Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (book by Jack Weatherford)

in #deutsch7 months ago
Dear HiveansLiebe HiverQueridos Hiveanos
Today I'd like to share my favourite excerpts from the book "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" (2004) (wiki, goodreads) by Jack Weatherford (wiki), who was a Professor of anthropology at Macalester College in Minnesota and today works as an author.Heute möchte ich meine Lieblingsauszüge aus dem Buch "Dschingis Khan und die Entstehung der modernen Welt" (2004) (wiki, goodreads) von Jack Weatherford (wiki) vorstellen, der Professor für Anthropologie am Macalester College in Minnesota war und heute als Autor arbeitet.Hoy me gustaría compartir mis fragmentos favoritos del libro "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" (2004) (wiki, goodreads) de Jack Weatherford (wiki), que fue profesor de antropología en el Macalester College de Minnesota y hoy trabaja como escritor.
I mostly write/document these excerpts for myself - to reread them later. And I prefer excerpts to summaries as they convey the writing style of the author. If you want a summary, here you go.Ich schreibe/dokumentiere diese Auszüge meist für mich selbst, um sie später noch einmal zu lesen. Und ich bevorzuge Auszüge gegenüber Zusammenfassungen, da sie den Schreibstil des Autors vermitteln. Wer eine Zusammenfassung bevorzugt, here you go.La mayoría de las veces escribo/documento estos extractos para mí, para releerlos más tarde. Y prefiero los extractos a los resúmenes porque transmiten el estilo de escritura del autor. Si quieres un resumen, aquí vas.


In conquest after conquest, the Mongol army transformed warfare into an intercontinental affair fought on multiple fronts stretching across thousands of miles. Genghis Khan’s innovative fighting techniques made the heavily armored knights of medieval Europe obsolete, replacing them with disciplined cavalry moving in coordinated units. Rather than relying on defensive fortifications, he made brilliant use of speed and surprise on the battlefield, as well as perfecting siege warfare to such a degree that he ended the era of walled cities. Genghis taught his people not only to fight across incredible distances but to sustain their campaign over years, decades, and, eventually, more than three generations of constant fighting.
In 25 years, the Mongol army subjugated more lands and people than the Romans had conquered in 400 years. Genghis Khan, together with his sons and grandsons, conquered the most densely populated civilizations of the 13th century. Whether measured by the total number of people defeated, the sum of the countries annexed, or by the total area occupied, Genghis conquered more than twice as much as any other man in history. The hooves of the Mongol warriors’ horses splashed in the waters of every river and lake from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. At its zenith, the empire covered between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles, an area about the size of the African continent and considerably larger than North America, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean combined. It stretched from the snowy tundra of Siberia to the hot plains of India, from the rice paddies of Vietnam to the wheat fields of Hungary, and from Korea to the Balkans. The majority of people today live in countries conquered by the Mongols; on the modern map, Genghis' conquests include 30 countries with well over 3 billion people. The most astonishing aspect of this achievement is that the entire Mongol tribe under him numbered around a million, smaller than the workforce of some modern corporations. From this million, he recruited his army, which was comprised of no more than 100’000 warriors—a group that could comfortably fit into the larger sports stadiums of the modern era. […]
As he smashed the feudal system of aristocratic privilege and birth, he built a new and unique system based on individual merit, loyalty, and achievement. He took the disjointed and languorous trading towns along the Silk Route and organized them into history’s largest free-trade zone. He lowered taxes for everyone, and abolished them altogether for doctors, teachers, priests, and educational institutions. He established a regular census and created the first international postal system.

  • How "free"-trade was the Mongol empire really?

In nearly every country touched by the Mongols, the initial destruction and shock of conquest by an unknown and barbaric tribe yielded quickly to an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and improved civilization. In Europe, the Mongols slaughtered the aristocratic knighthood of the continent, but, disappointed with the general poverty of the area compared with the Chinese and Muslim countries, turned away and did not bother to conquer the cities, loot the countries, or incorporate them into the expanding empire. In the end, Europe suffered the least yet acquired all the advantages of contact through merchants such as the Polo family of Venice and envoys exchanged between the Mongol khans and the popes and kings of Europe. The new technology, knowledge, and commercial wealth created the Renaissance in which Europe rediscovered some of its prior culture, but more importantly, absorbed the technology for printing, firearms, the compass, and the abacus from the East.

The first part of the book tells the story of Genghis Khan’s rise to power on the steppe and the forces that shaped his life and personality from the time of his birth in 1162 until he unified all the tribes and founded the Mongol nation in 1206. The second part follows the Mongol entrance onto the stage of history through the Mongol World War, which lasted five decades (from 1211 to 1261), until Genghis’ grandsons went to war with one another. The third section examines the century of peace and the Global Awakening that laid the foundations of the political, commercial, and military institutions of our modern society.

Genghis Khan’s ability to manipulate people and technology represented the experienced knowledge of more than four decades of nearly constant warfare. At no single, crucial moment in his life did he suddenly acquire his genius at warfare, his ability to inspire the loyalty of his followers, or his unprecedented skill for organizing on a global scale. These derived not from epiphanic enlightenment or formal schooling but from a persistent cycle of pragmatic learning, experimental adaptation, and constant revision driven by his uniquely disciplined mind and focused will. His fighting career began long before most of his warriors at Bukhara had been born, and in every battle he learned something new. In every skirmish, he acquired more followers and additional fighting techniques. In each struggle, he combined the new ideas into a constantly changing set of military tactics, strategies, and weapons. He never fought the same war twice.

The final battle for control of Mongolia came in 1204, about 300 miles west of Burkhan Khaldun. In the days leading up to the battle, Temujin tested his new military organization based on squads of ten. Rather than committing to an all-out battle, which he might easily lose because of his smaller numbers, Temujin picked at the Naiman with small and unpredictable hit-and-run skirmishes. In the first episode, Temujin ordered his men to advance in what was called the Moving Bush or Tumbleweed Formation just before daylight. Rather than large units racing in to attack, the dispersed squads of ten advanced severally and silently from different directions while keeping their profiles low in the predawn darkness. This prevented the enemy from seeing how many there were or from preparing for an attack from a single direction. After attacking, the squads fled in different directions, leaving the enemy wounded but unable to retaliate before the attackers disappeared. […] In 1205, a year after the victory over the Naiman, Jamuka’s followers, desperate and resigned to defeat, seized him and delivered him to Temujin. Despite the animosity between the two men, Temujin valued loyalty above all else. Rather than reward the men who brought Jamuka to him, Temujin had all of them executed in front of the leader whom they had betrayed.

Jamuka had been Temujin’s first rival, and now he ended his life as the last of the Mongol aristocrats opposing him. In Temujin’s long quest for control of the Mongol clans, Temujin had defeated every tribe on the steppe and removed the threat of every aristocratic lineage by killing off their men and marrying their women to his sons and other followers. He chafed under the authority of anyone who stood above him. He killed Begter to rule over his family. He destroyed the Merkid because they took his wife. He killed off the Tatars who had killed his father and looked down on the Mongols as little more than steppe rats. He overthrew the nobles of his own Mongol people and eliminated one by one the higher-ranking Mongol clans of the Tayichiud and the Jurkin. When his own ally and father figure refused to allow a marriage between their respective families, Temujin destroyed him and his tribe. When the Naiman queen mocked the Mongols as her inferiors, he attacked the tribe, killed her husband, and gave her to one of his men as a wife. Finally, he killed Jamuka, one of the people whom he most loved in life, and thereby destroyed the aristocratic Jadaran clan.

The movement and formation of the Mongol army were determined by two factors that set them clearly apart from the armies of every other traditional civilization. First, the Mongol military consisted entirely of cavalry, armed riders without a marching infantry. By contrast, in virtually all other armies, the majority of the warriors would have been foot soldiers. Approximately 65’000 Mongol horsemen left on the Jurched campaign to confront an army with about the same number of horsemen, as well as another 85’000 infantry soldiers, giving the Jurched an advantage of well over two to one but without the mobility of the Mongol force. The second unique characteristic of the Mongol army was that it traveled without a commissary or cumbersome supply train other than its large reserve of horses that always accompanied the soldiers. As they moved, they milked the animals, slaughtered them for food, and fed themselves from hunting and looting. Marco Polo alleged that the Mongol warriors could travel ten days without stopping to make a fire or heat food, that they drank horses’ blood, and that each man carried with him ten pounds of dried milk paste, putting one pound of it in a leather flask of water each day to make his meal. The warrior carried strips of dried meat and dried curd with him that he could chew while riding; and when he had fresh meat, but no time to cook it, he put the raw flesh under his saddle so it would soon be softened and edible. The Chinese noted with surprise and disgust the ability of the Mongol warriors to survive on little food and water for long periods; according to one, the entire army could camp without a single puff of smoke since they needed no fires to cook. Compared to the Jurched soldiers, the Mongols were much healthier and stronger. The Mongols consumed a steady diet of meat, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products, and they fought men who lived on gruel made from various grains. The grain diet of the peasant warriors stunted their bones, rotted their teeth, and left them weak and prone to disease. In contrast, the poorest Mongol soldier ate mostly protein, thereby giving him strong teeth and bones. Unlike the Jurched soldiers, who were dependent on a heavy carbohydrate diet, the Mongols could more easily go a day or two without food.

A steady diet of meat and dairy products which made the Mongols healthier and stronger? There is a fraction of Bitcoiners who follow the "carnivore diet". I guess they'd love the Mongols :-).Eine Ernährung mit Fleisch und Milchprodukten, die die Mongolen gesünder und stärker machte? Es gibt eine Fraktion von Bitcoinern, die der "Fleischfresser-Diät" folgen. Ich schätze, sie würden die Mongolen lieben :-).¿Una dieta constante de carne y productos lácteos que hizo a los mongoles más sanos y fuertes? Hay una fracción de Bitcoiners que siguen la "dieta carnívora". Supongo que les encantarían los mongoles :-).

The Mongols did not find honor in fighting; they found honor in winning. They had a single goal in every campaign—total victory. Toward this end, it did not matter what tactics were used against the enemy or how the battles were fought or avoided being fought. Winning by clever deception or cruel trickery was still winning and carried no stain on the bravery of the warriors, since there would be plenty of other occasions for showing prowess on the field. For the Mongol warrior, there was no such thing as individual honor in battle if the battle was lost. As Genghis Khan reportedly said, there is no good in anything until it is finished.
For the Mongols, the lifestyle of the peasant seemed incomprehensible. The Jurched territory was filled with so many people and yet so few animals; this was a stark contrast to Mongolia, where there were normally five to ten animals for each human. To the Mongols, the farmers’ fields were just grasslands, as were the gardens, and the peasants were like grazing animals rather than real humans who ate meat. The Mongols referred to these grass-eating people with the same terminology that they used for cows and goats. The masses of peasants were just so many herds, and when the soldiers went out to round up their people or to drive them away, they did so with the same terminology, precision, and emotion used in rounding up yaks.

No honor in fighting? No matter the tactics, only total victory counts? Reminds me of a current warring country.Keine Ehre im Kampf? Egal welche Taktik, nur der totale Sieg zählt? Erinnert mich an ein Land, das derzeit Krieg führt.¿No hay honor en la lucha? ¿No importa la táctica, sólo cuenta la victoria total? Me recuerda a un país en guerra actualmente.

By riding against Khwarizm, Genghis Khan attacked a newly formed kingdom only 12 years older than his own Mongol nation, but he attacked not just an empire, but an entire ancient civilization. The Muslim lands of the 13th century, combining Arabic, Turkic, and Persian civilizations, were the richest countries in the world and the most sophisticated in virtually every branch of learning from astronomy and mathematics to agronomy and linguistics, and possessed the world’s highest levels of literacy among the general population. Compared with Europe and India, where only priests could read, or China, where only government bureaucrats could, nearly every village in the Muslim world had at least some men who could read the Koran and interpret Muslim law. While Europe, China, and India had only attained the level of regional civilizations, the Muslims came closest to having a world-class civilization with more sophisticated commerce, technology, and general learning, but because they ranked so high above the rest of the world, they had the farthest to fall. The Mongol invasion caused more damage here than anywhere else their horses would tread.

In Genghis Khan’s conquest of central Asia, one group suffered the worst fate of those captured. The Mongol captors slaughtered the rich and powerful. Under the chivalrous rules of warfare as practiced in Europe and the Middle East during the Crusades, enemy aristocrats displayed superficial, and often pompous, respect for one another while freely slaughtering common soldiers. Rather than kill their aristocratic enemy on the battlefield, they preferred to capture him as a hostage whom they could ransom back to his family or country. The Mongols did not share this code. To the contrary, they sought to kill all the aristocrats as quickly as possible in order to prevent future wars against them, and Genghis never accepted enemy aristocrats into his army and rarely into his service in any capacity. […] In his keen awareness of public attitudes and opinions, he also recognized that the common people cared little about what befell the idle rich.
By killing the aristocrats, the Mongols essentially decapitated the social system of their enemies and minimized future resistance. Some of the cities never recovered enough to rebuild after the loss of aristocrats on the battlefield or from the annihilation of their families. Genghis wanted officeholders who were loyal and indebted to the Mongols alone for their positions of power and prestige, and for this reason he recognized no titles other than those granted by him. Even an allied prince or king who wished to retain an older title had to have it reconferred on him by the Mongol authorities.

  • Interesting strategy...

One man, however, had a different proposal. Subodei, fresh from his victory over the Jurched, had been the greatest general in Genghis Khan’s army, and with his shrewd knowledge of siege warfare and the use of large attack machines, he had played a major role in every important campaign the Mongols had fought. He was now 60 years old, probably blind in one eye, and according to some reports so fat that he could no longer ride a horse and had to be hauled around in an iron chariot. Despite these physical limitations, his mind was sharp and vigorous, and he was eager to return to war. Rather than returning to fight against the Muslim or Chinese armies over which he had many victories, Subodei favored a break with the policies of Genghis by organizing a massive campaign to the west, toward Europe, a previously unknown civilization that he had recently discovered quite by accident. He insisted that like China, India, and the Muslim countries, Europe also held the promise of great wealth. Subodei had tested the European armies, and he knew how they fought and how easily they could be defeated.

Preparation for the campaign toward Europe required 2 years. Messengers went out in all directions to deliver the decision and distribute assignments. The system of post stations established by Genghis Khan was renewed and expanded by decision at the khuriltai of 1235; with a war on such a vast front, swift and reliable communication became more important than ever. Before the actual invasion, the Mongols sent in small squads to probe enemy defenses and to locate appropriate pasturelands and water sources for the Mongol animals. They identified valleys and plains that would best feed sheep or goats and those that would support cattle and horses. Where the natural grassland seemed inadequate, the Mongols opened up farmland for pasture by sending in small detachments of soldiers to burn villages and farm settlements in their future path. Without farmers to plow and plant the land, it reverted to grassland before the main Mongol army arrived.
The 5-year European campaign marked the zenith of Mongol military ability, and almost everything went according to plan on the battlefield. The army for the invasion of Europe consisted of some 50’000 Mongols and another 100’000 allies. Subodei embodied the accumulated knowledge of the old steppe hunter and warrior who had followed Genghis closely and knew how he thought and fought. In addition, Mongke and Batu, the two smartest and most capable grandsons of Genghis, helped to command the European war effort. By the start of the campaign, the Mongol army had absorbed the best of Chinese and Muslim technology and military knowledge, making it an incredible fighting force that probably surpassed the army commanded by Genghis himself.

Subodei set the conquest of the Volga River, occupied by the Bulgars, as his initial objective. In 1236 the main army set out. They moved with a party of about 200 scouts in front and with a rear guard of another 200 warriors. Once they reached the Volga, the real invasion began. At this point, the Mongols enacted their unusual but, for them, tried-and-true strategy of dividing their army and invading on at least two fronts at once. In this way, the enemy could not tell which city or prince would be the main target. If any prince took his army from his home city to help another prince, then the other Mongol army could attack the undefended one. With such uncertainty and danger to his home base, every prince kept his army at home to guard his own territory, and none came to the aid of the others. Subodei led his forces north up the Volga toward the homeland of the Bulgars, while Mongke, the eldest son of the deceased Tolui, led another force south toward the Kipchak Turks. Some of the Kipchak fled from him, but others agreed to join the Mongols in attacking the Russian cities. After the quick routing of the Volga Bulgars, the Mongols used their territory for the base camp and a reserve of millions of animals pastured on the steppes for hundreds of miles to the east. Some of the nomadic tribes already living in the eastern European plains joined with the Mongols, while others fled from them and spread fear and panic ahead of the invaders. From the Volga, they began a 3-year campaign across what would later become Russia and Ukraine. In their probes, they found the city-states and principalities still as divided and antagonistic toward one another as they had been when the Mongols invaded nearly two decades earlier.

The civilians sought refuge in their church, where many of them died in the conflagration ignited by the Mongol attack. The victors rounded up the ruling aristocrats and executed them all. As a contemporary Russian chronicler wrote of the carnage, after the Mongol army passed “no eye remained open to cry for the dead.” The Mongols culled the captives to be kept for labor and forced large numbers of people to flee on to the next city. Not only did the refugees carry gory details of the attack to terrify the residents of the next city, but the increasing number of refugees would, once again, strain the capacity of that city before the Mongols arrived to attack it as well.

This is also a tactic we can witness today in Ukraine.Diese Taktik können wir auch heute in der Ukraine beobachten.Esta es también una táctica de la que podemos ser testigos hoy en Ucrania.

At the same time in 1240, the Mongols had finished capturing most of the regional cities of Russia and were preparing to capture the largest and most important political and religious center in the Slavic world—Kiev. Taking advantage of early ice to cross the rivers in November 1240 Mongol envoys arrived at the gates of Kiev. […] When the Mongol forces took the city on December 6, 1240, they looted and burned it to the ground. [...] With the fall of Kiev, the Mongol conquest of the European east was complete. The Mongols evicted more refugees to flee toward the west and begin terrorizing central Europe with their tales before the Mongols arrived. The refugees barely had time to get away before Subodei sent out new scouting squads in February 1241, while the rivers were still frozen and the riders could more easily and quickly reach the plains of Hungary. On the battlefields of Europe, future control of the Mongol Empire and the world was being fought over—not in the battles themselves, which proved relatively easy for the Mongols to win, but in the political skirmishing behind the scene among the grandsons of Genghis Khan. The compromised selection of Ogodei as the Great Khan after the death of his father had not settled the issue of succession; it had merely postponed it for a generation, and that generation was now in command of the Mongol armies across Europe and already vying for leadership.

The Mongols had destroyed the knighthood of the country and chased King Bela IV south to the Adriatic. Several texts survived to describe the tremendous psychological and emotional impact of the Mongol invasion, including the Carmen Miserabile super Destructione Regni Hungariae per Tartaros, or Sad Song of the Destruction of Hungary by the Tartars, by Roger of Torre Maggiore. European knighthood never recovered from the blow of losing nearly 100’000 soldiers in Hungary and Poland, what the Europeans mourned as “the flower” of their knighthood and aristocracy. Walled cities and heavily armored knights were finished, and in the smoke and gunpowder of that Easter season of 1241, the Mongol triumph portended the coming total destruction of European feudalism and the Middle Ages.

Despite their probes across the Danube, the full-scale Mongol invasion of western Europe failed to materialize. On December 11, 1241, Ogodei, reportedly in a drunken stupor, died. News of the death reached the Mongol forces in Europe, 4‘000 miles from Karakorum, within 4 to 6 weeks. Chaghatai died at about the same time, and thus in the mere 14 years since the death of Genghis Khan, all 4 of his sons had died, and now the princes, Genghis’ grandsons, raced home to continue their battles against each other in the quest to become the next Great Khan. The struggle among the lineages would last another 10 years—and for at least this decade, the rest of the world would be safe from Mongol invasion. Over the early months of 1242, the Mongols withdrew from western Europe back to their stronghold in Russia. […]
Disappointed with the material reward of their invasion and eager to show some profit, the Mongol officers struck a deal with the Italian merchants stationed in the Crimea. In exchange for large amounts of trade goods, the Mongols allowed the Italians to take many of their European prisoners, especially the young ones, to sell as slaves around the Mediterranean. This began a long and lucrative relationship between the Mongols and the merchants of Venice and Genoa, who set up trading posts in the Black Sea to tap this new market. The Italians supplied the Mongols with manufactured goods in return for the right to sell the Slavs in the Mediterranean markets. This decision to sell the young people would create a major future problem for the Mongols, because the Italians sold most of their slaves to the sultan of Egypt, who used them in his slave army. In another 20 years, the Mongols were destined to meet this army composed mostly of Slavs and Kipchaks who had plenty of experience fighting the Mongols, and in many cases had even learned the Mongol language before being transported away. That future meeting along the Sea of Galilee in modern Israel would prove to have a far different outcome than the first meeting on the plains of Russia.

  • More information here:

While Ogodei reigned as Great Khan, for long periods of time he was too drunk to lead the empire, and he gradually conveyed administrative power to Toregene, the most capable, although not the senior, wife. At his death in 1241, she became the official regent. For the next 10 years, until 1251, she and a small group of other women controlled the largest empire in world history. None of the women had been born a Mongol but had instead been married into the family from a conquered steppe tribe, and most of the women were Christians. Neither their gender nor religion hindered their rise to power nor the struggle against one another as each vied to place the whole of the empire in the hands of her own son.

  • Not sure if true.

The first direct diplomatic contact between Europe and the Far East had degenerated into an exchange of comparative theology mixed with religious insults. Despite the extensive spiritual beliefs that the Mongols and Europeans shared in common, the opening relationship had been so negative and misguided that in future years, the entire base of shared religion would eventually erode. The Mongols continued for another generation to foster closer relations with Christian Europe, but in the end, they would have to abandon all such hope, and with it they would, in time, abandon Christianity entirely in favor of Buddhism and Islam.

They beat her and then flogged her with some kind of heated metal rods. Such a public torture may have been appropriate for the treatment of a witch in European society or for a heretic at the hands of the Christian Church, but it violated totally the practices of Genghis Khan, who slew his enemies and ruled with harsh strictness but steadfastly without torture or the infliction of unnecessary pain. It seemed particularly contrary to Mongol tradition since it was directed against a woman; no precedent was known in Mongol history for any comparable spectacle.

  • Really? I have my doubts.

The torture of Fatima was perhaps technically legal under the existing code because she was not a Mongol nor married to one, but was instead a war captive of uncertain but unprotected status. When at last the tortured woman confessed to a list of evils, including bewitching Toregene Khatun and other members of the Golden Family, Guyuk imposed on her a punishment of unique cruelty and symbolism. He ordered that all the orifices of her upper and lower body be sewn shut, thereby not permitting any of the essences of her soul to escape from her body, and that she be rolled up inside a felt blanket and drowned in the river. And thus ended the life of Fatima, his mother’s adviser, and one of the most powerful women of the 13th century.


In a commercial world not yet accustomed to dealing with paper currency, Mongke grasped the importance of sustaining faith and purity in the monetary system. Genghis Khan had authorized the use of paper money backed by precious metals and silk shortly before his death in 1227. The practice grew erratically in the coming years, but by the time of Mongke Khan’s reign, it became necessary to limit the paper money supply in ways that it was not necessary to do with gold and silver coins. Mongke recognized the dangers incurred by earlier administrations that issued paper money and debt on an ad hoc basis, and in 1253 he created a Department of Monetary Affairs to control and standardize the issuance of paper money. The superintendent of the agency centralized control to prevent the overissue of paper money and the erosion of its value through inflation.
The Mongols allowed each nation under its control to continue minting coins in the denominations and weight they had traditionally used, but they established a universal measure based on the sukhe, a silver ingot divided into 500 parts, to which each of the local currencies was tied. This standardization of varied currencies relative to the sukhe eased problems in accounting and currency exchange for both merchants and government administrators. Thus, standardization of currency allowed Mongke Khan to monetize taxes, rather then accepting payment in local goods. In turn, the monetization allowed for standardized budgeting procedures for his imperial administration, since instead of accepting taxes in goods, the Mongols increasingly accepted them in money. Rather than relying on government officials to collect and reallocate tribute of grain, arrows, silk, fur, oil, and other commodities, the government increasingly moved money rather than goods. For the first time, a standardized unit of account could be used from China to Persia. So long as the Mongols maintained control of money, they could let merchants assume responsibility for the movement of goods without any loss of government power.

On February 5, 1258, the Mongol forces broke through the walls of Baghdad, and after 5 days, the Caliph capitulated. To prepare the city for looting, Hulegu ordered the people of Baghdad to surrender their weapons, leave all their goods, and march out of the city. Rather than comply with the order, the defending army bolted and tried to escape, but the Mongols gave chase and cut them down. […] No other non-Muslim troops would conquer Baghdad or Iraq again until the arrival of the American and British forces in 2003. […]
Although it seemed at the time that the Mongol Empire threatened to swallow all of the Muslim world, the Mongols had, in fact, reached their limit in the West. The empire would not expand any further in that direction. An army of Mamluk slaves, mostly purchased from Italian merchants who brought them from the Kipchak and Slavic people of Russia and sold them to the sultan of Egypt, moved out from Egypt and encountered a Mongol detachment at Ayn al- Jalut, the Springs of Goliath, near the Sea of Galilee in what is today Israel. On the morning of September 3, 1260, a year after Mongke Khan’s death, the Mamluks defeated the Mongols. The empire had reached its western border.

After quickly subduing the outlying kingdoms, Mongke began to move against the Sung dynasty itself during the second year of the campaign, but the weather became extremely hot. The climate differed greatly from anything Mongke, and most of his warriors, had experienced in Mongolia or on their European campaigns. Many of the Mongols suffered from bloody diarrhea, probably dysentery, and then other plagues. Mongke Khan became ill but improved—and then, on August 11, 1259, he suddenly died. Every chronicle lists a different cause of death. The Chinese reported that he died of cholera, the Persians that he died of dysentery, and others claimed he died from a battle arrow. The death of Mongke Khan congealed the empire; advancement ceased. […] The Mongol Empire reached its greatest extent under Mongke Khan, who was the last of Genghis’ descendants to be acknowledged and accepted as Great Khan by the whole of the Mongol Empire. Many khans would continue to rule over the various parts of the empire, and of them, many would claim to be the rightful heirs to Genghis and to the title of Great Khan. But no one of them would be recognized by all the other factions and lineages.

From 1250 to 1270, Mongolia suffered a lowering of temperatures. In a fragile ecological zone such as Mongolia, a change of only a few degrees in annual temperature severely reduces the small amount of precipitation, restricts the growth of the grass, and thereby weakens or kills the animals. Without strong horses or ample food, the supporters of Arik Boke, already cut off from the agricultural largesse of Khubilai Khan’s territory, proved too weak to mount a sustained war. The winter of 1263 proved particularly cruel, and by the following spring, Arik Boke no longer had a viable power base. Unable to feed his followers, Arik Boke proceeded to Shangdu, where he surrendered to Khubilai in 1264. [...] the Mongol Empire now divided into 4 primary zones of political administration. Khubilai ruled China, Tibet, Manchuria, Korea, and eastern Mongolia, but he faced constant problems in enforcing his rule over Mongolia and Manchuria. The Golden Horde ruled the Slavic countries of eastern Europe, and they consistently refused to recognize Khubilai as the Great Khan. The lands ruled by Hulegu and his descendants from Afghanistan to Turkey became known as the Ilkhanate, meaning “vassal empire.” It was here that Persian culture reemerged from centuries of Arab domination to build the foundation for modern Iran. The most traditional Mongols occupied the central steppes, which became known as Moghulistan and encompassed the modern areas from Kazakhstan and Siberia in the north and across Turkistan in central Asia to Afghanistan in the south. For a while, they had some unity under Ogodei’s and Toregene’s grandson Khaidu, who ruled from Bukhara and served as a counterpoint to the power of Khubilai Khan, but the area fragmented repeatedly in the centuries ahead.

Khubilai Khan’s genius derived from his recognition that he could not conquer all of China by mere force, no matter how large his army or sophisticated his weapons. Even without the military skills of his grandfather, he had clearly outsmarted everyone in his family. He possessed a keen strategic talent and the ability not merely to have good ideas but to implement them as well; he applied these skills to the management of his territory and, most important, to its expansion toward the south. In the end, he proved able to achieve through public politics what his grandfather had not been able to achieve through brute force—the conquest and unification of all China, the most populous country on earth. He won over the population by skillful manipulation of public opinion, in which martial prowess was an important, but not exclusive, factor. He built a Chinese capital, took Chinese names, created a Chinese dynasty, and set up a Chinese administration. He won control of China by appearing to be more Chinese than the Chinese, or at least more Chinese than the Sung.

To further facilitate the speed and safety of commerce through the empire, Khubilai radically expanded the use of paper money. By the time Marco Polo arrived, the system was in full operation. He describes the money as made from mulberry bark in a form that we recognize as paper but which was still largely unknown in Europe. The paper money was cut into rectangles of varying size, marked with its value and stamped with a vermilion seal. The primary advantage of paper money was that it was much easier to handle and ship than the bulky coins then in use. Marco Polo wrote that the money was accepted throughout the empire: “To refuse it would be to incur the death penalty,” but most people “are perfectly willing to be paid in paper money since with it they can buy anything including pearls, precious stones, gold, or silver.” Mongol authorities in Persia tried but failed to institute the Mongol system of paper money because the concept was alien to the local merchants, and their discontent bordered on revolt at a time when the Mongols could not be certain they had the forces to win. Rather than risk a humiliating loss, the authorities withdrew the paper money. Where there is paper money, there are increased opportunities for credit and financial disaster. In an important innovation designed to bring consistency to the markets, particularly involving the extension of credit, Mongol law provided for declarations of bankruptcy, but no merchant or customer could declare bankruptcy more than twice as a way to avoid paying debts. On the third time, he faced the possible punishment of execution.

Paper money leading to excessive credit and financial disaster? That's not the last time to happen.Papiergeld führt zu exzessiven Krediten und einer finanziellen Katastrophe? Das ist nicht das letzte Mal, dass das passiert.¿Papel moneda que conduce al crédito excesivo y al desastre financiero? No es la última vez que ocurre.

Khubilai Khan created public schools to provide universal education to all children, including those of peasants. Until this point, only the rich had the time and income to educate their children and thereby maintain power over the illiterate peasantry for generation after generation. The Mongols recognized that in the winter, peasant children had time to learn, and rather than teaching them in classical Chinese, the teachers used the colloquial language for more practical lessons. [...]
Khubilai did not pursue a short-term strategy of winning transitory popular support; rather, he consistently and systematically pursued a nearly two-decades long policy of winning the allegiance of a continental civilization. The Mongols portrayed themselves as the strong leaders favored by heaven to unite the Chinese, in contrast to the effete and detached Sung leaders who wallowed in decadent luxury and valued ostentatious displays of wealth more than martial power. As different as the Mongols were in many respects, the Chinese masses found more common ground with them in their taste and sensibilities than with their own Chinese court officials. Year by year, soldiers, officials, and peasants deserted the Sung to live under the Mongols or helped the Mongols to take over their local area. More merchants took their trade to the Mongols, more priests and scholars found protection and greater freedom of movement under the Mongols, and eventually Chinese generals and whole regiments of soldiers and sailors deserted to the Mongol lines. The collapse of the Sung dynasty was not a sudden fall or conquest, but a slow erosion as it fell apart.

For the time being, however, Khubilai’s defeats in Japan and Java had drawn the eastern limit of the Mongol Empire which would never extend across the water, not even to closer islands such as Taiwan or the Philippines. Similarly, the defeat by the Egyptian Mamluks in 1260, at the start of Khubilai’s rule, had marked the southwestern border, just as precisely as the voluntary abandonment of Poland and Hungary had marked the northwestern point 20 years earlier. Thus, between 1242 and 1293, the Mongol expansion reached its maximum, and 4 battles marked the outer borders of the Mongol world—Poland, Egypt, Java, and Japan. The area inside those 4 points had suffered devastating conquests and radical adjustments to a markedly different kind of rule, but they were about to enjoy an unprecedented century of political peace with a commercial, technological, and intellectual explosion unlike any in prior history.

As early as 1247, during the reign of Guyuk Khan, Matthew Paris reported ambassadors from the Mongols arriving at the French court. […] Instead of sending mounted warriors and fearsome siege engines, the Mongols now dispatched humble priests, scholars, and ambassadors. The time of Mongol conquests had ended, but the era of the Mongol Peace was only beginning. In recognition of the phenomenal changes of expanding peace and prosperity on the international scene, Western scholars later designated the 14th century as the Pax Mongolica or Pax Tatarica. The Mongol Khans now sought to bring about through peaceful commerce and diplomacy the commercial and diplomatic connections that they had not been able to create through force of arms. The Mongols continued, by a different means, to pursue their compulsive goal of uniting all people under the Eternal Blue Sky.

During military campaigns, Mongol officials exerted a conscientious effort to locate and appropriate maps, atlases, and other geographic works found in enemy camps or cities. Under Khubilai’s rule, scholars synthesized Chinese, Arab, and Greek knowledge of geography to produce the most sophisticated cartography known. Under the influence of the Arab geographers brought in by Khubilai Khan, particularly Jamal al-Din, craftsmen constructed terrestrial globes for Khubilai in 1267, which depicted Europe and Africa as well as Asia and the adjacent Pacific islands.

Most empires of conquest in history have imposed their own civilization on the conquered. […] By comparison the Mongols trod lightly on the world they conquered. They brought no distinctive architectural style with them. Nor did they seek to impose their language and religion on the conquered since in most cases they forbade non-Mongols to learn their language. The Mongols did not force cultivation of an alien crop nor impose radical change on their subjects’ collective way of life. […]
Whether in their policy of religious tolerance, devising a universal alphabet, maintaining relay stations, playing games, or printing almanacs, money, or astronomy charts, the rulers of the Mongol Empire displayed a persistent universalism. Because they had no system of their own to impose upon their subjects, they were willing to adopt and combine systems from everywhere. Without deep cultural preferences in these areas, the Mongols implemented pragmatic rather than ideological solutions. They searched for what worked best; and when they found it, they spread it to other countries. They did not have to worry whether their astronomy agreed with the precepts of the Bible, that their standards of writing followed the classical principles taught by the mandarins of China, or that Muslim imams disapproved of their printing and painting. The Mongols had the power, at least temporarily, to impose new international systems of technology, agriculture, and knowledge that superseded the predilections or prejudices of any single civilization; and in so doing, they broke the monopoly on thought exercised by local elites. This new global culture continued to grow long after the demise of the Mongol Empire, and through continued development over the coming centuries, it became the foundation for the modern world system with the original Mongol emphases on free commerce, open communication, shared knowledge, secular politics, religious coexistence, international law, and diplomatic immunity.

Under the widespread influences from the paper and printing, gunpowder and firearms, and the spread of the navigational compass and other maritime equipment, Europeans experienced a Renaissance, literally a rebirth, but it was not the ancient world of Greece and Rome being reborn: It was the Mongol Empire, picked up, transferred, and adapted by the Europeans to their own needs and culture.

In 1331, chroniclers recorded that 90% of the people of Hopei Province died. By 1351, China had reportedly lost between one-half and two-thirds of its population to the plague. The country had included some 123 million inhabitants at the beginning of the 13th century, but by the end of the 14th century the population dropped to as low as 65 million. […] Whether it erupted in a particular community or not, the epidemic permanently changed life in every region of the continent. The plague effectively destroyed the social order that had dominated Europe since the fall of Rome, leaving the continent in dangerous disorder. The disease brought down urban dwellers more readily and thereby destroyed the educated class and the skilled craftsmen. Inside and outside the cities, the closed and polluted environments of monasteries and convents provided an ideal opportunity for the disease to kill everyone, a tragedy from which European monasticism in particular, and the Roman Catholic church in general, never recovered. Dense villages faced a similar danger, as did the residents cooped up inside castles and manorial estates.

While the Mongol rulers of China concentrated on expressing their spirituality and sexuality, the society out beyond the walls of their Forbidden City in the capital collapsed. In perhaps the most telling symptom, Mongol authorities lost control of the monetary system they had so laboriously and meticulously created. The principles by which the economy utilized paper currency had proven more complex and unpredictable than realized by the officials, and the system gradually spiraled out of control. At the least sign of weakness in the Mongol administration, confidence in the paper currency dropped and caused it to fall in value while pushing up the value of copper and silver. Inflation grew so fiercely that by 1356 the paper currency had effectively become worthless.

as so often: monetary debasement and civilizational collapses going hand in hand...wie so oft: Geldentwertung und zivilisatorische Zusammenbrüche gehen Hand in Hand...como tantas veces: el envilecimiento monetario y el colapso de las civilizaciones van de la mano...

In Persia and China, the collapse came quickly—in 1335 and 1368, respectively. The Mongols of the Persian Ilkhanate disappeared, either killed or absorbed into the much larger population of their former subjects. In China, the Great Khan Togoon Tumur and some 60’000 Mongols managed to escape the Ming rebels, but they left behind approximately 400’000 who were captured and killed or absorbed by the Chinese. Those that managed to return to Mongolia resumed their nomadic way of pastoralism, almost as if the entire Chinese episode from 1211 until 1368 had been merely an extended stay at their southern summer camp. The Golden Horde of Russia broke into smaller hordes that declined steadily in power through four long centuries. During such an extended interaction, the Mongols and their Turkic allies amalgamated with each other into several different ethnic groups of Turco-Mongols that maintained a separate identity from one another as well as from the larger Slavic society.

With the ongoing collapse of Russia, we will often hear of the Turco ethnic groups within today‘s borders of Russia.Mit dem fortschreitenden Zerfall Russlands werden wir oft von den turkstämmigen Volksgruppen innerhalb der heutigen Grenzen Russlands hören.Con el actual colapso de Rusia, a menudo oiremos hablar de las etnias turcas dentro de las actuales fronteras rusas.

Following their purge of Mongol influence in public life, the Ming rulers went to great effort searching for the official seal of the Mongols, and they preserved the use of the Mongol language in diplomacy as a way of maintaining continuity with the past. As late as the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Chinese court sent its letters in the Mongol language. In turn, the Manchu, who overthrew the Ming in 1644, strategically intermarried with the descendants of Genghis Khan so that they could claim legitimacy as his heirs in blood as well as in spirit. At the heart of central Asia, the descendants of Genghis continued in power in the area known as Moghulistan, the Persian name for the Mongol territory. By the end of the 14th century, the Mongol holdings in central Asia had fallen under the control of Timur, also known as Timur the Lame or Tamerlane, a Turkic warrior who claimed, with flimsy evidence, descent from Genghis Khan. He sought to revive the Mongol Empire, and he conquered much of its former territory from India to the Mediterranean.

With so many empires striving to maintain the illusion of the Mongol Empire in everything from politics to art, public opinion seemed obstinately unwilling to believe that it no longer existed. Nowhere was the belief in the empire longer lasting or more important than in Europe, where, in 1492, more than a century after the last khan ruled over China, Christopher Columbus convinced the monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand that he could reestablish sea contact and revive the lost commerce with the Mongol court of the Great Khan. With the breakup of the Mongol communication system, the Europeans had not heard about the fall of the empire and the overthrow of the Great Khan. Columbus, therefore, insisted that although the Muslims barred the land route from Europe to the Mongol court, he could sail west from Europe across the World Ocean and arrive in the land described by Marco Polo.

In a large-scale adaptation of the tactics Subodei used to defeat the Russians at the Kalka River in 1223, the Soviets lured the Germans ever deeper into Russia until they were hopelessly spread out over a large area, and then the Russians began to counterattack and pick them off one by one. [...] Throughout most of the 20th century, Russia and China maintained an accord dividing the homeland of Genghis Khan between them, with China occupying Inner Mongolia, the part south of the Gobi, and the Soviet Union occupying the other half, Outer Mongolia, north of the Gobi. The Soviets turned Mongolia into a buffer zone that they kept largely empty between themselves and the Chinese. Just as the British executed the sons and grandson of the last Moghul emperor of India in the 19th century, the Soviets purged the known descendants of Genghis remaining in Mongolia in the 20th century, marching whole families into the woods to be shot and buried in unmarked pits, exiling them into the gulag of Soviet camps across Siberia where they were worked to death, or simply causing their mysterious disappearance into the night of history.

Genghis Khan’s was the last great tribal empire of world history. He was the heir of 10’000 years of war between the nomadic tribes and the civilized world, the ancient struggle of the hunter and herder against the farmer. It was a history as old as the story of the Bedouin tribes that followed Muhammad to smash the pagan idolatry of the city, of the Roman campaigns against the Huns, of the Greeks against the wandering Scythians, of the city dwellers of Egypt and Persia who preyed on the wandering tribes of Hebrew herders, and, ultimately, of Cain, the tiller, who slew his brother Abel, the herder. The clash between the nomadic and urban cultures did not end with Genghis, but it would never again reach the level to which he brought it.
Civilization pushed the tribal people toward the ever more distant edges of the world. Chiefs such as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse of the Lakota Sioux, Red Eagle of the Muskogee, Tecumseh of the Shawnee, and Shaka Zulu of South Africa valiantly but vainly continued the quest of Genghis Khan over the coming centuries. Without knowing anything about the Mongols or Genghis, these other chiefs faced the same struggles and fought the same battles across Africa and throughout the Americas, but history had moved beyond them. In the end, sedentary civilization won the long world war; the future belonged to the civilized children of Cain, who eternally encroached upon the open lands of the tribes.

I enjoyed reading this book. Though Weatherford seems to glamourize and trivialize the Mongols' raids, his description of the motives and the lifestyle of the Mongols are very vivid. As the Mongols shaped a huge region within Eurasia, Russia as well as China have been hugely influenced by Genghis Khan and his descendants - e.g. by having a similar archaic worldview of overlords and vassals, and of the need to conquer their neighbours in order to survive.Ein spannendes Buch! Obwohl Weatherford die Raubzüge der Mongolen zu verherrlichen und zu verharmlosen scheint, sind seine Beschreibungen der Motive und des Lebensstils der Mongolen sehr anschaulich. Da die Mongolen eine riesige Region innerhalb Eurasiens prägten, wurden sowohl Russland als auch China von Dschingis Khan und seinen Nachfahren stark beeinflusst - z.B. hinsichtlich einem ähnlichen archaischen Weltbild von Oberherren und Vasallen und die Notwendigkeit, ihre Nachbarn zu erobern, um zu überleben.He disfrutado leyendo este libro. Aunque Weatherford parece dar glamour y trivializar las incursiones de los mongoles, su descripción de los motivos y el estilo de vida de los mongoles es muy vívida. Dado que los mongoles dieron forma a una enorme región de Eurasia, tanto Rusia como China se han visto enormemente influidas por Gengis Kan y sus descendientes, por ejemplo, por tener una visión arcaica similar del mundo de señores y vasallos, y de la necesidad de conquistar a sus vecinos para sobrevivir.

source source

Have a great day,


I read these excerpts with interest. A few years ago I decided to write a book about Chinese art. It really wasn't as much about art as it was about building cultural bridges. At the time China and the Chinese were being demonized. It reminded me of the time of the Boxer Revolt when anything 'oriental' in the U. S. had a sinister connotation.

I chose the Yuan Dynasty (Mongol Rule) for the setting and chose for focus artists, The Four Masters of Yuan (they became known as ) who rebelled against Mongol rule through their art. I thought that rebellion would appeal to U. S. residents.

It was fun to write. I remember a few things from my researach that relate to your excerpts. One is the advisor Yelü Chucai, of Chinese (not Han Chinese) background who was recruited by Ogedei. Ogedei had it in mind to kill everyone in Northern China and just plow the whole thing down so there would ample grass for his herds to graze. Yelü Chucai (according to sources, who knows if true) suggested that there might be more money in keeping the people and making them work and pay taxes than there would be grasslands. So, Ogodei decided to let the people live (!!). Those Mongols did like their horses😄.

I never sold a copy of the book, but did get an official from Malaysia (descendant of a featured artist), to read it, make comments and pass on its legitimacy.

Anyway, couldn't resist adding this comment. Obviously, this is a topic in which I have a lot of interest.

Sounds like a great book. If I could get it free, I would read it.

That sounds interesting. Yes, the Mongols sometimes destroyed villages to have grass for their herds.

If you want the book for free, here is one possibility:

Dear @zuerich !

I am amazed that Europeans like you are interested in the nomadic empires of Genghis Khan and his successors!

East Asians like me generally tend to remember Genghis Khan and his successors as savage destroyers and slayers!

I believe Genghis Khan and his successors gave Europeans the illusion of an Eastern Kingdom of Priest John by destroying Islamic civilization!

In particular, the Chinese people have very great hostility and contempt for Genghis Khan!

I am always grateful that you upvote the articles I write about East Asian history!

I hope your happy and healthy!

Thank you for your comment, @goldgrifin007!
I also think of Genghis more as a destroyer. The transfer of technologies (mostly from east to west) is rather a positive side effect.

I hope you're happy and healthy, too.

This is a really beautiful analysis of the book. I haven't exactly read the book but i am fascinated about it. I guess i will find it and make out time to read.

Though from your excerpts, i understand that Genghis Khan presents a captivating exploration of the enduring influence of the Mongol Empire on contemporary global dynamics.

I think it pretty much elucidates how Khan's innovative military strategies, expansive trade networks, and cultural exchanges laid the groundwork for many facets of the modern world, from communication and commerce to diplomacy and globalization.

That is an impressive contribution that no doubt gave way to a lot of opportunities that i believe are still in play till date. One could almost liken the book or some aspects of it to "The Art of War" by Tzu.

Very much interesting.
Thank you for this.

Someone wise said "he who does not know his story is doomed to repeat it"


Very interesting. Rehived.

Thanks a lot. Yes, a great book.

The VR version is better. !LOL

“Hello, Lisa, I'm Genghis Khan. You'll go where I go. Defile what I defile. Eat who I eat, hmm?”

The word queue is ironic.
It's just q with a bunch of silent letters waiting in line.

Credit: reddit
@zuerich, I sent you an $LOLZ on behalf of memehive