More on what I’m reading

I finished off the Sharpe’s Rifles series.  Nothing much to add to the previous notes on them – all good, quick reads without a whole lot of depth.

I’ve moved on to read Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford.  This is a biography of Genghis Khan, that continue past Genghis’s death to cover the subsequent history of the Mongol empire.  A fascinating read, but it does stray a bit into hagiography.  It makes a big deal about the more enlightened aspects of Genghis Khan’s rule (forbidding torture, allowing religious freedom to his subjects) while glossing over some of his harsher policies (mostly, the tendency towards widespread slaughter of the ruling elite of any nation that he conquered, and the enslavement of the common people in such nations).  It mentions those things, but tends to excuse them by comparing them favorably with the practices of the Europeans at the time.

Still, it’s a fascinating portrait of a fascinating person.  And one whose rise to power is stunning.

I always find it interesting to consider the difference between someone’s life from the low point to the high.  Up until this time, the broadest range of low-to-high in my knowledge was Adolph Hitler, who went from being homeless in Austria to ruling all of Europe.  (And this should not in any way be considered praise of Hitler, who was, of course, astonishingly evil in his methods and policies and not at all worthy of admiration.)

But Genghis Khan’s range was even greater.  In his youth, after his father was killed by enemies, the young Temujin (Genghis’s name before he became ruler of the Mongolians) and his family scrambled to achieve a bare subsistence.  At one point Temujin was captured by enemies and enslaved for a period.  From that low, he grew to conquer and rule one of the largest empires that the world has known, an empire that eventually stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

I’m not quite finished with the book yet – while Genghis is long dead, the Mongol empire has yet to collapse.  But the book is an excellent read about a period of history that I little knew.

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