The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

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The Mongol queens of the thirteenth century ruled the largest empire the world has ever known. Yet sometime near the end of the century, censors cut a section from The Secret History of the Mongols, leaving a single tantalizing quote from Genghis Khan: “Let us reward our female offspring.” Only this hint of a father’s legacy for his daughters remained of a much larger story. 

The queens of the Silk Route turned their father’s conquests into the world’s first truly ...

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The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

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Overview

The Mongol queens of the thirteenth century ruled the largest empire the world has ever known. Yet sometime near the end of the century, censors cut a section from The Secret History of the Mongols, leaving a single tantalizing quote from Genghis Khan: “Let us reward our female offspring.” Only this hint of a father’s legacy for his daughters remained of a much larger story. 

The queens of the Silk Route turned their father’s conquests into the world’s first truly international empire, fostering trade, education, and religion throughout their territories and creating an economic system that stretched from the Pacific to the Mediterranean. Outlandish stories of these powerful queens trickled out of the Empire, shocking the citizens of Europe and and the Islamic world.

After Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, conflicts erupted between his daughters and his daughters-in-law; what began as a war between powerful women soon became a war against women in power as brother turned against sister, son against mother. At the end of this epic struggle, the dynasty of the Mongol queens had seemingly been extinguished forever, as even their names were erased from the historical record.. 
           
One of the most unusual and important warrior queens of history arose to avenge the wrongs, rescue the tattered shreds of the Mongol Empire, and restore order to a shattered world. Putting on her quiver and picking up her bow, Queen Mandhuhai led her soldiers through victory after victory. In her thirties she married a seventeen-year-old prince, and she bore eight children in the midstof a career spent fighting the Ming Dynasty of China on one side and a series of Muslim warlords on the other. Her unprecedented success on the battlefield provoked the Chinese into the most frantic and expensive phase of wall building in history. Charging into battle even while pregnant, she fought to reassemble the Mongol Nation of Genghis Khan and to preserve it for her own children to rule in peace.
           
At the conclusion of his magnificently researched and ground-breaking narrative, Weatherford notes that, despite their mystery and the efforts to erase them from our collective memory, the deeds of these Mongol queens inspired great artists from Chaucer and Milton to Goethe and Puccini, and so their stories live on today. With The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford restores the queens’ missing chapter to the annals of history.
 

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Genghis Khan not only reigned by conquest but by using his female relatives to help expand and stabilize the Mongol Empire. Using sources that range from Chinese diplomatic reports to a text called "The Secret History of Mongols" to Italian letters to the Vatican, Weatherford (anthropology, Macalester Coll.) describes how Khan married off his daughters to the rulers of different kingdoms along the Silk Road and then sent his new sons-in-law off to war, thereby leaving his daughters to rule. From these daughters and their descendants, including the intriguing Queen Manduhai (whose raiding influenced the decision to build parts of the Great Wall of China during the Ming dynasty), we see what an important role these royal women played in Mongol and world history. VERDICT Highly recommended for all readers, especially students of history, Asian studies, or women's studies, wanting to learn more about these Mongol women, who have been studied less than their famous father.—Melissa Aho, Bio-Medical Lib., Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Kirkus Reviews
Genghis Khan as the first feminist patriarch. Weatherford (Anthropology/Macalester Coll.; Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, 2004, etc.) asserts that the founder of the Mongol Empire learned from harsh experience not to trust the men within the warring steppe clans, and eventually left his extended empire in the hands of his more capable daughters. Their husbands and in-laws, in turn, savagely wrested power from the women, excised their existence from official accounts and left the empire in alarming decline over centuries-until the reign of the last great Mongol queen Manduhai the Wise, who restored Mongol power in the 15th century and drove back the incursions by the Chinese. In the first part of the book, Weatherford traces the life of Genghis Khan and his relationship with his children, probably four sons and seven or eight daughters, as later recorded in The Secret History of the Mongols in the 13th century. This document sets forth the patriarch's intentions for his family and nation, but it is curiously missing the part of the text that completes this intriguing sentence: "Let us reward our female offspring." Weatherford argues that Genghis maintained a staunch adherence to a male-female sharing of power. Girls were raised to ride and shoot like boys, and they were expected to rule a territory as rigorously as they ruled the home. As part of his strategy to tighten his hold along the Silk Route, Genghis married his daughters to leaders in recently vanquished foreign lands to rule in his stead. Weatherford amply demonstrates how subsequent male relations waged a backlash against these women rulers until the remarkable rise of Manduhai and her ability to reunite thesquabbling Mongol tribes. Uplifting, entertaining history. Agent: Lois Wallace/Lois Wallace Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307407153
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/16/2010
  • Pages: 317
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

JACK WEATHERFORD holds the DeWitt Wallace Chair of Anthropology at Macalester College in Minnesota and an honorary position at Chinggis Khaan University in Mongolia. In 2007 he received the Order of the Polar Star, the highest award for service to the Mongol Nation for writing Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World., He is also the author of Indian Givers, Native Roots, Savages and Civilizations, and The History of Money.

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Table of Contents

Map of the Mongol Empire (1206-1368) viii

Introduction: The Missing Chapter xi

Part I Tiger Queens of the Silk Route 1206-1241

1 It Takes a Hero 3

2 The Growling Dragon and the Dancing Peacock 23

3 Our Daughters Are Our Shields 44

4 Queens at War and Commerce 67

Part II The Shattered Jade Realm 1242-1470

5 War Against Women 89

6 Granddaughters of Resistance 113

7 The Rabbit Demon's Revenge 130

8 Daughter of the Yellow Dragon 152

9 The Falling Prince and the Rising Queen 173

Part III Wolf Mother 1470-1509

10 The White Road of the Warrior Widow 193

11 Winning the War and Raising a Husband 210

12 Facing the Wall 228

13 Her Jade Realm Restored 248

Epilogue: The Secrets of History 271

Selected Bibliography 279

A Note on Transliteration 285

Notes 287

Acknowledgments 305

Index 309

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    I was immediately pulled into the world of the Mongols with Weat

    I was immediately pulled into the world of the Mongols with Weatherford's writing. He effortlessly weaves in the impact that female individuals had on his expanding empire and the power that they possessed was shocking for this time period. Weatherford's historical account of the empire and the family captured my attention, and I couldn't put it down! This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in historical nonfiction. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2012

    Eh......

    The book states the nation was built in 1206,but then says after it was built the sent a raiding party in 1205 to china. How is that possible?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended- I love this book becuase it from the Mogol Queens of veiws

    Ghenis Khan is a intresting man but the daughters behind him are intresting and how the mistresses are Quite unique. It is a must read if you are looking for any good historical fiction book. I loved it and i hope you do too.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A great read!

    I stumbled upon this gem at my library and pounced immediately! Having read Weatherford's treatment of Ghengis Khan's life I was very interested in the "rest of the story." This text focuses on the structures Khan put in place during his lifetime for governing the vast empire, and specifically addresses the balance he sought in all things political. The duties and responsibilities heaped on the young daughters of the Khan were staggering, and Weatherford's prose carefully explains just how staggering it all was. Discussion of the power struggles for control of the Silk Road are very informative without being dull and stilted, and the stories of the various daughters and grandaughters are woven into the history effortlessly. History is the story of individual people, and Weatherford's books artfully show the people who made this ancient empire what it was. After reading these two volumes I understand a great deal more about the histories of the many nations that were a part of Ghengis Khan's vast empire. The little bits and pieces I knew from school have come together in new and interesting ways! If you have any interest at all in world history, this book should be on your summer reading list!

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    Absorbing

    I have not read as yet but definitely will. I read everything on the Khan group and am very eager to read about the role of women.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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