There are many different stories people tell about the Mongols. These stories are partially true, but also incomplete. While the Mongols were tough, mobile warriors, and were brutal at times, they were also incredibly adaptive, tolerant, egalitarian, and creative. With some clever political organization and some quick adaptations along the way, the Mongols were able to build a massive empire. While it didn’t last very long as a unified empire, it certainly had long-lasting effects.
Driving Question: Why did the Mongols have such a big impact on Afro-Eurasia?
- The Mongols were nomadic people from Asia who rode horseback, were expert hunters and archers, and conquered a ton of land. Some sources write that the Mongols were “barbaric invaders” who “spared no-one, slaying women and men and children… and killing unborn babes”. And there’s some evidence that the Mongols did in fact cause a lot of destruction in their conquests. But there’s also a lot of evidence that the Mongols weren’t the brutalizers that they are described as—or weren’t only. For example, they usually negotiated with the cities and states they came upon and tried to get them to accept Mongol rule peacefully.
- Notably, the Mongols were incredible builders who may have created something of a golden age of trade in Eurasia. By 1294, the Mongols ruled a vast area of Eurasia—really the biggest empire in the world to that date. They promoted trade and welcomed merchants of any religion, they gave many people ‘passports’ of safe travel across their domains, they provided security for merchants, and overall, they encouraged the exchange of goods. Of course they taxed all this trade.
Word of the Day: Pax Mongolica
- Definition: This means “Mongolian Peace” in Latin, signifying the period of stability and increased trade under the Mongol Empire.
- Watch Wait for It…The Mongols! Crash Course World History #17 in Lesson 5.1 on Khan Academy
- As you watch this video, think about whether the Mongols were creators or destroyers. Do they deserve their brutal reputation or are they an exception in history?
Historian’s Journal Prompt
- How is COVID like the Mongols?
- The spread of COVID-19 has many obvious negative effects. These are often focused on in news or on social media. Have you seen any positive changes, big or small?