History of International Relations Textbook

The Mongol khanates

The Secret History of the Mongols

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Secret History of the Mongols is a chronicle of Mongol history written some time in the thirteenth-century by an unknown author. The History provides a near-contemporary account of Temüjin’s life and accomplishments from his birth to his election as Genghis Khan, and the story of how the Mongol empire was created. It also includes an account of the reign and military campaigns of his son Ögödei.  The History is by far the best source of information about Genghis Khan’s life. Although it provides an admiring portrait, it is not uncritical, and the many vivid details give us a unique glimpse into the world of thirteenth-century Mongolia.

The text was originally written in Mongolian, using the Uighur script, but it has come down to us in a Chinese translation. During the Ming dynasty the text was widely used as a way to teach Chinese people Mongolian, and it was in a Chinese library that the text was rediscovered in the nineteenth-century and translated into European languages. It was also retranslated back into Mongolian. A copy of the text, engraved on gold plates, is today deposited in the parliament building in Ulaanbataar, the Mongol capital.