Mongol Empire Coach Grgurich Unit 4B Lesson 4
Background • The Mongol Empire was able to spread because of the strength of its military. At its height, the empire stretched from Mongolia and China, through central Asia, to as far as the Middle East and eastern Europe. For centuries it was the largest empire in history in terms of landmass.
The Mongols • The Mongols were a nomadic people who lived in the steppe region of Central Asia. For centuries, the Mongols were divided into different clans, with each clan being ruled by a single leader, known as a khan.
Genghis Khan • In 1206 A.D., Temujin was successful and took the name Genghis Khan, meaning "universal leader." Over the next 20 years, the Mongols conquered much of Central Asia and Northern China. By the time of Genghis Khan's death in 1227, the Mongols had a great empire. Though the Mongol Empire lasted only a little over a century, the Mongols greatly influenced Asia and Europe.
Mongol Expansion • During much of the 1200s, the Mongol Empire expanded throughout Asia and even into parts of Europe. Beginning in 1235, the Mongols began to invade and conquer the areas of China that were not already under their control. In 1260, Kublai Khan became the Great Khan of the empire and continued the conquest of China. Eventually, in 1279, the Song Dynasty of China was defeated and the Yuan Dynasty was established under the leadership of Kublai Khan.
Division • When he came to power, Kublai Khan attempted to consolidate his power and make the government more centralized. By the time of his death, however, the empire had fractured into four regions, known as Khanates, each ruled by a khan. These areas were, in theory, ruled by the Great Khan, but there was little power in the central government.
Mongol Military • Mongol armies were more organized than most empires and kingdoms of the time. A chain of command divided warriors into small groups under separate generals, but the groups could combine to form larger armies. The warriors trained to fight together in these groups, instead of training to fight as individuals.
Mongol Cavalry • Horses were an important part of Mongol culture, and Mongol armies focused on cavalry—soldiers mounted on horses. The Mongol cavalry wore lighter armor than most of their enemies, which meant they could move more quickly when in battle. The cavalry also kept two to four horses for each soldier, and they switched horses while riding for long periods. This allowed Mongol riders to keep their horses rested enough to cover large areas of distance each day.
Mongol Archers • Archers were the most common type of soldier in the Mongol cavalry, using bows and arrows to attack enemies from a distance. Other cavalry members had weapons for closer range, such as swords or lances.
Sieges • Mongols were experts at sieges, the process of surrounding and capturing well-defended cities. They made catapults and other weapons that could damage city walls. The Mongol armies dammed rivers during sieges, sending water away from a city to deny its citizens water, or to create a land path to attack through. The Mongol armies were also known for their fierceness. If a village or town resisted, it was usually destroyed, and most of its people were killed.
Mongol Conquest • During the 13th century, the Mongols conquered the KievanRus' and ruled them for two centuries. This caused the KievanRus' to become isolated from European civilization. The Mongols also invaded Korea (Goryeo) in a series of campaigns during the mid-1200s. The Mongol Yuan Dynasty ruled Korea for 80 years. • The Mongols invaded the Indian subcontinent on many occasions. They were able to take control of the Kashmir region; however, they were unsuccessful in conquering areas to the south.
Mongol Rule • The Mongols were the first foreign people to rule all of China. Kublai Khan understood that the Chinese were resentful of Mongol rule. With this in mind, he did not force the Chinese to adopt the Mongol culture. He also moved the capital of the empire from Mongolia to China. Mongol rule of China was harsh in other ways, however, in that the Chinese lived under different laws than the Mongols. The Chinese and Mongols were discouraged from interacting with one another. The Mongols also placed heavy taxes on the Chinese, most of which went toward public works projects such as extending the Grand Canal.
Mongol Rule Con’t • Though the Mongols were ruthless when conquering an area, they attempted to rule peacefully by allowing people to continue to practice local customs. The Mongols even allowed local rulers to stay in power as long as they paid tribute to the empire. In this way, the Mongol Empire was able to establish a period of relative peace and stability in Asia during their time in power, a period known as the PaxMongolica, or the Mongol Peace.
Trade • The Mongols united the areas around the Silk Road, a series of trade routes throughout Asia. The Silk Road enabled trade to flourish and allowed the exchange of new ideas. New technology, trade goods, and religion spread throughout the length of the route.
Trade Con’t • Kublai Khan encouraged trade with foreign countries and even worked to improve roads. This led to greater contact between Europe and the Far East. Marco Polo and his brother traveled to present-day Uzbekistan where they were introduced to Kublai Khan. Never having met a European before, Kublai Khan asked questions about the legal and political system of Europe as well as the Catholic religion.
Impact of the Mongols • Mongol armies burned and destroyed cities in all their conquered lands. A number of Eastern European cities were destroyed during Mongol invasions. For example, the Russian city of Moscow was burned completely to the ground in 1238 when the Mongols conquered the Kievan Rus.
Impact Con’t • Mongols also introduced fiefdoms, which were political systems where a local leader rules for an emperor or king. The vassal, the fief's leader, answered to the emperor or king and was required to pay taxes and enforce the laws of the empire. In China, the Mongols also built a strong Chinese navy, increased foreign trade, improved the public works systems, and created a mail system that connected the remote areas of the Mongol empire.
Fall of the Mongols • The large amounts of money spent on public works projects greatly weakened the economy of the Mongol Empire. A failed conquest of Japan also weakened the military presence of the Mongols in China. This left the empire in a state that was ripe for rebellion. Following the death of Kublai Khan, power struggles emerged throughout the Mongol Empire regarding who would rule. Because of the empire's large size, centralized leadership was hard to maintain.
Fall of the Mongol Empire • In China, a series of floods and increases in taxes in the early 1300s further stressed the Chinese, and rebellions broke out against the Yuan Dynasty. In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang led Chinese forces against the Yuan Dynasty and overthrew the Mongol emperor. The Mongols fled to Mongolia and foreign rule of China came to an end.