AN03c4_Ch12: The Mongol Empire- Collapse and Legacy
Timeline: 14th – 16th Century
FQ: Where did all the Mongol Conquerors Go?
Main Idea: The unique circumstances of the birth and growth of the Mongol Empire did not preclude it from suffering age-old afflictions. Local Mongol leaders increasingly reflected the culture and values of the peoples they ruled. Therefore, distinctions between Mongol controlled regions contributed to divisions within the empire. Like the Greco-Macedonian and Roman Empires, the Mongol Empire suffered from political intrigue, corruption and challenges to its central authority. Like its predecessors, the Mongol Empire shattered into smaller, independent Khanates.
I. Why didn’t the Empire Last Long?
A. Political bonds were personal and not legalistic/ bureaucratic. Loyalty was aimed at one charismatic leader. Where ever that leader went or whatever that leader did, he was followed by soldiers who swore loyalty to him [refer to the reading ‘Temujin becomes Ghengis Khan’].
B. No orderly transition of power. There were conflicting traditions of inheritance. At various times and under certain conditions- Youngest son, brother, or fittest may inherit. In any case, there was always a division of property among inheritors [Case Study: 10th C. Western Europe- Charlemagne’s grandchildren]. In addition, the traditional Khuriltai (grand council) that selected the next Grand Khan created a chaotic condition especially upon the death of the Grand Khan. Field commanders would return with the bulk of their forces to the Khuriltai leaving behind a small force that may embolden the conquered to rebel.
1. Local Mongol leaders were given the title as Khan, but were subject to the overall authority of the Grand (Supreme) Khan. By the Mid to late 13th C., the mantle of Grand Khan fell upon the shoulders of Chinggis Khan’s grandson- Kubilai. He becomes the 5th Grand Khan (1260-1294), but ruled from the Mongol capital founded on the site of current day Beijing, China. He epitomized the Mongol transformation from a nomadic to a sedentary lifestyle. Culturally, politically and socially he and his subordinate khans were reflecting the values of the local population.
2. Kubilai’s failure to conquer Japan on two occasions weakened him militarily and tarnished his reputation in the eyes of his subordinates. Traditionally, leaders who lose many men in combat are disgraced. Remember, there were never many Mongol soldiers to begin with. It became increasingly difficult to keep the Khans in the farthest reaches of the empire from acting independently. Often, these independent-minded Khans (all relatives of Kubilai and descended from Chinggis) would embroil themselves in conflicting alliances with Europeans. Crusading Europeans become the ‘pawns’ in the Mongol power struggle.
3. Several Khanates became economically and politically powerful enough to exert their independence.(1) Two of these were the Golden Horde Khanate of Central Asia (Russia) (2) and the Persian Khanate.
Later (14th -16th C.), Timur the Lame (3) expands the area formerly known as the Persian Khanate into Saudi Arabia and the Indian subcontinent. The capital city of his growing empire becomes Samarkand. Later still, and after the collapse of Timur’s Central Asian empire, Babur (4) reintroduces Mongol rule to the Indian subcontinent- this time his descendent’s will become the Mughals (5) of India.
II. Mongol Impact (6)
A. Global in breadth; ‘Ushered in global history’.
B. East met West with a lasting impact socially, economically, politically on both sides. Knowledge spanning the sciences, philosophy, and technology traversed the empire.
III. Summary: Why it matters today.
From the violence of the invasions to the stability of the Pax Mongolica, the Mongols contribute mightily to a new era of achievement in Asia and Europe.
1. Trade route activity, plunder, and political alliances contributed to this.
2. Largely what is now Russia. Note that Mongol assimilation on a biological level paralleled the cultural. There may have been a genetic legacy left by the Mongols in the populations of Russia and Eastern Europe=\> the Absence of an alcohol metabolizing gene.
3. Europeans corrupt this to Tamerlane
4. Another Mongol descendant.
5. Corruption of the name
6. The impact stretches into the field of biology. Genetic impact => Absence of alcohol metabolizing gene in Mongols and their offspring in conquered areas (Ex. Portions of Russian and Eastern European populations carry this genetic mark).
– Map of Eurasia
– World History: Patterns of Interaction
– Film: CNN’s Millennium Series- The 13th C.: Century of the Stirrup
– Lecture by Prof. Morris Rossabi, Columbia Univ. 28 Sept. ’00 (Stuyvesant H.S.), Author of _Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times_