25th June 2015: Temüjin Rising; How a Slave Would Change World History by Donald Carrick
Come along to The Counting House at 7pm to listen to Donald, share a crust of bread, and hear about his passion for Genghis…
Title of Talk:
Temüjin Rising: How a slave became the man who would change world history
Bullet Points of What You Would Like to Talk About:
- The idea of narrative being crucial to human conception of history, and much else
- The myriad narratives that could describe the life of Genghis Khan
- The conflict between those narratives, as real life does not conform to narrative and thus to the way we understand life.
- The inherent contradictions this illuminates in the human mind
- The early life of Genghis Khan, charting his rise from slavehood to the most powerful Khan in Mongolian history
A Few Paragraphs About Your Subject:
Almost everyone has heard of Genghis Khan, but what do you really know about him? In all likelihood if you know anything you know about his conquests and wars, about the huge numbers of people he killed, or about the huge numbers he fathered. None of this is wrong but it isn’t the whole story, life is never this simple.
He was a slave, his mother was kidnapped when he was a child. Later his first wife would be kidnapped. He would forge a deep friendship with the man he would eventually face in battle. He would through a combination of determination, genius and ruthlessness rise to power but he wasn’t a man driven by a lust to conquer alone. He was driven by a desire to change the world, not simply to rule it. He was also a monster who slaughtered his enemies without mercy.
In this talk I will explore the idea that humans require narrative structure to understand history, that whether a story is true or not we seek to make it obey the same rules. Using the life of Genghis Khan I will over the course of 3 talks seek to educate my audience about this most fascinating individual and also call into question the manner in which all history is conceived.
I have long been fascinated by history. Once in primary school we were given the assignment of giving a ten minute talk on a historical subject of our choice. About thirty minutes into my forty five minute discussion of the barbarity of roman civilization I realized that not only were the school bullies being handed a blank cheque but the teacher was getting really annoyed. I’ve always found it fascinating, even to a personal fault. At university I studied history but would change to a different subject, I disliked the focus on repetition of others’ opinions and away from discussion and debate on personal perspectives.
This interest has persisted throughout my life. A few years ago I decided to learn about history otherwise unknown to me. The book I picked up on was Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. It’s an excellent if not flawless book and I highly recommend it. I was surprised by how much my expectations of what its story would be were subverted, and this led me to two things.
Firstly; I was amazed that such a complex and interesting life was not better known and I was very interested by the many part of the story that seemed universal, telling of something inherent to the human condition. Secondly; it began a long process of thinking on the way stories and narrative play a role in our conception of history. I loved the book because it was such a wonderful story, or rather series of stories, with the central figure changing from hero to anti-hero to villain to hero and back again, not just because of my interest in the facts of history. Over the following years I’ve read a great deal about this man’s life and each reading doesn’t leave me clearer but rather much more conflicted on my opinion of him. I hope that through these talks I will be able to engender in you as much interest in this figure, and in the narrative of history, as it has engendered in me.