Fine, I must concede the title is bit click-baity, however I do find many accounts of the alleged accomplishments of Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire somewhat questionable. On top of that there seems to be sort of modern attempt to paint Genghis Khan as some sort of progressive good guy. Let’s dig in.
First I should explain some of the background of where I’m coming from. I’ve written in the past how I don’t think that Marco Polo went to China, but to Cathay which was another kingdom. I’ve also expressed criticism of the official history of the Great Wall of China, which may or may not be relevant to this article. I’ve also discussed the theory put forward by others that the name Mongol did not used to refer to the people we we think of as Mongols today, but to another race of people. I’ll add links below.
I should also point out that we cannot know much of what truly happened in ancient history. What we think of history is always based on interpretation, which may be liable to corruption due to lack of evidence as well as political and ideological bias. How do we know, for example, that Julius Ceasar existed, or the very least, the did the things attributed to him such as being a proficient military commander in conquering barbarian tribes in Europe and then falling victim to the conspiring senate? There are some old coins that supposedly depict Julius Caesar, a caesar of that name probably did exist, but can we know the stories we associate with him actually took place? How do we know that the character wasn’t invented by Shakespeare, for instance? As Napolean infamously said “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”
There are loads accounts in books and on the internet depicting the achievements the Mongol Empire, but most of them are simply people repeating what the experts have said. To glean any actual clues to the veracity of the claims you have to go to the primary sources, which would be texts written around the time of the historical events or artifacts from that period.
As an example of shoddy evidence for the historicity of Genghis Khan we need look no further than Wikipedia. The article on the Khan states how he conquered China, Korea and Central Asia. After that the article states: “Many of these invasions repeated the earlier large-scale slaughters of local populations. As a result, Genghis Khan and his empire have a fearsome reputation in local histories.” After this sentence there is a link to a book titled Mongolia: a guide to economic and political developments by Ian Jeffries. The title does did not fill me with confidence as it sounds like the book discussed Mongolia in a more modern context. I did, however, manage to find it on the internet and checked out pages 5-7 that supposedly explain Wikipedia’s claims.
On page 5 it says “Mongolia built the world’s largest contiguous empire in the thirteenth century under Genghis Khan”. So apparently it was bigger than Alexander the Great’s, the Roman Empire or the British Empire. Quite an achivement for a bunch of horseriding nomads. What sort of technology or bureaucratic system did they have to manage that? Apparently by landmass the British Empire was larger, but Mongols supposedly had the largest continous empire. It also said the Mongols managed to kill “30 to 60 million people across Asia and Europe”.
Page 6 states that Korean and Mongolian elites engaged in considerable intermarriage in the thirteenth century and Koreans believe their ancestors come from Mongolia. That is the only evidence of “large-scale slaughters of local populations” and “fearsome reputation in local histories” that were on pages 5-7 of Jeffries’ book. However, ultimately this only proves that Wikipedia is an untrustworthy source for information, which is not news.
There is a book known nowadays best by the name The Secret History of the Mongols. It was supposedly written back in the 13th or 14th century, and the introduction describes it as follows:
“This book, known to Mongols as the Tobchi’an [Tobcha’an]
or ‘History’, has appeared under a variety of names,
including The Secret History of the Mongols, The Life of
Chinggis Qahan, The True Record of Chinggis Qahan, and
The Secret History of the Yuan Dynasty. It has been
translated into many languages, including English,
Japanese, French, German, Chinese, Russian, Hungarian,
and Polish. Like Chinggis himself, the book is highly
controversial. We cannot be sure when it was written or
who wrote it. I myself argue below that it was written in
1228, but other scholars date it to 1240 or 1323. Whatever
the case, the book is unique, as the only available account
of the life of Chinggis Qahan [Genghis Khan].”
It is not known who wrote it and when, and it is the only account of the life of Genghis Khan. Sounds dubious to me. It might as well been written as a fiction, or a deliberate deception.
The Secret History of the Mongols mentions two other so-called primary cources. The first one is this:
“The War Record of the Holy Hero (Chinggis Qahan), by
Qoriqosun, 1266–1273.48 This book was published by the
Institute of National History established by Qubilai Qahan
at Daidü in 1264. For details, see The War Record of the
Holy Hero, p. 4. Qoriqosun was a chairman of the Institute
of National History after 1264. He was not only a Mongol
scholar but a court painter who painted the portrait of
Chinggis Qahan and other Qahans in 1278–1279.”
I could find no record of this book existing on the internet at least. Maybe it exists only in another language such as Mongolian or Chinese. However, I do not find this a credible source either, since if it provided important evidence on the Mongols, you’d think it had been translated.
The third one is even less credible:
“The Real History of the Mongol Qahans, published by
the Institute of National History in 1303–1304 in Mongol
and Chinese by an anonymous author. Unfortunately, this
work has not been found.”
The work has not been found? What does this mean? How can they claim this book is a source of any kind? Maybe the book never existed to begin with.
How about the physical evidence then? If the Mongols had this vast militaristic empire shouldn’t there be Mongol forts or other structures littered about in their former territory like central Asia or Russia? I couldn’t find any. There should plenty of Mongol artifacts such as weapons and armour littered about in their former territory. I managed to find a few pictures of these on the internet, but very few, and most pictures seem to be of later Mongol equipment, or simply replicas. I’ll take a look at the Mongol armour in more detail later on.
I must point out that I am an amateur when it comes to history, and specifically Mongol history, so the lack of primary evidence may speak more of my own lack of ability and access to resources than the existence of those resources, so I am not going to make any definitive statement to the existence or non-existence of Genghis Khan or the Mongol Empire. Yet were all of the claims of this vast empire self-evident fact, I would expect the evidence to be abundant, which it does not seem to be. If someone can point me to some sort of primary evidence that I can verify for myself, I’d appreciate it.
The Progressive Khan
Jeffries’ Mongolia: A Guide to Economic and Political Developments has a quote from The Times on page 5 stating that “The Mongol empire was the first to know religious tolerance. In the capital, Karakorum, churches, mosques and temples stood side by side. In his empire women had equal rights with men, even among subject peoples.”
First of all, The Times is not a credible source when it comes to history. And the two statements made by them are ridiculous. What does it mean that the Mongols were “the first to know religious tolerance”? It’s a nonsensical blanket statement. Do they mean that no society in history had any sense of religious tolerance before the Mongols? How about the Religion of Peace, Islam? At least according to liberals, it used to be so tolerant. If they had said “compared to earlier empires in history, the Mongol Empire showed a much greater deal of tolerance of religion” I could take it with some degree of seriousness.
Women having “equal rights with men” sounds like utter nonsense. Surely they did not have equal rights with men in any sense that the modern West conceives of the idea? Did the women fight alongside men in battle? Did they play an equal part in slaughtering 30-60 million people? Perhaps the position of women was good among Mongols when compared to Christian, Muslims or the Chinese, but once again the article did not say that. Nor is there any evidence to qualify the statement.
The Times is not the only outlet to make Genghis Khan sound like a progressive warlord. Dr. Timothy May of North Georgia College and State University wrote in his article that there was religious tolerance “throughout the empire”. If I think about what it means, I suppose the Mongols might have been fairly callous when it came to religion. If they conquered Christians, Muslims or Buddhists, they only wanted obedience and did not care what gods their subjects adhere to. However, I would call it disinterest rather than tolerance, if that was the case. At least the writers should qualify this alleged tolerance with some details.
An article in The Spectator says: “the same man who is said to be responsible for the deaths of a world record 40 million is also noted — admittedly less widely — for his religious tolerance, enlightened diplomacy and championing of women’s rights.” Same propaganda of Genghis Khan having been a progressive conqueror.
Another blog on WordPress, Course Correction: An Insider’s Look at Mormon Culture, at least tries to clarify these progressive tendensies of Genghis Khan in some way:
“Although they adopted literacy, arts, and sciences from other countries and tolerated Taoism, Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity, Mongols kept their own culture—including an active role of women in their social and political life. Mongol society lacked the belief that female sexual purity was a value to be defended at all costs—including defense of and seclusion of women. When one tribe was ambushed by another, the men fled on horses so they could live to fight another day. Captured women were taken as wives by the conquering warriors. If the men escaped, they attacked and recaptured the women. A recaptured wife might be pregnant with her captor’s child, but the child was raised by her husband as his own.
While the warriors were off sacking and looting—sometimes for more than a year at a stretch— Mongol women ran the country. Mongolian girls as well as boys were educated when schools were established. Both Genghis Khan’s wife and mother influenced his governing decisions.
True, Mongolian women did not have total equality, and prosperous Mongols could take more than one wife. Yet, compared to women in 13th century Europe, China, Persia, and the Arab world, Mongolian women had a good deal.”
I do not know how accurate these statements are, but at least they are sensible.
I do however get the impression that there is some sort of liberal agenda at play in promoting, this idea of the progressive Khan. In fact, I have two different scenarios: Genghis Khan was the first Communist leader of powerful nation, or this is just another Marxist ploy in attempting to downplay the achievements of Europe by praising non-Europeans.
Perhaps, there had been a proto-Communist cabal that put Genghis Khan into power. After all, if main stream history is accurate, Genghis Khan did what Communists tend to do; wage war and kill a lot of people. Mao supposedly killed 45 million in four years during the great leap forward. Stalin had 60 million killed according to some estimates. So according to history, the Mongols caused more deaths than Mao, and equally the death’s of Stalin. Of course the 20th century Communists achieved their deaths in a shorter time-span, as the Mongols took a century or two (and several Khans) to do it, but they did not have access to modern technology so I think it evens out. At least according to the presumed liberals who are praising Genghis Khan, he was similar to modern Communist leaders; the was a violent conqueror who caused millions of deaths, but later on he is being hailed as a progressive hero. Of course there is the difference that Genghis Khan probably didn’t spend as much effort on killing his own people as Commies tend to do.
I think the second scenario is more likely that liberals who hate Europe and everything related to it, find any excuse ignore the achievements of Europe, and praise the achievements of non-Europeans peoples, be their achievements factual or fictional. I am not of the camp that thinks that Europeans excell in everything and should be praised for everything, I simply think credit should be given when it is due, and not given when it is not due.
Feats of the Empire
Let’s get back to the Mongols and their alleged feats. The Secret History of the Mongols states that “just two million Mongols, with 129,000 cavalrymen, could establish the largest land empire in world history.” Two million people with a bit more than 100,000 cavalrymen were able to conquer the largest land empire in history, and butcher up to 60 million people? I don’t find it credible, although possibly this two million refers only to the Mongols who were alive during the time of Genghis Khan, and during his day they hadn’t killed all of those millions yet. They had no access to modern weaponry or transport, they did have even the telegraph, nothing like that. I might believe this if the people they conquered had been weak pacifists who were unwilling or unable to fight back, but they weren’t.
I think something doesn’t add up, yet I don’t claim to know what the truth is. Perhaps it lies somewhere in the middle. Maybe the Mongols did manage to conquer some places like China and Korea, but it doesn’t sounds credible they’d be able to do all that they supposedly did. Or maybe the Mongol Empire is a fabrication to begin with, possibly to cover-up the existence of another race of people or empire, or a coalition of races.
I don’t know the truth, but I still have more to speculate about the Mongols and the possible Mongol deception, but I’ll do that at a later date.
Marco Polo did not go to China: https://concordiaabchao.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/marco-polo-did-not-go-to-china/
By whom, when and why was Great Wall of China built?: https://concordiaabchao.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/by-whom-when-and-why-was-great-wall-of-china-built/
Genghis Khan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genghis_Khan
Mongolia: A Guide to economic and political developments: https://books.google.fi/books?hl=en&lr=&id=xxB9AgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=Mongolia:+A+Guide+to+Economic+and+Political+Developments&ots=5OIy5iR-0Z&sig=PnZ2WZHCm7efX95t4aFpKD_aOgM&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
Genghis Khan (1165-1127): https://web.archive.org/web/20100306053246/http://www.accd.edu/sac/history/keller/mongols/empsub1.html
Genghis Khan was tolerant, kind to women – and a record-breaking mass-murderer: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/07/the-mongol-empire-by-john-man-review/
Genghis Khan was tolerant, kind to women – and a record-breaking mass-murderer: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/07/the-mongol-empire-by-john-man-review/
Genghis Khan and Women’s Rights :https://annmjohnson.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/genghis-khan-and-womens-rights/