The Rise and Fall of the Second Largest Empire in History by Thomas J. Craughwell

The Rise and Fall of the Second Largest Empire in History: How Genghis Khan’s Mongols Almost Conquered the World by Thomas J. Craughwell is about the rocket-fast expansion of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan to its equally rapid disintegration under Genghis’ grandchildren – including Kublai Khan.  Craughwell chronicles all of the events in between and how the Mongol Empire influenced not only Asia, but also the Middle East and Europe as well.

It is hard to imagine unassuming Mongolia being a world power – the most powerful in the world – but this was the case for a brief period in history.  This rise to power was led by Genghis Khan – arguably the greatest conqueror in world history.  Craughwell describes how Genghis generally took a no-prisoners policy in his conquests – killing tens of millions of people.  

Craughwell not only chronicles the expansion and contraction of the empire, but also the tactics used by Genghis and his followers to conquer so much territory in so little time.  In short, they brought devastating tactics to bear on their opponents – super fast light cavalry with far superior bows.  Their horses were more agile and had more stamina then their opponents’ mounts and their bows could shoot arrows much farther than any of their opponents.   In addition, the Mongol warriors were superior riders with excellent archery skills.

Reading the exploits of the Mongols, it is hard to imagine that they conquered an area from Hungary to the China, including much of modern-day Russia and many areas of the Middle East.  The fact that the Mongolian military conquered all of this land area with an estimated strength of no more than half a million.  Many times they defeated foes that were two, three, or five times larger.

Craughwell provides a lot of information in a small amount of space – 272 pages.  His writing style is easy to follow and understand.  He includes 125 color pictures, including several good maps.

This book would be an excellent addition to a person’s military history collection.

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