Big news everyone! We’ve booked our plane tickets to Mongolia! The first leg of our round the world trip. In preparation, I’ve just recently finished reading Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford.
Your first reaction to hearing about the above mentioned book might be, “what does Mongolia have to do with the modern world? It’s just a country full of horse riding, yurt dwelling, dairy enthusiasts.” You would quickly find yourself embarrassingly wrong. The traditional Mongol dwelling is called a ger. Also, the Mongol World Wars and the rise of the Mongol empires, as it turns out, had a startlingly large influence on the last 800 years of world history.
I won’t go into great detail, but I’ll try to convince you with a few of my patented Mongol Facts (TM). At its height, the Mongol Empire stretched thousands of miles and made trade routes safe for millions of people to spread goods, ideas, and disease at unprecedented levels. Inventions from disparate regions were combined. (turning gunpowder into a major part of warfare). Major religions got footholds in new places. And the bubonic plague was spread killing a substantial portion of the world’s population. Long distance trade expanded to incredible levels and the resulting network of roads opened the way for famous travelers such as Ibn Batutta and Marco Polo. The last Mongol-descended ruler was around until the 20th century.
I expect that my increased understanding will greatly contribute to my appreciation of Mongol culture. But, my dear reader, as you might know from our trip itinerary, Mongolia is only our first stop. What reading material should I pick up on China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Turkey, and anywhere in Europe?