The ruling women of the Mongol Empire

by TK

Anthropologist Jack Weatherford pieces together the lost history of the ruling women of the Mongol Empire, painting a rich picture of life among the nomadic tribes of the Mongolian Plateau. Here he describes how Genghis Khan’s daughters came to power.

"Genghis Khan was certainly ambitious and had much larger desires in the world than merely uniting the warring tribes of the steppe. Yet, in order to expand his empire, he needed someone to rule the newly conquered people. He had to leave someone in charge. Ideally, he would have had a stable of talented sons and given each one of them a newly conquered country to govern, but his sons were simply not capable. Without competent sons, he could leave a general in charge, but Genghis Khan had been betrayed too many times by men inside and outside his family. He probably knew well the result of Alexander the Great’s over reliance on his generals, who subsequently divided the empire among themselves as soon as their leader died....

“Genghis Khan’s mother and wives were too old to take command of these new nations and to enjoy the full benefits of what he had to offer, but he had a new generation of women who seemed as capable as the previous one. After uniting the steppe, Genghis Khan turned his attention to foreign nations, and now women assumed a far more important role in building the empire abroad. At least three daughters had been married to closely related clans, and those marriages had helped to solidify bonds within the newly formed Mongol nation; however, now four other daughters faced a far more challenging task beyond the Mongol world, in the lands of neighboring countries....”

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire
by Jack Weatherford. Crown, 2010

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