Investigative Question

How did the Mongol Empire destroy states and increase the interconnection of Afroeurasia?

The attacks and domination of the Mongol Empire had a huge negative effect on states, empires, and many people of Eurasia, but it also greatly extended trade, travel, and exchange between Afroeurasian societies. The teacher introduces the question How did the Mongol Empire destroy states and increase the interconnection of Afroeurasia? In the late twelfth century, nomadic warriors from the steppe and deserts north of China, the Mongol tribes (and other Central Asian nomadic tribes), were united by a charismatic leader, Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, who led them to conquests across Eurasia. At its height, the Mongol Empire was the largest land empire in world history. Even though their numbers were small, Mongols were fierce and highly mobile fighters who terrified the people they conquered. Students examine maps of the Mongol Empire and conquests and compare these with the Sites of Encounter in the Medieval World interactive map, which has physical, religious, political, and other maps of Afroeurasia. After Chinggis Khans death, the Mongol Empire split up into four khanates. Chinggis grandson, Hulagu Khan, was ruler of the Il-Khanate. Since the Muslim states were divided, individually they were no match for the Mongol warriors. Hulagu conquered Persia, Syria, and part of Anatolia and destroyed the Abbasid Caliphates capital of Baghdad. Although some feared that the Mongols would destroy the Muslim world, the Egyptian Mamluk Sultanate fought the Mongol army and stopped its advance. Mongols in the Khanate of the Golden Horde overran Russia and attacked Poland and Eastern Europe. The Khanate of the Great Khan went to another grandson, Kubilai Khan, who took over China from the Song Dynasty. Kubilai established the Yuan Dynasty and kept many Chinese customs, but he replaced Confucian scholar-officials with foreign administrators. The Mongols conquered states in Southeast Asia and tried twice to invade Japan in the late thirteenth century, but they failed both times. The domination of the Mongols did not last long; by 100 years after the conquest, three of the four Mongol khanates had fallen from power.

Although the Mongols killed many people and destroyed many cities after a conquest, the Mongols tolerated all religions and protected and promoted trade across Eurasia. Under their protection, the land trade route from China to the Mediterranean re-opened and trade boomed. The Mongols also moved people around throughout their empire, using, for example, Persian and Arab administrators in China, and facilitating the journey of Marco Polo (and many other less-famous people) from Venice to China. The increase in interaction also spread Chinese technologies and ideas into the Muslim and Christian worlds. To understand both the negative and positive effects of the Mongol conquest and empire, student groups do a gallery walk with visuals of a Mongol passport, hunting scroll, gold textile, and a Persian tile with Chinese motifs, and an excerpt from Marco Polo describing the Mongol postal service. Students cite evidence from each primary source on a source analysis template to answer the question How did the Mongol Empire increase the interconnection of Afroeurasia?

This source set addresses the investigative question How did the Mongol Empire destroy states and increase the interconnection of Afroeurasia? The teacher will present primary sources about the central paradox of the Mongol Empire: violent conquest and the promotion of international trade and cultural exchange. Students analyze why the Mongols under Chinggis Khan and his successors were such a formidable military force and how the Mongols’ perspectives on government and trade led to the creation of the Pax Mongolica (the Mongol Peace) and increased interconnection across Afroeurasia. They also compare artistic representations of Mongols from China, the Mughal Empire, and Europe and assess how those representations reflect the cultures that produced them as well as influences from other cultures. The movement of people within the Mongol Empire facilitated the transfer of artistic motifs from one culture to another.

Rather than recounting Mongol conquests, this set focuses on the factors that enabled the conquest and shaped the empire. Before beginning this set, students should be exposed to the basic narrative of the conquest. The teacher can help students to understand the routes and extent of Mongol conquests by tracing them on the map of Afroeurasia. Have students locate the site where each of the sources was produced as they work through the sources.

The first factor that enabled the Mongols to conquer such a vast empire was their military ability. The Mongols were just one ethnic group among many other nomadic peoples who lived on the Eurasian steppe and Central Asia. Organized in clans, they were pastoral nomads and masters of equine warfare (Source 1.) They fought continuously between clans, between ethnic groups, and in raids on settled agricultural lands. Different nomadic groups had menaced China, the Roman Empire, Persia, and other lands for centuries. Steppe warriors had a huge advantage in warfare because they were mobile and fought more often than soldiers from settled states and empires. However, the steppe nomads were divided and so could be overwhelmed by the large number of soldiers and the organization of states. The second factor was Chinggis (also spelled as Genghis) Khan, born Temüjin (Source 2). With charisma, a brilliant military strategy, and empire-building ambition, he first united the Mongol clans, then defeated the Turkic ethnic groups (such as Uighurs) and other steppe nomads in Central Asia, and incorporated these nomadic warriors into the Mongol forces (called the “Horde” by their enemies.) To the nomads’ fighting abilities Chinggis Khan added discipline, organization, and ruthlessness to hold the army together. The force of his personality and the success of the initial campaigns were enough to hold the Mongols together under members of his family after Chinggis died. They continued his conquests, and the Mongol Empire was divided into four main khanates, with the Khanate of the Great Khan (also known as the Yuan Dynasty) as the central and most important.

The third factor that gave the Mongols such power was their use of  psychological warfare tactics, including terror and deception. They would suddenly withdraw in the middle of a battle, luring the enemy into a trap. They killed anyone who resisted them and slaughtered all inhabitants of a town in order to send a message to others. Then when they approached the next city, they would offer the enemy a choice to surrender and pay tribute or have their city destroyed. On their Russian campaigns from 1237 to 1242, the Mongols set about conquering Kievan Rus by destroying one city after another and slaying the local population, forcing all the Russian principalities to submit. The only major cities that avoided destruction were Novgorod and Pskov, which preemptively surrendered. The Mongolian troops went on to attack Poland and Hungary (Source 4). The result was the creation of the largest land empire in world history, at a terrible cost in human lives —  perhaps as many as 40 million people.

Once the conquest was complete, the Mongols had to govern the lands they had conquered. Many of those lands, such as the Abbasid Caliphate, Persia, and China, had extensive bureaucratic systems of government that were much more sophisticated than Mongol hierarchical military government. Mongols maintained most of the government systems that already existed, but they modified some crucial elements to align with their nomadic lifestyle, priorities, and experience. Because there were far fewer Mongols than subjects and the Mongols wanted to avoid betrayal, they used conquered administrators, but sent them to other lands (Source 3.) Nomadic people were used to traveling long distances and acting as traders as well as raiders, and the Mongols established peace and promoted trade and cultural exchange within their empire. The result was the reopening, protecting, and expanding of land trade routes throughout the center of Afroeurasia. For swift communication, the Mongol rulers established the relay station system called yum, described by the Venetian traveler Marco Polo, who served Kublai Khan for 17 years (Source 6.) The Mongols issued passports called paizi that guaranteed the safety of tax-paying merchants (Source 7). The Mongols were also religiously tolerant, which allowed the spread of religious ideas and dialogue among Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism throughout the empire. Cultural ideas and technologies also traveled among the Mongolian, Chinese, Persian, Central Asian, Indian, and Islamic cultures, as can be seen in the incorporation of new elements and motifs in art, creating a synthesis with the local traditions (Sources 5 and 8). The central paradox of the Mongol Empire — violent conquest and fostering of trade and interconnection — came from the same root: the lifestyle, priorities, and experience of steppe nomads, reshaped by the genius of Chingghis Khan.

Literacy Strategy for John of Plano Carpini, History of the Mongols (Source 1)

California English Language Development Standards Grade 7

Part 1, B. Interpretive

5. Listen actively to spoken English in a range of social and academic contexts.

6. Read closely literary and informational texts and view multimedia to determine how meaning is conveyed explicitly and implicitly through language.

 Part II: Learning about How English Works

A. Structuring Cohesive Texts

2. Understand cohesion.

C. Connecting and Condensing Ideas

6. Connect ideas: Combine clauses in a few basic ways to make connection between and join ideas (creating compound sentences using and, but, so; creating compound sentences using because).

Teacher Background: The passage that follows was excerpted from a longer description of the Mongols by John of Plano Carpini, a European Franciscan friar, in the 1240s. The passage is confusing because of its dense description, with long, complex sentences and frequently changing reference devices that obscure whom the author is talking about. To help students understand John of Plano Carpini’s description, and more importantly to figure out how it helps us analyze the Mongols, the text has been broken into several sections with directions to help students’ comprehension, followed by questions to support their understanding.

Directions:

1. Start by explaining the role of John of Plano Carpini, who had been sent as an emissary of the Roman Christian pope to visit and report back on the Mongols. John is reporting what he finds remarkable and what is likely different from what he is used to seeing in Europe. So everything he says must be understood through that perspective.

2. Go over the terminology that John uses to describe the group. He uses the term Tartars, although we now use Mongols.

3. To the whole class, introduce the two major language features that will help students unpack the passages.

a. The author writes in very long sentences, but he uses punctuation features to help break these up: semicolons and commas + conjunctions (, and or , but.) Explain that these punctuation features help to separate independent clauses — clauses that could stand on their own, as they have both subjects and predicates and can be understood as complete ideas. As students read the passages, emphasize that they should follow the directions and draw slashes where these punctuation features appear, in order to break up the long sentences. Then have them read each clause one at a time, with pauses in between, so that they will comprehend the complete idea in each clause. Help students identify the subject and verb in the first few clauses. This can help students in the future when they get lost by helping them break down compound sentences into parts for meaning. Alternatively, you can rewrite each clause as a separate line.

b. The author uses a lot of pronouns to reference prior subjects. In most cases the pronouns refer to the Tartars/Mongols as a group. If students do not read closely, they might not notice when the references change. Explain that students can fill in the space after the pronoun with the term to which the pronoun refers in order to detect when the pronoun references change and better understand the passage.

4. As a whole class, read the background and conduct a first read of the source together, so that students get the gist of the passage. If students have questions, record them and see if they can be answered after completing an examination in more depth.

5. Do section 1 together as a whole class: read the background, directions, the first passage, and the questions. Model how to break the sentences apart and fill in the pronoun references. Then discuss the answers to the questions.

6. Make sure students understand the directions for sections 2 and 3. Then have them complete these sections in pairs or individually, while monitoring their work and answering questions.

7. After students complete each section, direct them to use their new understanding as evidence toward answering overall questions, including the original investigative question How did the Mongol Empire destroy states and increase the interconnection of Afroeurasia?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Handout 7.8 John of Plano Carpini, History of the Mongols (Source 1)

Background: The Franciscan Friar John of Plano Carpini was sent in 1245 by Pope Innocent IV on a mission into the Eurasian steppe. The pope thought this mission could help to convert the Mongols to Latin (or Roman) Christianity. John of Plano Carpini was the first European person to visit the Mongols in their homeland. After he returned home to Europe, he wrote about what he had seen and learned about the Mongols.

Directions: Read the passage together as a class to get the gist of the description. What did John think about the Mongols, whom he called the Tartars?

[The Tartars] are extremely rich in animals, camels, oxen, sheep, goats; they have such a number of horses and mares that I do not believe there are so many in all the rest of the world; they do not have pigs or other farm animals. … The men … hunt and practice archery, for they are all, big and little, excellent archers, and their children begin as soon as they are two or three years old to ride and manage horses and to gallop on them, and they are given bows to suit their stature and are taught to shoot; … Young girls and women ride and gallop on horseback with agility like the men. We even saw them carrying bows and arrows. Both the men and the women are able to endure long stretches of riding. … They look after their horses very well, indeed they take the very greatest care of all their possessions. … When they are going to make war, they send ahead an advance guard, and these carry nothing with them but their tents, horses and arms. They seize no plunder, burn no houses and slaughter no animals; they only wound and kill men or, if they can do nothing else, put them to flight. … If they can avoid it, the Tartars do not like to fight hand to hand, but they wound and kill men and horses with their arrows; they only come to close quarters when men and horses have been weakened by arrows.

To get a deeper understanding of the passage, you will examine each section with tasks and questions.

Section 1

Background: The author uses a lot of very long sentences. However, he breaks sentences up into independent clauses by two methods: putting in semicolons (;) and putting in commas followed by conjunctions and and but. Additionally, the author uses many pronouns as references to other things. Both of these features can be very confusing. Use the directions to help you better understand the passages.

Directions

1. Draw a slash (/) over each semicolon (;) to separate independent clauses.

2. Underline the subject of each clause to identify who is doing something.

3. Fill in the blank after each pronoun with the subject that the pronoun refers to.

4. Answer the questions that follow the passage.

[The Tartars] are extremely rich in animals, camels, oxen, sheep, goats; they (____________ ) have such a number of horses and mares that I (________________) do not believe there are so many in all the rest of the world; they (__________________ ) do not have pigs or other farm animals. …

Questions

1. List the animals the Tartars/Mongols have and how each of the animals can help the Tartars.

Example: Camels – good for riding, milk, food

 

 

2. Considering the Tartars were nomads, why do you think they had the animals you listed in question 1, but not pigs or other farm animals?

 

 

3. What does John of Plano Carpini think of the Tartars’ animals? What words tell you that?

 

Section 2

Background: Again the author uses a very long sentence. Here he breaks it into independent clauses using comma + conjunction combination (, and or , but)

Directions

1. Draw a slash (/) over each comma + conjunction combination (, and or , but) to separate independent clauses.

2. Underline the subject of each clause to identify who is doing something.

3. Fill in the blank after each pronoun with the subject that the pronoun refers to.

4. Answer the questions that follow the passage.

The men … hunt and practice archery, for they (_________________) are all, big and little, excellent archers, and their ( ________________ ) children begin as soon as they (_______________) are two or three years old to ride and manage horses and to gallop on them (______________), and they (_________________) are given bows to suit their ( ________________) stature and are taught to shoot;…

Young girls and women ride and gallop on horseback with agility like the men. We (_____________) even saw them (___________________) carrying bows and arrows. Both the men and the women are able to endure long stretches of riding. … They (__________________) look after their horses very well, indeed they (____________________) take the very greatest care of all their (___________________) possessions. …

Vocabulary

stature: how tall someone is; height

Questions

1. What are the children taught to do? At what age?

 

 

2. The third clause is written in passive voice: “they are given bows to suit their stature and are taught to shoot.” Passive voice is when the actor of the sentence is not mentioned but is only implied. With the passive voice it is hard to determine who gave the bows to the children and who taught the children to shoot. Make an inference: who do you think gave the bows to the children and taught them to shoot?

 

 

3. John specifically mentions young girls and women. How does he describe them? Given what you know about medieval Europe, do you think this was similar to or different from what would happen in Europe?

 

 

4. Why would it be so important for the Tartars/Mongols to be good at archery on horseback?

 

Section 3

Background: In this final section, the author uses both the combination of commas + conjunctions and semicolons.

 Directions

1. Draw a slash (/) over each semicolon (;) and each comma + conjunction combination (, and or , but) to separate independent clauses.

2. Underline the subject of each clause to identify who is doing something.

3. Fill in the blank after each pronoun with the subject that the pronoun refers to.

4. Answer the questions that follow the passage.

When they (__________________) are going to make war, they (________________) send ahead an advance guard, and these (________________) carry nothing with them (_________________) but their (__________________) tents, horses and arms. They (_______________) seize no plunder, burn no houses and slaughter no animals; they (_______________) only wound and kill men or, if they (__________________) can do nothing else, put them (___________________) to flight. … If they (__________________) can avoid it, the Tartars do not like to fight hand to hand, but they (__________________) wound and kill men and horses with their (_______________) arrows; they (__________________) only come to close quarters when men and horses have been weakened by arrows.

Vocabulary

arms: weapons

plunder: loot; stolen money and valuable objects

close quarters: when you get close up to an enemy soldier and fight hand to hand

Questions

1. Why do you think the Tartars send ahead an advance guard? What is the advantage of carrying only tents, horses, and arms?

 

 

2. What do you think the author means when he says, “if they can do nothing else, put them to flight”?

 

 

3. Here John describes how the Tartars fight their enemies. Restate this in your own words. Make sure to address what they do and what they do not do.

 

 

Final Questions

1. Summarize the lifestyle of the Mongols as described by John of Plano Carpini.

 

 

 

 

2. How does this lifestyle help answer the investigative question, How did the Mongol Empire destroy states and increase the interconnection of Afroeurasia?

 

 

Student Handout 7.8 John of Plano Carpini, History of the Mongols (Source 1) Key

Section 1

[The Tartars] are extremely rich in animals, camels, oxen, sheep, goats / they (the Tartars ) have such a number of horses and mares that I (John of Plano Carpini) do not believe there are so many in all the rest of the world / they (the Tartars) do not have pigs or other farm animals.…

Questions

1. List the animals the Tartars/Mongols have and how each of the animals can help the Tartars.

Example: camels – good for riding, milk, food

oxen – pulling carts, riding

sheep – wool, meat, milk

goats – meat, milk

horses – riding, pulling carts

2. Considering that the Tartars were nomads, why do you think they had the animals you listed in question 1, but not pigs or other farm animals? The animals could more easily move with them and were useful for mobile societies. Pigs and farm animals are meant to stay put and would not be as useful.

3. What does John think of the Tartars’ animals? What words tell you that? The animals provided the Tartars with wealth, and Mongols had more horses than any other society. “They are extremely rich in animals” and “I do not believe there are so many in all of the rest of the world.”

Section 2

The men … hunt and practice archery, for they (the men) are all, big and little, excellent archers / and their (the Tartars’ ) children begin as soon as they (the children) are two or three years old to ride and manage horses and to gallop on them (the horses) / and they (the children) are given bows to suit their ( the children’s) stature and are taught to shoot;…

Young girls and women ride and gallop on horseback with agility like the men. We (John and his companions) even saw them (young girls and women) carrying bows and arrows. Both the men and the women are able to endure long stretches of riding. … They (the Tartars) look after their horses very well, indeed they (the Tartars) take the very greatest care of all their (the Tartars’) possessions. …

Questions

1. What are the children taught to do? At what age? Ride, manage, and gallop on horses at two or three years old.

2. The third clause is written in passive voice: “they are given bows to suit their stature and are taught to shoot.” Passive voice is when the actor of the sentence is not mentioned but is only implied. In this way it is hard to determine who gave the bows to the children and who taught the children to shoot. Make an inference: who do you think gave the bows to the children and taught them to shoot? Probably their parents, adult Tartars.

3. John specifically mentions young girls and women. How does he describe them? Given what you know about medieval Europe, do you think this was similar or different to what would happen in Europe? This is different. Women are not often seen as hunters or warriors who would need bows and arrows. European noblewomen were taught to ride horses but not to shoot weapons.

4. Why would it be so important for the Tartars/Mongols to be good at archery on horseback? As they moved around, they had to ride horses for travel, to hunt, and to fight other people.

Section 3

When they (the Tartars) are going to make war, they (the Tartars) send ahead an advance guard, / and these (the guards) carry nothing with them (guards) but their (the guards’) tents, horses and arms. They (the guards or Tartars) seize no plunder, burn no houses and slaughter no animals / they (the guard or Tartars) only wound and kill men or, / if they (the guards or Tartars) can do nothing else, put them (people from other groups) to flight. … If they (the Tartars) can avoid it, the Tartars do not like to fight hand to hand / but they (the Tartars) wound and kill men and horses with their (the Tartars’) arrows; they (the Tartars) only come to close quarters when men and horses have been weakened by arrows.

Questions

1. Why do you think the Tartars send ahead an advance guard? So they can report back, or fight far in front of the whole group. What is the advantage of only carrying tents, horses, and arms? They travel light, so they can move quickly as needed to find/fight others.

2. What do you think the author means when he says, “if they can do nothing else, put them to flight”? If they can’t do anything else, they scare/chase them away.

3. Here John describes how the Tartars fight their enemies. Restate this in your own words. Make sure to address what they do and what they do not do. The Tartars send ahead a group of warriors to do the fighting. The Tartars do limited damage: no stealing, no burning, and no killing of animals, except horses. They only hurt or kill men or scare them away. They usually wound and kill men and horses to weaken their enemies before fighting close up.

Final Questions

1. Summarize the lifestyle of the Mongols as described by John of Plano Carpini. They are nomadic people who value their animals, especially horses. Both men and women learn to ride and shoot bows and arrows at an early age. When they fight they send out an advance guard who only wound and kill men and horses with bows and arrows to weaken them and avoid hand-to-hand combat, or they chase people away.

2. How does this lifestyle help answer the investigative question, How did the Mongol Empire destroy states and increase the interconnection of Afroeurasia? They are nomads and skilled hunters, and they learn to be archers on horseback from a young age. They have more horses than any other society and so they can dominate that way.