The secret history of the Mongol queens : how the daughters of Genghis Khan rescued his empire

by J. McIver Weatherford

Paperback, 2010

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Broadway Paperbacks, [2011], c2010.

Description

A history of the ruling women of the Mongol Empire, this work reveals their struggle to preserve a nation that shaped the world.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ZoharLaor
After reading Jack Weatherford’s "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" I went and pre-ordered this book – and I wasn’t disappointed.

The author tells a gripping story of lost history and the role the female heirs of Genghis Khan played in his Empire. While the Great Kahn was out
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conquering the world, his wives and daughters managed his empire, created bureaucracies, public projects and kept trade relationships alive. In a stroke of genius, Genghis Kahn married his daughters to men who ruled strategic points along the famous Silk Road which not only lent him eyes and ears in those important locations, but also established his presence even though he wasn’t physically there.

These daughters weren’t the timid kind; they were strong, independent women who inherited their father’s political cunningness and warrior spirit. However, after Genghis Khan’s death these strong women, daughters, sisters and sisters-in-law began a power struggle which lasted for centuries and eventually almost destroyed the Empire their father has built.

The book tells an astonishing tale of a once world wide Empire being torn apart by inept rulers, sibling rivalry and incompetent leaders (something I’m sure most of us can relate to) pitting mothers against sons and brothers against sisters.

The book ends with the astonishing tale of Queen Mandhuhai the Wise who reunited the Mongols while fighting the Chinese Ming dynasty and the Muslim warlords. Her successful campaigns, which she waged even when pregnant, promoted China to erect the Great Wall and preserved peace for her children and the nation.

Jack Weatherford writes in a style which transcends dry facts and dates, he brings the stories to life while drawing lines between events and people. The author realizes the names are difficult for the English speaking natives and reminds the reader every now and then who a character is when he/she reappears several pages later, which is fantastic. The information is presented in a manner which is not only linear, but also follows a certain path – which makes this book easy to comprehend and a joy to read.
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LibraryThing member ruinedbyreading
I originally read this book after I became interested in the Mongols in an asian poli sci class. This was a great read. it taught me a lot that I never knew about Mongol culture and history. Genghis Khan was a man who was light years ahead of his time in terms of politics and women's rights.
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Weatherford is a great story teller. There was no point in the book where I felt like I was reading a dry historical text or boring non-fiction book.
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LibraryThing member cmbohn
Did you know that Genghis Khan was noted as a fair and enlightened ruler? Well, in part. He believed in a fair trial, a code of rules, and women's rights. In fact, his sons were all mostly washouts. But his daughters were pretty darn talented. So he made them administrators and generals and sent
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them out to maintain order along the borders of his empire. But then he died, and his heirs starting squabbling.

I really enjoyed this. Every once in a while, I got a little bogged down in details. But overall, it was a very interesting read.

Oh, some parts are not for the squeamish. Some super nasty torture descriptions that I would have been happy to skip, if I had known they were coming. Ew. But I loved the story of Queen Mandhuhai the Wise who united the Mongols against the Chinese

Great story and recommended. 4 stars
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LibraryThing member janeajones
About 25 years ago, I was enlightened by Jack Weatherford's book Indian Givers about the contributions that Native Americans had made to American society -- everything from governmental structures (federalism ala the Iroquois federation) to roadways.

In 2004 he published Genghis Khan and the Making
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of the Modern World for which he received the 2007 Order of the Polar Star, the highest award for service to the Mongolian nation. A retired professor from Macalester College, he now resides In Ulaan Batar, Mongolia and his native Charleston, SC. I've not read his earlier book on Genghis Khan, but I couldn't resist Mongol Queens when I came across it.

It's a fascinating tale of Genghis's wives and the daughters who were married into conquered kingdoms along the Silk Road to serve as sheilds in the "son-in-law" states to protect the Mongolian Empire. After Genghis died, a power struggle arose between his sons and daughters, leading to the suppression of women's rights and the slow dissolution of the Empire. From the 13th to the 15th century, the great empire that Genghis had amassed fell into warring states, many of which were taken over by those they had conquered. Weatherford traces the rise and fall of those powers.

Then in the last third of the book, he focuses on Queen Manduhai, the young widow of Manduul Khan, who in the late 15th century, after her husband's death, sought out the child Batu Mongke Kayan, descendant of Genghis and Kublai Khan, and had him declared the Great Khan. She raised him and then married him. She rode into war to subdue the rebellious Mongolian tribes and together they reunited the Mongolian kingdom -- not as an empire, but as a united nation.

Weatherford's history is popular history, and as some critics have pointed out, has some factual errors. But he knows the Mongolians intimately, understands their culture, deeply appreciates their art and history, and recovers the suppressed tales of the Mongolian queens.
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LibraryThing member RajivC
This is a most unusual book, in that it brings to life the history of forgotten women, and it would have been very difficult for Mr Weatherford to do the research around this.

I started the book with some degree of scepticism, and only bought the book after I read his credentials.

We meet some
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extremely interesting women along the way, especially Queen Manduhai The Wise. What I like is the way that, in a rather quiet manner, he brings them to life. Genghis Khan comes out as an extremely intelligent man who, unfortunately could not impart his principles to his sons.

I am not sure that I agree with the part about the Taj Mahal being inspired by the gers, because the Mughal Empire was more closely related to Timur than to the Mongols. In fact, they were known as the House of Timur!
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LibraryThing member wishanem
A fascinating look at the role of women in Genghis Khan's empire and its aftermath. I didn't know much about Mongolian history before reading this book, and while it isn't a comprehensive overview it provides enough context to be really educational as well as entertaining.
LibraryThing member havetea
This was a wonderful read. An epic and scholarly work brings to life the role and legacy of the Mongol Queens, heirs to Genghis Khan. The writing and story telling is engaging and wonderful without pompous vernacular. I knew nothing about the Mongols. GK and Queens endlessly aspired to unity and
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peace amongst the steppe clans often with fierce opposition and circumstances. Threads of their stories traveled across the Silk Route and into Western Europe to the intrigue of Marco Pollo, Christopher Columbus, Chaucer, Goethe, and Puccini. I am ready to step out onto the steppes of Mongolia pitch a ger, drink fermented mare's milk and ride horses with unbridled abandon.
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LibraryThing member oldbookswine
This is an excellent history. Following Genghis Khan, his daughters and wives kept the empire growing. The history and names are covered in most high school ancient history courses and will be a valuable resource. China, middle and near East are covered as well as Mongolia which is sometimes left
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to one's imagination.
This book will enhance any public, school library and may be an interesting addition to a book club's list.
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LibraryThing member devafagan
[audiobook] Absolutely fascinating! I want to get a hardcopy of this so I can go back through and take notes. My favorite bits were those that revealed some of the personality and character of the historical figures (excerpts from historical documents) and the details about Mongolian culture from
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the time of Gengis Khan onward. This book also revealed to me how very little I actually knew about the history of Mongolia and the areas that became part of the Mongolian Empire, and about Genghis Khan himself (he was a much more moderate and wise fellow than I ever realized, with some quite enlightened attitudes and laws regarding women (according to this book, at least).


(Be warned: there were several passages that were so gruesome and horrendous that it was hard for me to read them, detailing punishments and wartime acts of extreme brutality)
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LibraryThing member janeajones
About 25 years ago, I was enlightened by Jack Weatherford's book Indian Givers about the contributions that Native Americans had made to American society -- everything from governmental structures (federalism ala the Iroquois federation) to roadways.

In 2004 he published Genghis Khan and the Making
Show More
of the Modern World for which he received the 2007 Order of the Polar Star, the highest award for service to the Mongolian nation. A retired professor from Macalester College, he now resides In Ulaan Batar, Mongolia and his native Charleston, SC. I've not read his earlier book on Genghis Khan, but I couldn't resist Mongol Queens when I came across it.

It's a fascinating tale of Genghis's wives and the daughters who were married into conquered kingdoms along the Silk Road to serve as sheilds in the "son-in-law" states to protect the Mongolian Empire. After Genghis died, a power struggle arose between his sons and daughters, leading to the suppression of women's rights and the slow dissolution of the Empire. From the 13th to the 15th century, the great empire that Genghis had amassed fell into warring states, many of which were taken over by those they had conquered. Weatherford traces the rise and fall of those powers.

Then in the last third of the book, he focuses on Queen Manduhai, the young widow of Manduul Khan, who in the late 15th century, after her husband's death, sought out the child Batu Mongke Kayan, descendant of Genghis and Kublai Khan, and had him declared the Great Khan. She raised him and then married him. She rode into war to subdue the rebellious Mongolian tribes and together they reunited the Mongolian kingdom -- not as an empire, but as a united nation.

Weatherford's history is popular history, and as some critics have pointed out, has some factual errors. But he knows the Mongolians intimately, understands their culture, deeply appreciates their art and history, and recovers the suppressed tales of the Mongolian queens.
Show Less
LibraryThing member pbjwelch
Weatherford is one of the foremost living scholars on the Mongols and he doesn't disappoint--the book assumes a basic knowledge of Genghis Khan and his descendants but this time the focus is on his daughters, daughter-in-laws, and finally, Queen Manduhai, probably the most powerful woman in
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Mongolian history (not counting Genghis' mother, Hoelun). Genghis' daughters became the administrators and Queens of neighboring kingdoms while their husbands, Genghis' sons-in-law, were packed off to fight in their father-in-law's wars. Alaqai inherited in this way the Onggud, Al-Altun the Uighur, Checheyigen, the Oirat, and Tolai, the Karluk tribes, each helping build their father's empire. (As most readers will know, he divided his kingdom amongst his four sons-Jochi receiving Russia, Chaghatai Central Asia, Ogodei Western Mongolia, and Tolui, Eastern Mongolia.)

I will assume most readers will read this book to fill in missing bits of the history of the Mongols, but will be pleasantly surprised by the many bits of arcane information about Mongol life included--sexual and political life, the raising of children, selection of mates, warrior skills of the women, burial practices and other religious ceremonies. The Epilogue ("Secrets of History") is a real page turner as Weatherford links Geoffrey Chaucer's unfinished Squire's Tale in his Canterbury Tales with Genghis Khan and Puccini's opera Turandot. The same chapter reminds us that the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the beautiful Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, was a descendent of the Borijin clan through the line of Chaghatai. "As though guided by an ancient Mongol memory, he placed the entrance to the Taj Mahal facing south like every Mongol ger), toward the sun." (p. 272)

As for Manduhai, she is remembered today in Mongolian song and dance, although the story of her life and deeds have been literally torn from official Mongolian histories. "Only grudgingly and piecemeal did the story of the daughters of Genghis Khan and of Queen Manduhai the Wise arise from the dust around me…." (p. 276) A shame that more research hasn't been done on the women of the frontier regions as we know from study of the Liao and Xixia peoples and others that the women of these tribes and clans often held the reins just as tightly as the men (both on and off horseback).

This is a fascinating book that would have merited more stars had it been more tightly edited to avoid repetition and unnecessarily (in my view) long, descriptive passages of what key figures 'may have been thinking'. This nudged the work towards factition when the subject deserves more academic attention, especially by someone as capable as Jack Weatherford, who has deservedly received the highest award for service to the Mongol nation.
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LibraryThing member antiquary
Rather a popular style and a bit of a New Age attitude, but it does discuss influential women in Mongol history from the time of Geghis Khan down well into the Ming Dynasty, especially the succession intrigues after Genghis's death but also a Queen Manduhai the Wise later whom I did not know, who
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apparently pulled the Mongols together after their defeat by the Ming.
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LibraryThing member pwaites
6648001The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford. ★★★★★

A section from the ancient text The Secret History of the Mongols was cut away by censors, leaving only these words of Genghis Khan: “Let us reward our female
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offspring.” In The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford chronicles the stories of Genghis Khan's daughters and the queens who came after them. The stories of many of these women have been largely forgotten in the mainstream historical narrative, but they had important and overlooked roles in Mongol history.

So much of this book is fascinating. It's filled with powerful women who I had no idea ever existed. The only one I had any prior knowledge of was Khutulun, a great-great granddaughter of Genghis Khan who said that she would only marry a man who could beat her in wrestling. For the majority of the women covered in the book, there's not a whole lot of information. The woman who receives the most focus is Mandukhai Khatun, the subject of the last third of the book who reforged the Mongols into one nation. Among other things, she also rode into battle pregnant with twins!

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens is an easily accessible book, one that you don't need much prior knowledge or a degree in history to get something out of. It's not dry or exceedingly academic in tone, and so much of it really feels like stories. I think this is aided by the many dramatic events that occur in Mongolian history. It left me thinking that many of these sections ought to be adopted into historical novels or television shows.

I recommend The Secret History of the Mongol Queens to anyone with an interest in history, particularly women in history.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.
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