During the 13th century, America and Australia had not yet been discovered, India was in its medieval period and Europe’s High Middle Ages were ongoing. This is when the Mongol Empire emerged in the Central Asian steppes. This empire grew so rapidly that by the mid 13th century, it covered almost all of Asia and Eastern Europe. It lasted till the 14th century.
This empire was founded by Genghis Khan who unified the nomadic Mongols and Turkic tribes. They were used to a mobile life and learned to ride horses and shoot bows from childhood. These qualities would make them excellent warriors. This unification created a fast, effective, and coordinated army.
Genghis Khan’s gained a large number of followers. Previously, rivaling Mongol tribes were united through political manipulation. Genghis Khan united the tribes through better administration. He created policies for different traditions and religions which convinced many people to follow him. A law called the Yassa, prevented fighting, theft of property, and hunting of animals during the breeding season. He also implemented a policy of sharing spoils with warriors and their families instead of giving it all to the aristocrats.
The empire grew rapidly under Gengis Khan and then his descendants. They sent invasions in every direction, connecting modern-day Mongolia, China, parts of Burma, Romania, Pakistan, Siberia, Ukraine, Belarus, Anatolia, Georgia, Armenia, Persia, Iraq, Central Asia, and much of Russia. Many additional countries became tributary states of the Mongol Empire.
After the death of Genghis Khan in 1227, the Mongols defeated Russia in two winter campaigns from 1237 to 1240. They then set up a tribute empire called the Golden Horde. An attempt to conquest Hungary in 1240 and raid Eastern Europe was made but the Mongols had to return to their capital of Karakorum to handle succession issues. This is when the empire started to fragment. In the Battle of Ayn Jalut 1260, Mongol hordes lost against the Mamluk slave-warrior army of Egypt. The Mongol army had never been beaten in direct combat on the battlefield.
After long rivalries and civil war, Kublai Khan (Genghis Khan’s grandson) took control of the empire in 1271 and established the Yuan Dynasty. The vast transcontinental empire was united yet again with an enforced Pax Mongolica, or Mongol Peace.
Pax Mongolica (1280–1360) was a century of peace in the empire and with neighboring empires. Under Pax Mongolica, trade became less risky. As cross-cultural interactions began to increase, more goods were traded. The Silk Road, one of the most well-known trade routes in the world flourished during this time? Marco Polo, a Venetian trader, and explorer was able to travel to Asia because of the silk road.
Within the Pax Mongolica, the sharing of knowledge, information, and cultural identity was encouraged. Some ideas and technologies such as papermaking, printing, and gunpowder manufacturing, spread across Asia and Europe. With Pax Mongolica monks, missionaries, traders, and explorers traveled along the trade routes safely. Citizens could also become followers of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, etc.
By the time of Kublai Khan’s death in 1294, the Mongol Empire was divided into four separate empires or khanates Each khanate had its own separate interests and objectives: the Golden Horde Khanate in the northwest, the Chagatai Khanate in the west, the Ilkhanate in the southwest, and the Yuan Dynasty, based in modern-day Beijing. This weakness allowed the Han Chinese Ming Dynasty to take control in 1368. The Mongol Empire finally dissolved in the 14th century.
Although the Mongol empire existed only for a short period of time and ceased to exist nearly 8 centuries ago, its inventions, ideas, and legacy can be seen around the world today.
- Lumen Learning- ‘The Mongol Empire’: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-worldhistory/chapter/the-mongol-empire/
- Lumen Learning- ‘Genghis Khan’: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-worldhistory/chapter/genghis-khan/
- The Mongol Connection:’ Mongol Influences on the Development of Moscow’-file:///C:/Users/91848/Downloads/19799-Article%20Text-43900-1-10-20150825.pdf
- Thoughtco- ‘The Battle Of Ayn Jalut’: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-battle-of-ayn-jalut-195788
- Lumen Learning ‘Kublai Khan’: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-hccc-worldcivilization/chapter/kublai-khan/#:~:text=Kublai%20Khan%20made%20significant%20reforms,and%20sponsored%20arts%20and%20science