More Genghis Revisionism

19 November 2012 at 3:43 pm 5 comments

| Peter Klein |

You’ve probably heard the expression, “X is so extreme, he’s to the Right of Genghis Khan.” This basically means, “I don’t like X but have nothing intelligent to say about X or his ideas.” Mostly because we don’t know much about Genghis Khan, and what we do know presents a pretty complex picture. I mentioned before Jack Weatherford’s revisionist portrayal of the Great Khan as a somewhat progressive ruler, by the standards of his time. Now I learn, from Joe Salerno, about a paper by Andrius Valevicius “arguing that Genghis Khan’s successful empire building lay in his introduction of low taxes, stamping out of torture, and promotion of religious toleration and diversity and free scholarly inquiry in the conquered territories. The Great Khan also restricted his plundering to the wealth and property of the vanquished ruling elites while  leaving their subjects generally unmolested in their persons and property and even distributing some of the plunder among them.”

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Thomas  |  20 November 2012 at 4:09 am

    No wonder historians have been so hard on him!

  • 2. David Croson (@ProfDC)  |  20 November 2012 at 8:21 am

    Oddly, I can’t remember ever having heard of anyone comparing extremism with Genghis Khan. Usually it’s Attila the Hun who’s held up as the bastion of historical right-wingedness. [In Shibumi, Trevanian makes a comment that the accent should be on the first syllable of "Attila".]

  • 3. Peter Klein  |  20 November 2012 at 8:31 am

    In some circles, this sort of thing iis considered terribly witty:

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/02/romney-straining-to-get-to-right-of-genghis-khan.html

  • 4. David Croson (@ProfDC)  |  21 November 2012 at 6:16 pm

    The Chait piece was mildly funny. Paul Johnson wrote about this a while back (the Genghis part comes in the last few paragraphs): http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/politics/pg0177.htm

  • 5. stevepostrel  |  21 November 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I had heard all the stuff about low taxes and religious tolerance in popular accounts of GK, so I’m not sure who’s being revised here. It was generally portrayed as an extreme version of the US Marines’ “No greater friend, no worse enemy” doctrine–resist any your city was obliterated, surrender and you were pretty much left alone to do your thing. High-powered incentives using both margins.

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