First Advisor

Linda Walton

Date of Award


Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History and University Honors






Mongols -- History -- To 1500, Mongols -- Histoire -- Jusqu'à 1500, Mongols -- Mœurs et coutumes, Mongols, Mongols -- Social life and customs, Secret history of the Mongols English (Rachewiltz), Secret history of the Mongols, Genghis Khan (1162-1227)




When I first encountered the Secret History of the Mongols, I was delighted and thrilled with it as an epic story. It's the Mongol version of the Iliad, I told friends and family. But as I read further, I began to see that this was more than just an epic tale. My studies of tribal societies and knowledge of hunter/gatherer and nomadic groups told me that this was a fascinating glimpse into Mongolian culture at the time of the rise of Chinggis Khan, but I also quickly discovered that I lacked the knowledge to delineate and fully identify those patterns. When I turned to the secondary source material, I ran into further trouble. Most scholars seemed to be missing or misinterpreting what I felt were crucial elements of the Mongol society on display, filtering the material through preconceptions and moral values which are unique to sedentary, agricultural civilizations, those same cultures whose fourteenth-century historians were most happy to write of the downfall of the Mongolian Empire. In this paper, I wish to set aside those preconceived notions and attempt to read what the Mongolians had to say about themselves, their culture, and their values through the compilation of the Secret History itself.


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