Pastoral Nomads – Mongols WHAP/Napp

“The two million Mongols who inhabited the plateau region of Central Asia were divided into several warring tribes, each led by a khan. The land was poor and the climate harsh. The Mongols shepherded their cattle, sheep, and goats in a circular pattern of migration called transhumance: in the brief summers they moved their herds northward to pasture; in winter they turned back south. They spent most of their waking hours on horseback and mastered the art of warfare from the stirrups, with bow and arrow as well as sword by their side.

Cultural historians credit the Mongols with little permanent contribution because they were absorbed into other, more settled and sophisticated cultures. But they did establish, for about a century, the ‘Pax Mongolica,’ the Mongolian Peace, over a vast region, in which intercontinental trade could flourish across the reopened silk route. Reports from two world travelers, Ibn Battuta (1304-68) of Morocco and Marco Polo (1254-1324) of Venice, give vivid insights into that exotic trade route.

Chinggis (Genghis) Khan Temujin, later called Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, was born about 1162 into one of the more powerful and more militant Mongol tribes. His father, chief of his tribe, was poisoned by a rival tribe. About three generations before Temujin’s birth, one of his ancestors, Kabul Khan, had briefly united the Mongols, and Chinggis made it his own mission to unify them once again. He conquered the surrounding tribes, one by one, and united them at Karakorum, his capital. Although skilled at negotiation, Chinggis was also infamous for his brutality. Historian Rashid al-Din (1247-1318), writing almost acentury after his conquests, reports Chinggis Khan’s declaration of purpose, emphasizing women as spoils of warfare. Chinggis defeated the Tartars and killed all surviving males taller than a cart axle. He defeated the rival Mongol clans and boiled alive all their chiefs. In 1206, an assembly of all the chiefs of the steppe regions proclaimed him Chinggis Khan – ‘Universal Ruler.’ He organized them for further battle under a pyramid of officers leading units of 100, 1000, and 10,000 mounted warriors, commanded, as they grew older, by his four sons. Promotion within the fighting machine was by merit. Internal feuding among the Mongols ended and a new legal code, based on written and recorded case law, called for high moral standards from all Mongols.” ~ The World’s History

1. Although the Mongols were often brutal, theywere
(A) No more violent than Europeans,Muslims, or the Chinese of the day.
(B) Tolerant of religious differences andencouraged trade.
(C) Unwilling to destroy art works and buildings.
(D) Devoted to nonviolence.
(E) Apt to leave enemies alive and revoltingcities unpunished. / 2. During the thirteenth century, long-distance trade in Eurasia increased primarily because
(A) The Mongols worked to secure trade routes and ensure the safety of merchants passing through their vast territories.
(B) Mongol rulers adopted the same paper currency that could be used within all the four regional empires.
(C) Mongol policies encouraged economic growth and specialization of production in various regions.
(D) Mongol people settled down and began creating agricultural surpluses.
Key Words/
Questions / I. Pastoral Nomads
  1. Arid lands; farming difficult; but around 4000 BCE, raised livestock
1. Need for large grazing areas supported smaller populations
  1. Women had higher status and experienced fewer restrictions
  2. Most characteristic feature of pastoral societies was mobility
  1. Independence of clans and internal rivalries made unity difficult
1. But charismatic leaders periodically welded together tribal alliances
  1. And military advantages such as horseback-riding and hunting skills
  2. During the classical era, the Xiongnu from Mongolian steppes north of China created a huge military confederation
a) Under leadership of Modun (reigned 210-174 BCE)
b)Created a model for future federations: able to extract tribute
II. Third-wave civilizations (500-1500 CE), nomadic peoples as conquerors
  1. Arabs, Berbers, Turks, and Mongols
  2. Most expansive religious tradition of era, Islam, derived from nomads
  3. Major turning point occurred with Turks’ conversion to Islam
  4. Also, in East Africa, the nomadic cattle-keeping Masai
1. Adolescent boys from a variety of villages were initiated together
  1. Created an “age-set,” which moved through “age-grades” together
III. Of all pastoralists, Mongols made most stunning entry on world stage
A. Eventually conquered the largest land-based empire
B. Brought civilizations of Eurasia into far more direct contact
  1. But left a surprisingly modest cultural imprint on the world
  1. Never tried to spread their own faith among subject peoples
  2. Offered conquered peoples little more than status of defeated, exploited people; although people with skills were put to work
  1. After decline of Mongol Empire, tide turned against pastoralists of inner Eurasia, swallowed up in expanding Russian or Chinese empires
IV. Chinggis Khan
  1. Temujin (1162-1227), known as Chinggis Khan (“universal ruler”)
  2. United Mongols
1. Father murdered: without livestock, fell to lowest level of nomad life
2. But personal magnetism and courage allowed him to become powerful
  1. Generous to friends and ruthless to enemies
  1. Mongol Empire eventually contained China, Korea, Central Asia, Russia, much of the Islamic Middle East, and parts of Eastern Europe
  2. Setbacks: withdrawal from Eastern Europe, failure to invade Japan
  3. Mongol success lay in its army: Better led, organized, disciplined
  4. Conquered tribes broken up and members scattered among new units
  5. Should one or two members of a unit desert, all were subject to death
  6. Psychological warfare induced a number to surrender rather than resist
  7. Resist and perish or submit and be spared

1. Nomadic peoples of Asia could wield massive military power because of their
(A) Outstanding horsemanship.
(B) Accuracy with bows and arrows.
(C) Maneuverability as cavalry units.
(D) Ability to retreat quickly.
(E) All these answers are correct.
2. The man who united all the Mongol tribes into a single confederation in 1206 was
(A) Khubilai Khan.
(B) Hülegü.
(C) Tughril Beg.
(D) Chinggis Khan.
(E) Mahmud of Ghazni.
3. With regard to Mongols' military strategies, they
(A) Would travel more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) per day to surprise an enemy.
(B) Could shoot arrows behind them while riding at a gallop.
(C) Could shoot arrows and fell enemies within 200 meters (656 feet).
(D) Would spare their enemies if they surrendered without resistance.
(E) All these answers are correct
4. Which of the following is an example of an event or situation between 600 and 1450 C.E. that helps to distinguish it as a new period in world history?
(A) Christianity was spread around the eastern Mediterranean by Paul of Tarsus.
(B) The Mongols invaded many areas of Eurasia and formed the largest empire in world history.
(C) Buddhism entered China for the first time and for a time supplanted Confucianism.
(D) Hinduism was established as the major religion on the Indian subcontinent. / 5. The Mongol conquests of much of Eurasia in the thirteenth century tended to encourage trade along the Silk Roads primarily by
(A) opening large new markets for both European and East Asian goods in Central Asia
(B) increasing the demand for military supplies needed by the Mongol armies that occupied various regions
(C) decreasing the risk of bandit attacks and reducing the number of local rulers collecting tribute from trade caravans
(D) discouraging seaborne trade along the Indian Ocean routes that competed with the Silk Roads
6. Pastoralists rarely accumulated large amounts of material possessions because
(A) Were frequently mobile
(B) Had not mastered the technique of animal domestication
(C) Did not have social stratification
(D) Did not participate in trading networks
7. How was trade along the Silk Road affected under the Mongol Empire?
(A) Mongols set up stations along major trade routes making them safe for merchants
(B) Trade was restricted by the Mongols because they believed their products to be superior
(C) Trade along the Silk Road was unaffected because the Mongols only used maritime trade
(D) Trade helped the spread of ideas but not luxury goods

Thesis Practice: Comparative

Analyze similarities and differences in the rise to power of the Mongols and Mauryans. ______


“When the Mongol leader Temüjinwas a boy, a rivalgroup murdered his father. Temüjin’s mothertried to shelter him (and protect him from dogs,which he feared), but she could not find a safe haven. At fifteen Temüjin sought refuge with the leader of the

Keraits, one of Mongolia’s many warring confederations. The Keraits spoke Turkic and respected bothChristianity and Buddhism. Gifted with strength, courage,and intelligence, Temüjin learned the importanceof religious tolerance, the necessity of dealing harshlywith enemies, and the variety of Central Asia’s culturaland economic traditions.

In 1206 the Mongols and their allies acknowledgedTemüjin as Genghis Khan, or supreme leader. His advisers included speakers of many languagesand adherents of all the major religions of the MiddleEast and East Asia. His deathbed speech, which cannotbe literally true even though a contemporaryrecorded it, captures the strategy behind Mongol success:“If you want to retain your possessions and conqueryour enemies, you must make your subjectssubmit willingly and unite your diverse energies to asingle end.”By implementing this strategy, GenghisKhan became the most famous conqueror in history,initiating an expansion of Mongol dominion that by1250 stretched from Poland to northern China.

The tremendous extent of the Mongol Empirepromoted the movement of people and ideas fromone end of Eurasia to the other. Specialized skills developedin different parts of the world spread rapidlythroughout the Mongol domains. Trade routes improved,markets expanded, and the demand for productsgrew. Trade on the Silk Road, which had declinedwith the fall of the Tang Empire,revived. During their period of domination, lasting from1218 to about 1350 in western Eurasia and to 1368 inChina, the Mongols focused on specific economicand strategic interests and usually permitted localcultures to survive and continue to develop. In someregions, local reactions to Mongol domination andunification sowed seeds of regional and ethnic identitythat grew extensively in the period of Mongol decline. Societies in regions as widely separated asRussia, Iran, China, Korea, and Japan benefited fromthe Mongol stimulation of economic and cultural exchangeand also found in their opposition to theMongols new bases for political consolidation and affirmationof cultural difference.” ~ The Earth and Its Peoples


  • What accounts for the magnitude and speed of theMongol conquests?


  • What benefits resulted from the integration of Eurasiain the Mongol Empire?


  • Even though the Mongols did not alter the cultural landscape of their neighbors, the Mongols left a lasting imprint on history and the world’s peoples. Prove that the Mongol legacy was as powerful on humanity as the Romans or the Chinese. ______