Week 1: Temujin the Revolutionary

(15 April 2017, 10 a.m. – Noon)

If you’re familiar with Genghis Khan at all, you surely already know parts of this story. Documentaries, dramas, biographies and nearly every other appearance of Genghis Khan in popular media tell mostly the story of his early life, before the military conquests that led to the empire. This is, perhaps, because the only written source we have from the Mongols themselves tells the story of the young Temujin, his ancestors and his nearly incredible journey from a childhood surviving on “mice and birds” to the conqueror of half the known world. It is also an undeniably interesting story, a rags-to-riches tale on a global scale, rife with outsized personalities, intrigue, shocking cruelty, romance and a brand of honor and loyalty that complicates it all.

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For our first class period, we’ll read from two of the books that we’ll revisit in, at least, the next two weeks. I’ve provided a link to each reading (in blue, below) as I will do every week:

  1. Frank McLynn, Chapters 1-3 from Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy This reading from McLynn is long, but I included the beginning chapter, “The Nomads of Mongolia,” which provides some context about what the Mongols of the 12th century were, in case you need a primer. Our first class will be focused upon the materials covered in chapter two, “Early Years,” and chapter three, “The Rise and Rise of Temujin.” McLynn is detailed in his account and some of it might be a little tedious, but read what interests you and we’ll discuss the materials in class.
  2. Morris Rossabi, Chapter 1 and part of Chapter 2 from The Mongols: A Very Short Introduction A much shorter reading, this first chapter and part of the second from Rossabi covers roughly the same time period as McLynn, but in a Cliff’s Notes style. Both sections end with the execution of Jamuqa. If you don’t have time for McLynn, this reading from Rossabi will orient you enough for the first class.

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