The Mongol empire was the hugest and the most influential empire in world history. During the 13th and 14th centuries, it became the largest contiguous land empire that covered a vast territory from Hungary to Korea. It started from Central China, westward into Central Europe, eastward into the Sea of Japan, northward into Siberia, and southward into India. Mongols managed to conquer the whole Eurasian steppe.
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Moreover, the empire united three other civilizations under its rule: the Islamic, the Chinese, and the Orthodox Christian. The influence they exerted over the outer areas like Japan, the Arab Middle East, and Europe is also hard to overestimate. The Mongol Empire had been a solidly unified and ever-expanding entity until 1260, when it was divided into four khanates, each with its own khan. The leader and ruler of the unified empire were Genghis Khan – the emperor who was born to change the world. After the domination of the Mongol empire, all the rulers received the title of Genghis Khan.
Owing to the enormous size and the unquestionable impact of the Mongol empire, the history of its existence was simultaneously recorded in Mongolia, China, Russia, Greece, Armenia, Georgia, Italy, and many other countries during different historical periods. The problem is that very few scholars attempted comprehensive research. Most articles, papers, and books on the topic take only one corner of the empire for thorough analysis ignoring all the other perspectives.
In order to avoid insufficiency, this study is going to focus not on one specific part of the empire but rather on the process of its expansion and building from the rise to the fall. The primary source that I am going to rely upon is The Letters of Eljigidei, Hülegü, and Abaqa: Mongol Overtures or Christian Ventriloquism? by Denise Aigle. These letters exchanged between the Mongol rulers, and other European and Asian politicians are documents of paramount importance as they record the way the foreign policy was administered.
In order to place them in the due context, several secondary sources are going to be used, providing a detailed analysis of the state of the empire at each stage of its development. This will allow connecting the policy reflected in the original documents with the results obtained from the historians’ investigations. As far as the history study is concerned, the combination of information from the original documents with a literature analysis of their possible interpretations is the best way to achieve relatively objective results.
However significant the political life maybe for the rising empire, it is also essential to bear in mind that Mongols had their own traditions, religion, culture, medicine, and technology. They are all key aspects of the success of empire building. Thus, I presume that the foundation of the empire, the direction of expanding, diversity, and multiculturalism in the realm, as well as the reasons for the fall of the empire, are worth studying as one holistic picture.
The Foundation of the Mongol Empire
Sources that will be cited in this part: The Letters of Eljigidei, Hülegü, and Abaqa: Mongol Overtures or Christian Ventriloquism? by Denise Aigle, The Mongol Empire: Genghis Khan: His Triumph and His Legacy by Peter Brent.
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- Point 1: Briefly describe Temujin’s background and the way he managed to unite Mongol tribes;
- Point 2: Discuss the building of a strong army and battle technology adoption and development;
- Point 3: Explain how the culture, traditions, religion, medicine, and other aspects constituting daily life of the tribes allowed them to stay ever-engaged in war and continue developing as a society at the same time;
- Point 4: Provide the reasons for the beginning of the war with the Jin dynasty and account for the step into a strong unit. I was starting in 1206.
Expanding of Nation and World Connection in Civilization
Sources that will be cited in this part: The Mongol Art of War by Timothy M. May, The Mongol Empire: Genghis Khan: His Triumph and His Legacy by Peter Brent.
- Point 1: Describe the process of gradual acquisition of the territory of Asia, focusing on the crossing of Jaxartes and invasion into Transoxiana. Discuss the destruction of the Khwarezmid Empire. 1209-1220;
- Point 2: Discuss the reasons and the outcomes of the engagement with the east Slavic warriors. Describe the battle of the Kalka River and its consequences for the empire. 1223;
- Point 3: Describe and tie the beginning of the west invasion in Europe and the East to Korea. 1231-1236.
The Fall of the Empire
Sources that will be cited in this part: The Mongol Art of War by Timothy M. May, The Mongol Empire: Genghis Khan: His Triumph and His Legacy by Peter Brent, Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire by William W. Fitzhugh, Rossabi Morris, and William Honeychurch.
- Point 1: Describe the events after the death of Genghis Khan and their impact on the strength of the empire as well as on the people’s spirit. Discuss the consequences of the leadership transfer to Ogedei Khan as Great Khan. 1227-1229;
- Point 2: Account for the invasion of Vietnam and provide the reasons for humiliating vassalage that it resulted in forcing the tribes to leave the area;
- Point 3: Discuss the reasons leading the empire to its end and the beginning of the civil war;
- Point 4: Provide your own assessment of the events described and give suppositions on how the empire could be preserved and what could be done to revive it after its ignominious fall.
The Mongol empire was an influential political force that managed an unprecedented task of bringing the whole continent under the rule of one Great Khan and his heirs. The Mongol government was a highly-organized superior system that made their lands interconnected, which guaranteed safe transactions throughout the territory. Besides the military development, it also maintained the exchange of culture and knowledge with the rest of the world, which contributed to a great extent in bringing the continent out of the Dark Ages.
Nowadays, Mongols and their rulers are remembered in two contradicting perspectives: as brave warriors who conquered huge territories and managed to build a lasting empire with a highly developed economy and culture and as ruthless tyrants who brought only death and destructions everywhere they went. The latter perception is certainly unfair: these tribes never strived to destroy what they conquered; it happened only in the course of military actions.
They were far from primitive barbarians and had a well-disciplined, well organized, and effective army. No matter if they are treated with due respect and interest or severely criticized, their empire is still remembered as one of the most powerful players in world history. The importance of its existence is beyond everything that any historian can describe.
Aigle, Denise. “The Letters of Eljigidei, Hülegü, and Abaqa: Mongol Overtures or Christian Ventriloquism?” Inner Asia 7.2 (2005): 143-62.
Brent, Peter. The Mongol Empire: Genghis Khan: His Triumph and His Legacy. London: Book Club Associate, 1976.
Fitzhugh, William W, Morris Rossabi, and William Honeychurch. Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire. Washington: Arctic Studies Center, Smithsonian Institution in collaboration with Odyssey Books & Maps, 2013.
May, Timothy. The Mongol Art of War. Yardley: Westholme, 2007.