Sunday, April 27, 2008


Genghis Khan: Emperor of All Men is Harold Lamb’s biography of the great Mongol conqueror. In the West, Genghis Khan doesn’t seem to get half the attention that European conquerors like Napoleon and Alexander the Great did, even though Khan’s accomplishments are much more impressive, both in the sheer area conquered as well as the duration of the empire.

Lamb does an excellent job painting Genghis Khan, the thirteenth century warlord, as a survivor, charismatic leader, and brilliant military strategist. The amount of land he took with the number of troops he had is virtually unbelievable. More impressive is that he left something of a dynasty: his sons and grandsons ruled after him without squabbling amongst themselves. Alexander the Great, by contrast, was scarcely in his grave before there was factional conflict.

Lamb’s style is a bit dated (the book was originally published in the 1920s). His writing is lacking in punctuation. Many sentence fragments. And he doesn’t always have a good flow to his narrative. He jumps around at times and doesn’t satisfactorily flesh out certain things. More context would have been nice, as would have more and earlier background on the Mongol religion. But this is a short work, and on the whole, it’s is a great introduction to a massive historical figure that is being forgotten by the West.