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The Secret History of the Mongol Queens

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burlgirl
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The Secret History of the Mongol Queens

Postby burlgirl » Thu July 15th, 2010, 7:19 pm

By Jack Weatherford

Has anyone read this? I picked it up because I had read Conn Iggulden's Genghis: Lords of the Bow and the sequels and really enjoyed them (even though there's war and killing and all that yucky stuff!). I had never really been all that interested in the Mongols (besides Mongolian Barbque - YUM!), but this series made me pretty interested, especially made me wonder what life was like for the women.

Well! Jack Weatherford's book is so unlike anything I expected. How can it possibly be true? He makes a case that Genghis Khan's daughters were given 4 large parts of his empire to rule over - even over his sons, and that Mongol women were highly thought of. And then stuff started to happen... (Trying not to spoil it for anyone who might be interested).

Please, has anyone read this and can you offer an opinion, even if it's only to say you enjoyed it?

Jo

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Divia
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Postby Divia » Thu July 15th, 2010, 8:33 pm

Is there evidence to back up his claim that he favored his daughters over sons? And why was that? Were they smarter?
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fljustice
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Postby fljustice » Thu July 15th, 2010, 8:40 pm

Does he provide a bibliography you can check out, or information in the acknowledgements section? I've looked at a lot of cultures over the years and how they treat women, but have never studied the Mongols.
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burlgirl
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Postby burlgirl » Mon July 26th, 2010, 8:59 pm

He did supply quite an extensive biblio, but I couldn't access any of the books easily, so I'll just get books on Mongols as the whim hits me.

Basically, to begin with he did favor the daughters over the sons because they were much more capable. It just blew my mind to see that. He basically diveded his empire into 8 parts, 4 to the daughters, the other 4 to the wives, since they were also pretty capable. As generations passed, the men in the family started to take the land back from the women, but, sadly, the men still weren't all that capable. Even Kubilai Khan wasn't as great as I had always been led to believe. I'm going to have do a bit more reading.

I had read Conn Igguland's fiction books on Genghis, but he completely left this out. I usually end up investigating parts of history after reading a good HF book, and that happened this time. I never thought I'd find the Mongols interesting, but now I certainly do.

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Postby annis » Mon July 26th, 2010, 9:59 pm

I haven't read this one, but GK himself certainly valued women and took heed of their advice. Both his mother and his wife were strong women with opinions of their own which he respected.

Apart from being responsible for his survival as a child, his mother Ho'elun taught him many lessons about the unstable political climate of Mongolia, especially the need for making alliances, and his wife Börte was revered by the Mongols after Temüjin became the Great Khan, and was crowned the Grand Empress. As Genghis Khan continued to expand his influence and empire, Börte remained behind and assisted Genghis' brother Temüge in ruling the Mongol homeland.

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Margaret
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Postby Margaret » Tue July 27th, 2010, 4:13 am

This sounds extremely interesting. Cecelia Holland has written one or two novels in which Genghis Khan features as a character, and she portrays the wives as strong-minded, politically astute women. This is fiction, of course, but I've always had a lot of respect for Holland's research and her devotion to historical authenticity.
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Postby Leyland » Tue July 27th, 2010, 4:34 pm

That’s interesting data for speculation. I wonder if the Mongolian nomadic culture and life experienced primarily outdoors played a part in the Mongol women’s ability to bring their resourcefulness and stronger survival skills to the forefront? A woman who can’t count on a castle stronghold for defense and protection of assets would need to develop a different set of coping behaviors than the average chatelaine, perhaps.

Consider some of the astute Western European female leaders with some ‘outdoor’ survival skills, like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella I. Taking part in battles and pilgrimages would sure require a different level of judgment.
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Margaret
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Postby Margaret » Wed July 28th, 2010, 3:01 am

A woman who can’t count on a castle stronghold for defense and protection of assets would need to develop a different set of coping behaviors than the average chatelaine, perhaps.


That's a really interesting insight. Also, in a nomadic culture, the women's riding skills would have to be right up there with the men's. And it must be well-nigh impossible to confine a woman on a horse.
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Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed July 28th, 2010, 5:50 am

I do know that in a subsistence livestock-based culture, everybody works. And handling livestock, the major job of the Mongols, is done as well by women as by men. In fact, I'd give the women an edge, as FMRI studies have shown that women's brains are much more active/perceptive in determining the meaning of tones of voice, facial expressions, and social networks. If you are dealing with herbivores, it's all about those three.

So I can see women shepherds as very effective, women horse trainers, and cattle herders. In the Mongol society they might be accorded respect in measure with their usefulness.

Lets face it, when you're covered with dust and you have to capture that valuable animal without it freaking out and injuring itself, you don't much care what the gender is of the person who can quiet it down enough to get the job done.

That's why I thought the Red Tent was so stupid. Here this urban 20th-century-raised writer imagined women sit on straw in a tent for the 1/4 of a month that they were menstruating. Not in a nomad herding culture, they wouldn't be!

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Postby Ludmilla » Wed July 28th, 2010, 1:14 pm

"Margaret" wrote:That's a really interesting insight. Also, in a nomadic culture, the women's riding skills would have to be right up there with the men's. And it must be well-nigh impossible to confine a woman on a horse.



I would add that it was also a culture that practiced shamanism and women's roles in that kind of culture are often quite different to that of their western counterparts. As with any society, there was a lot of power politicing going on, and I seem to remember the women could be instigators. GK had a lot of sons by different women, and I seem to remember mothers hatching plots, and daugthers probably were not far behind them securing their own place. GK was also well known for valuing merit and usefulness over many other factors (such as bloodlines).

I read Weatherford's book about Genghis Khan and really enjoyed it. It's been several years ago, so the details aren't fresh in my head and I've never had one of these ironclad memories. It's my understanding that Weatherford is an academic (Professor of Anthropology at MacAlester College, private liberal arts school). I know sometimes academics get pet theories on things that others will scream about, but if I remember correctly from the end notes of his GK book, he did travel to China and researched that book quite extensively.
Last edited by Ludmilla on Wed July 28th, 2010, 1:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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