The Two Faces of Genghis Khan

Violence. Rape. Pillaging. The Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan is often thought of as one of history’s worst villains. But Genghis Khan also had an outsized influence on polite society, building a great empire that thrived on culture, trade, technology, and tolerance. In fact, many of our modern traditions and laws were influenced by his rule.

Genghis Khan reformed the societal structure of his nation, allowing religious liberty, abolishing slavery, and expanding trading routes. He even installed a military postal system, a huge leap in communication. His approach to war, international politics, and the formation of laws seem surprisingly modern when you examine them closely. He also inspired a rich cultural exchange that continues to shape our world.

Those facts don’t erase the violence, rape, and pillaging from Genghis Khan’s legacy. But it’s useful to remember that historical figures, like us, may be more complicated than what meets the eye. Learn more about this fascinating figure in our Instaread on Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

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