviewer cannot recommend using this as a standard text for a world history class with the exception of using it as a point of discussion on historiography. While the overall thrust of the book is on target and may promote new discourse on the influence of the Mongols in history, it is undermined by numerous mistakes. Weatherford overstates his case in his enthusiasm for the Mongols, making connections that are often tenuous. Did the Mongols contribute to the modern world? Definitely yes, the evidence (even considering the errors) assembled makes this very clear. It is too much to say that Renaissance would not have happened without the Mongols. Indeed, eventually artists would have had contact with new styles and Chinese technology would have crept into Europe at any rate via the Middle East, albeit perhaps at a slower rate. One could make the argument that the Renaissance would not have happened without the Crusades or the rise of the Jin Dynasty in Northern China. After all the Jin unwittingly allowed the Mongols to rise to power, whereas their predecessors, the Liao dynasty did a great deal more to control the steppe tribes. More importantly the great period of translation of Greek material conducted by the Arabs is of equal importance.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World...

For the readers of Technology and Culture, the most important element of this story is undoubtedly that Genghis Khan and his immediate successors created and sustained an empire that for about a century allowed, indeed promoted, the diffusion of technologies, mostly from the east to the west. While the Mongols themselves were not the originators of innovative technologies, Weatherford argues that they had a great interest in utilizing them for economic development, thereby increasing the wealth of their empire. [End Page 830] He describes them as "unrivaled cultural carriers . . . [who] exercised a determined drive to move products and commodities around and to combine them in ways that produced entirely novel products and unprecedented invention" (p. xxiii). Drawing on Francis Bacon's early-seventeenth-century observation that printing, gunpowder, and the compass "changed the appearance and state of the whole world" (p. 236), Weatherford asserts that these innovations spread through the intercourse of the Mongols with Europe, and that they were in large part responsible for initiating the Renaissance. Considering all of these connections, it is understandable why he subtitled this book "the making of the modern world." Historians have been well aware that many of the important technologies of the modern world originated in east and south Asia, but the mechanisms and contexts of their diffusion tend to be glossed over. This book gives us a substantial story to ponder, and I recommend it to all readers of T&C. 041b061a72


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