Weatherford says that over the centuries, Genghis Khan has become a "stereotype of a barbarian," a "bloody savage" and "ruthless conqueror who enjoyed destruction for its own sake." Taking advantage of newly-translated documents and new archaeological finds in a Mongolia free of Soviet influence, Weatherford, who spent years in Mongolia doing anthropological and historical research, argues that the story of Genghis Khan is much more complex than that of a ruthless murdering savage.
Weatherford's purpose is to restore the achievements of Genghis and the the Mongols. He notes that much of European culture during the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance was influenced, at least indirectly, but the Mongols. Rather than mindless destroyers, the Mongols established tightly integrated trade networks that brought Eastern goods into Europe and vice versa. After the "shock of conquest," Weatherford argues, European interaction with the Mongols was characterized not by bloody destruction, but by "an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and improved civilization." Genghis's court philosophers made major advances in map-making, astronomy, and calendars. They made diplomatic and commercial contacts with people as far away as sub-Saharan Africa.
So Weatherford's argument is intended, in a way, to restore the reputation of Genghis. He aims to portray him not just as an important warriors, but to analyze the ways in which his conquests laid the foundation for a modern world.