The Secret History of the Mongols



The Secret History of the Mongols is a chronicle written in the 13th century CE (with some later additions) and is the most important and oldest medieval Mongolian text. The book covers the origins of the Mongol people, the rise to power and reign of Genghis Khan  (r. 1206-1227 CE) and the reign of his son and successor Ogedei Khan (r. 1229-1241 CE). Written from a Mongolian perspective, unlike most other medieval sources on the Mongol Empire, the work is an invaluable record of their legends, oral and written histories and, with its treatment of Genghis Khan and his imperial orders, it gives a unique insight into one of the most important leaders in world history. The title includes the word ‘secret’ because either only members of the imperial family and those given special favour or only Mongols were permitted to read it, even if other versions were in circulation in some remote places like Tibet.


The author of the Secret History is not known but judging by the scope of the work’s content it was clearly written by someone who had access to the inner workings of the Mongol imperial court. One name put forward as a likely candidate is Sigi-quduqu, an adopted son of Genghis Khan. Another possibility is the senior minister Onggud Cingqai, and a third is Tatatonga, the seal-keeper of Genghis Khan. Some scholars have even suggested that the two khans who are the subject of the work had a part in its writing.


The longer version of the Secret History has 12 chapters, 282 paragraphs, and is divided into four parts. Part one concerns Mongol legends and, more a poetic saga