AN03c_Ch12: The Mongols
Timeline: 12th – 13th Century
FQ: Who are (were) the Mongols?
Main Idea: The Mongols, a nomadic people from the steppe, conquered settled societies across much of Eurasia. Unfortunately for us, much of their story prior to the 15th C. is dominated by the writings of others (Europeans, Persians, Abbasid Caliphate, Chinese, etc.). These accounts are predominantly descriptions of the atrocities committed by Mongols on their victims. The descriptions may be exaggerations, but the evidence is too strong to classify all as such. These accounts will paint the Mongols as genocidal barbarians. While the hatred of Mongols has abated over time, one should expend a bit of suspicion on the identification of a disease by an ethnic group (Down Syndrome => Mongoloid).
In the short time we’ve been together discussing history, brutality perpetrated on one human by another is an all too common occurrence. The builders of empires have resorted to brutal tactics to achieve their political, social or economic goals for millennia. The Mongol conquests were not acts that were committed in a ‘vacuum’. There were underlying causes for the expansion of Mongol hegemony beyond the traditional borders of the steppes. Let’s ask ourselves some questions about why these people did what they did and changed the world in the process.
I. The Mongol conquests were not acts that were committed in a “vacuum”. There were underlying causes for the expansion of Mongol hegemony beyond the traditional territorial borders. Among the causes for us to consider include…
A. There were climatic & economic causes for Mongol expansion.
B. Amazingly, a nomadic people achieve a high level of unity.
C. Cultural traits were ‘translated’ into military tactics.
D. The centuries-old conflict between nomadic & sedentary lifestyles came to the fore on a global scale during this era. (China vs. Mongolia, Agriculture vs. Pastoralism, Sedentary vs. Nomadic)
II. Vocabulary: Refer to Crossword Puzzle
III. Human – Environment Interaction
A. No tomb culture developed. Burials were conducted by leaving the corpse within reach of animals- which will consume the corpse. (Sky Burial)
B. As Sustenance: Camel regurgitated food, ‘beef tartar’, drank blood, milk & by-products. [Ask Mr.V for a description]
C. Women nursing orphaned lambs.
D. Seasonal migrations to new pastures.
IV. Commerce and the Survival of Nomadic Peoples
Ponder: Animal herding provides the essential needs of many non-agricultural societies. However, there are other items societies have come to desire that animal herds cannot provide. Create a list of ‘needs’ that are met by herding animals. Contrast this list with another that includes items that are not derived from animals, but have become ‘essential’ because of the quality of life improvement it provides. How are the items in this second list acquired?
A. Provided by Herd…
1. Clothing and shelter (Yurts/ Gur) in the form of leather.
2. Food in form of meat, milk.
3. Transportation for individuals.
4. Work: Pull carts, carry cargo.
B. Acquired via Commerce…
1. Agricultural needs (food, feed, cloth, etc…)
2. Need for manufactured goods:
a. Practical: metallic tools, metallic or wooden utensils, wooden or ceramic/ clay container vessels.
b. Aesthetic: Luxuries for personal use (w/ social status implications) or gift giving (w/ cultural implications).
Ponder: What could cause distress in a society such as this?
V. Extraordinary Conditions in the 12th – 13th C.
A. Harsh climate/ natural disasters ( 1 1/2 degree drop in avg. climate temp.)
B. Loss of trading partner(s) (China ends trade contact w/ Mongols.)
VI. Mongol Unification and Recourse
While the Sung, Jin, and Xia dynasties (10th-13th C) strive to divide the nomadic tribes by playing one against the other, one Mongol leader was working hard to unify. This man unified the nomadic peoples of the steppes for the first time in history.
A. Chinggis Khan (Temujin): Born ~1165 CE. and elected Grand Khan in 1206 AD. Greatest achievement was unifying nomadic tribes of the steppes north of the Great Wall. He was very skilled in diplomacy and pursued alliances based on ‘blood brotherhood.’ Alliances were broken and replaced by new ones when it was in his interest.
B. Raids: These were organized to be of short duration against nearby targets. Conducting raids is an activity found in other nomadic cultures throughout the world. Among these cultures we would include Native American and Arabian peoples.
C. Women play a Commanding Role
1. Duties ranging from household, herding, to politics were open to women, freeing men to serve in the army.
2. 1241: Grand Khan dies and for 6 years their is turmoil. During this period there were two female rulers. Women were important to Mongol success and they exercised tremendous leverage in society (right of divorce, hold property, serve in leadership positions, etc.). One of these women is Sarghahtani Beki (Mother of two Grand Khans: Mongke and Kublai). She establishes Mongol policy of religious toleration.
VII. Summary: Why it matters now.
The Mongols built the largest unified land empire in world history.
-Assorted Readings, Map of Eurasia
-World History: Patterns of Interaction
-Film: CNN’s Millennium Series- The 13th C.: Century of the Stirrup
-The Mongol Derby (mongolderbyblog.theadventurists.com)
-The Mongol Rally (www.theadventurists.com/the-adventures/mongol-rally).
-Listen to the MacWorld Podcast: Extreme Tech in the Middle of Nowhere. (www.macworld.com/article/2047605/extreme-tech-in-the-middle-of-nowhere.html)
-Lecture by Prof. Morris Rossabi, Columbia Univ. 28 Sept. ’00 (Stuyvesant H.S.), Author of _Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times_