Review of The Secret History of the Mongol Queens by Jack Weatherford

6648001The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford. ★★★★★

A section from the ancient text The Secret History of the Mongols was cut away by censors, leaving only these words of Genghis Khan: “Let us reward our female offspring.” In The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford chronicles the stories of Genghis Khan’s daughters and the queens who came after them. The stories of many of these women have been largely forgotten in the mainstream historical narrative, but they had important and overlooked roles in Mongol history.

So much of this book is fascinating. It’s filled with powerful women who I had no idea ever existed. The only one I had any prior knowledge of was Khutulun, a great-great granddaughter of Genghis Khan who said that she would only marry a man who could beat her in wrestling. For the majority of the women covered in the book, there’s not a whole lot of information. The woman who receives the most focus is Mandukhai Khatun, the subject of the last third of the book who reforged the Mongols into one nation. Among other things, she also rode into battle pregnant with twins!

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens is an easily accessible book, one that you don’t need much prior knowledge or a degree in history to get something out of. It’s not dry or exceedingly academic in tone, and so much of it really feels like stories. I think this is aided by the many dramatic events that occur in Mongolian history. It left me thinking that many of these sections ought to be adopted into historical novels or television shows.

I recommend The Secret History of the Mongol Queens to anyone with an interest in history, particularly women in history.


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