18th Aug 2015: Singing the Law and Riding the City: The Rule of Genghis Khan by Donald Carrick

Come along to Leith Beer Company, put your feet up and listen to Donald tell us about the history of Ghengis Khan


Title of Talk:

Singing the Law and Riding the City: The Rule of Genghis Khan

Ghengis Khan

Bullet Points of What You Would Like to Talk About:

  • The myriad narratives that could describe the rule 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 and our conceptions of the past
  • The rule of Genghis Khan, charting his restructuring of an entire culture and transformation from powerful King to seemingly unstoppable threat.

A Few Paragraphs About Your Subject:

Many people have tried to conquer, a smaller number have tried to literally conquer the world. A smaller number still have done so in order to change that world, as they saw it, for the better. It may sound noble but couldn’t this description also apply to some of the most despised figures of the past?
By examining his reforms and his conquests we shall use the rule of Genghis Khan to engage with notions of good and evil in a historical context. What can the attitudes to violence and the other in these times tell us about the human condition through all history? How can we apply modern morality to the past and, if we can, do we apply the same standards to the present and future?

About You

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.

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