More than seven centuries ago an obscure Mongol nomad forged an empire from the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean. His name was Temujin, later known as Genghis Khan, perhaps the greatest military genius the world has ever seen and certainly one of the most romanticized figures in history.
But historians, as Mr. Ralph Fox says, have never given any satisfactory explanation for the great revolution in human progress that Genghis Khan produced. ‘some ascribed it to the genius of one man, but how such a man could rise from such obscurity they did not say. Some put it down to a sudden flowering of the Mongol national spirit, but why a great national spirit should suddenly appear in a people without a history, without a national existence, they did not tell us. Others again sought the truth in the supposed simplicity and freedom of nomad life proving its superiority over more decadent and cultured peoples.’ And, obviously, the modern historian ‘cannot be satisfied with such easy reasoning.’
It would be easy to take an individualistic view of Genghis Khan but Mr. Fox presents him as a function of his time, and his conquests as the logical development of the social life and history of his people, not as a series of inexplicable natural explosions ‘terrifying and spontaneous like the awful thunderstorms of the late summer in the Gobi.’ The rise of Genghish Khan coincided with the breaking up of the old clan system and the evident necessity for one lord to ‘beat the others, to shatter the last fragments of the old patriarchial life and build a new one on the basis of the new relationships. Temujin-Chingis was born at a time of crisis among his own people when all was ready for the leader who should build the new society. It was his fate also to born when the two great feudal states on either side of him, the Khwarizmian Empire in Central Asia and the Kin Empire in China, were in full decay. It was his combination which made it the destiny of the Mongol nomad to become the Emperor of the world, the greatest conqueror since Alexander the godlike, prince of Macedon.’
Ralph Winston Fox (1900-1936) was a British journalist, novelist, and historian.