I. The Rise of the Mongols, 1200–1260
A. Nomadism in Central and Inner Asia
1. Nomadic groups depended on scarce water and pasture resources; in times of scarcity, conflicts occurred, resulting in the extermination of smaller groups and in the formation of alliances and out-migration. Around the year 1000, the lands inhabited by the Mongols experienced unusually dry weather, with its attendant effects on the availability of resources and pressures on the nomadic Mongol tribes.
2. Mongol groups were strongly hierarchical organizations headed by a single leader or khan, but the khans had to ask that their decisions be ratified by a council of the leaders of powerful families. Powerful Mongol groups demanded and received tribute in goods and in slaves from those less powerful. Some groups were able to live almost entirely on tribute.
3. The various Mongol groups formed complex federations that were often tied together by marriage alliances. Women from prestigious families often played an important role in negotiating these alliances. Wives and mothers of rulers traditionally managed state affairs between the death of a ruler and the selection of a successor, often working to secure a relative to the position.
4. The seasonal movements of the Mongol tribes brought them into contact with Manicheanism, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam. The Mongols accepted religious pluralism. Mongol khans were thought to represent the Sky God, who transcended all cultures and religions; khans were thus conceived of as universal rulers who both transcended and used the various religions of their subjects.
B. The Mongol Conquests, 1215–1283
1. Between 1206 and 1234, under the leadership of Genghis Khan and his successors, the Mongols conquered all of North China and were threatening the Southern Song. During this period and onward to about 1265, the Mongol realms were united because the khans of the Golden Horde, the Jagadai domains of Central Asia, and the Il-khans all recognized the authority of the Great Khan in Mongolia.
2. When Khubilai declared himself Great Khan in 1265, the other Mongol khans refused to accept him.
3. Khubilai founded the Yuan Empire, with its capital at Beijing in 1271; in 1279, he conquered the Southern Song. After 1279, the Yuan attempted to extend its control to Southeast Asia. Annam and Champa were forced to pay tribute to the Yuan, but an expedition to Java ended in failure.
4. Historians have pointed to a number of factors that may have contributed to the Mongols’ ability to conquer such vast territories. These factors include superior horsemanship, better bows, and the technique of following a volley of arrows with a deadly cavalry charge. Other reasons for the Mongols’ success include their ability to learn new military techniques, adopt new military technology, and incorporate non-Mongol soldiers into their armies; their reputation for slaughtering all those who would not surrender; and their ability to take advantage of rivalries among their enemies.
C. Overland Trade and the Plague
1. The Mongol conquests opened overland trade routes and brought about an unprecedented commercial integration of Eurasia. The growth of long-distance trade under the Mongols led to significant transfer of military and scientific knowledge among Europe, the Middle East, China, Iran, and Japan.
2. Diseases including the bubonic plague also spread over the trade routes of the Mongol Empire. The plague that had lingered in Yunnan (now southwest China) was transferred to central and north China, to Central Asia, to Kaffa, and from there to the Mediterranean world.
II. The Mongols and Islam, 1260–1500
A. Mongol Rivalry
1. In the 1260s, the Il-khan Mongol Empire controlled parts of Armenia and all of Azerbaijan, Mesopotamia, and Iran. Relations between the Buddhist/shamanist Il-khan Mongols and their Muslim subjects were tense because the Mongols had murdered the last Abbasid caliph and because Mongol religious beliefs and customs were contrary to those of Islam.
2. At the same time, Russia was under the domination of the Golden Horde, led by Genghis Khan’s grandson Batu, who had converted to Islam and announced his intention to avenge the last caliph. This led to the first conflict between Mongol domains.
3. During this conflict, European leaders attempted to make an alliance with the Il-khans to drive the Muslims out of Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, while the Il-khans sought European help in driving the Golden Horde out of the Caucasus. These plans for an alliance never came to fruition because the Il-khan ruler Ghazan became a Muslim in 1295.
B. Islam and the State
1. The goal of the Il-khan State was to collect as much tax revenue as possible, which it did through a tax farming system.
2. In the short term, the tax farming system was able to deliver large amounts of grain, cash, and silk. In the long term, overtaxation led to increases in the price of grain; a shrinking tax base; and, by 1295, a severe economic crisis.
3. Attempts to end the economic crisis through tax reduction programs coupled with the introduction of paper money failed to avert a depression that lasted until 1349. Thus, the Il-khan domains fragmented as Mongol nobles fought each other for diminishing resources and Mongols from the Golden Horde attacked and dismembered the Il-khan Empire.
4. As the Il-khan Empire and the Golden Horde declined in the fourteenth century, Timur, the last Central Asian conqueror, built the Jagadai Khanate in central and western Eurasia. Timur’s descendants, the Timurids, ruled the Middle East for several generations.
C. Culture and Science in Islamic Eurasia
1. In literature, the historian Juvaini wrote the first comprehensive account of the rise of the Mongols under Genghis Khan. Juvaini’s work inspired the work of Rashid al-Din, who produced a history of the world that was published in a number of beautifully illustrated editions. Rashid al-Din, a Jew converted to Islam who served as adviser to the Il-khan ruler, was a good example of the cosmopolitanism of the Mongol world. The Timurids also supported notable historians, including the Moroccan Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406).
2. Muslims under Mongol rulership also made great strides in astronomy, calendar making, and the prediction of eclipses. Their innovations included the use of epicycles to explain the movement of the moon around the earth, the invention of more precise astronomical instruments, and the collection of astronomical data from all parts of the Islamic world and China for predicting eclipses with greater accuracy.
3. In mathematics, Muslim scholars adapted the Indian numerical system, devised the method for indicating decimal fractions, and calculated the value of pi more accurately than had been done in classical times. Muslim advances in science, astronomy, and mathematics were passed along to Europe and had a significant effect on the development of European science and mathematics.
III. Regional Responses in Western Eurasia
A. Russia and Rule from Afar
1. After they defeated the Kievan Rus, the Mongols of the Golden Horde made their capital at the mouth of the Volga, which was also the end of the overland caravan route from Central Asia. From their capital, the Mongols ruled Russia “from afar,” leaving the Orthodox Church in place and using the Russian princes as their agents. As in other Mongol realms, the main goal of the Golden Horde was to extract as much tax revenue as possible from their subjects.
2. Because Prince Alexander of Novgorod had assisted the Mongols in their conquest of Russia, the Mongols favored Novgorod and Moscow (ruled by Prince Alexander’s brother). The favor shown to Novgorod and Moscow combined with the Mongol devastation of the Ukrainian countryside caused the Russian population to shift from Kiev toward Novgorod and Moscow, and Moscow emerged as the new center of the Russian civilization.
3. Some historians believe that Mongol domination had a negative effect on Russia, bringing economic depression and cultural isolation. Other historians argue that the Kievan state was already declining when the Mongols came, the overtaxation of Russians under Mongol rule was the work of the Russian princes, Russia was isolated by the Orthodox church, and the structure of Russian government did not change appreciably under Mongol rule.
4. Ivan III, the prince of Moscow, ended Mongol rule in 1480 and adopted the title of tsar.
B. New States in Eastern Europe and Anatolia
1. Europe was divided between the political forces of the papacy and those of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Under these conditions, the states of Eastern Europe—particularly Hungary and Poland—faced the Mongol attacks alone.
2. The Mongol armies that attacked Europe were actually an international force including Mongols, Turks, Chinese, Iranians, and Europeans and led by Mongol generals..
3. After the Mongol withdrawal, Europeans initiated a variety of diplomatic and trade overtures toward the Mongols. Contact between Europeans and Mongols increased through the thirteenth century and brought knowledge of geography, natural resources, commerce, science, technology and mathematics from various parts of the Mongol realms to Europe. At the same time, the Mongol invasions and the bubonic plague caused Europeans to question their accepted customs and religious beliefs.
4. The rise and fall of Mongol domination in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was accompanied by the rise of stronger centralized states, including Lithuania and the various Balkan kingdoms. Lithuania in particular was able to capitalize on the decline of Mongol power to assert control over its neighbors, particularly Poland.
5. During the period of Mongol domination, Anatolia functioned as a route by which Islamic culture was transferred to Europe via Constantinople. The Ottomans, who established themselves in eastern Anatolia in the 1300s but were kept in check by the Timurids, expanded eastward in the 1400s and conquered Constantinople in 1453.
IV. Mongol Domination in China, 1271–1368
A. The Yuan Empire, 1279–1368
1. Khubilai Khan understood and practiced Chinese traditions of government. He constructed a Chinese-style capital at Beijing and a summer capital at Shangdu, where he and his courtiers could practice riding and shooting.
2. When the Mongols came to China, it was politically fragmented, consisting of three states: the Tanggut, the Jin, and the Southern Song. The Mongols unified these states and restored or preserved the characteristic features of Chinese government.
3. The Mongols also made some innovations in government. These included tax farming, the use of Western Asian Muslims as officials, and a hierarchical system of legally defined status groups defined in terms of race and function. Under the Yuan hierarchical system, Confucians had a relatively weak role, while the status of merchants and doctors was elevated.
4. Under Mongol rule, China’s cities and ports prospered, trade recovered, and merchants flourished. Merchants organized corporations to pool money and share risks. The flourishing mercantile economy led the Chinese gentry elite to move into the cities, where a lively urban culture of popular entertainment, vernacular literature, and the Mandarin dialect of Chinese developed.
5. In the rural areas, cotton growing, spinning, and weaving were introduced to mainland China from Hainan Island, and the Mongols encouraged the construction of irrigation systems. In general, however, farmers in the Yuan were overtaxed and brutalized, while dams and dikes were neglected.
6. During the Yuan period, China’s population declined by perhaps as much as 40 percent, with northern China seeing the greatest loss of population; however, the Yangzi Valley actually saw a significant increase. Possible reasons for this pattern include warfare; the flooding of the Yellow River; north-south migration; and the spread of diseases, including the bubonic plague in the 1300s.
B. The Fall of the Yuan Empire
1. In 1368, the Chinese leader Zhu Yuanzhang brought an end to years of chaos and rebellion when he overthrew the Mongols and established the Ming Empire. The Mongols continued to hold power in Mongolia, Turkestan, and Central Asia, from which they were able to disrupt the overland Eurasian trade and threaten the Ming dynasty.
2. The Ming Empire was also threatened on its northeastern borders by the Jurchens of Manchuria. The Jurchens, who had been influenced by Mongolian culture, posed a significant threat to the Ming by the late 1400s.
V. The Early Ming Empire, 1368–1500
A. Ming China on a Mongol Foundation
1. Former monk, soldier, and bandit, Zhu Yuanzhang established the Ming Empire in 1368. Zhu’s regime established its capital in Nanjing and made great efforts to reject the culture of the Mongols, close off trade relations with Central Asia and the Middle East, and reassert the primacy of Confucian ideology.
2. At a deeper level, the Ming actually continued many institutions and practices that had been introduced during the Yuan. Areas of continuity include the Yuan provincial structure that maintained closer control over local affairs; the use of hereditary professional categories; the Mongol calendar; and, starting with the reign of the Yongle emperor, the use of Beijing as capital.
3. Between 1405 and 1433, the Ming dispatched a series of expeditions to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean under the Muslim eunuch admiral Zheng He. The goals of these missions were to reestablish trade links with the Middle East and bring Southeast Asian countries and their overseas Chinese populations under Chinese control, or at least under its influence.
4. Zheng He’s expeditions retraced routes that were largely known to the Chinese already. The voyages added as many as fifty countries to China’s list of tributaries. However, there was no significant increase in long-distance trade and the voyages were, overall, not profitable.
5. Many historians wonder why the voyages ceased and whether or not China could have gone on to become a great mercantile power or acquire an overseas empire. In answering this question, it is useful to remember that the Zheng He voyages did not use new technology, were not profitable, were undertaken as the personal project of the Yongle Emperor, and may have been inspired partly by his need to prove his worth.
6. The end of the Zheng He voyages may also be related to the need to use limited resources for other projects, including coastal defense against Japanese pirates and defense of the northern borders against the Mongols. The end of the Zheng He voyages was not the end of Chinese seafaring: it was only the end of the state’s organization and funding of such large-scale expeditions.
B. Technology and Population
1. The Ming saw less technological innovation than the Song; in the area of metallurgy, the Chinese lost the knowledge of how to make high-quality bronze and steel. Reasons for the slowdown in technological innovation include the high cost of metals and wood, the revival of a civil service examination system that rewarded scholarship and administration, a labor glut, lack of pressure from technologically sophisticated enemies, and a fear of technology transfer.
2. Korea and Japan moved ahead of China in technological innovation. Korea excelled in firearms, shipbuilding, meteorology, and calendar making, while Japan surpassed China in mining, metallurgy, and novel household goods.
C. The Ming Achievement
1. The Ming was a period of great wealth, consumerism, and cultural brilliance.
2. One aspect of Ming popular culture was the development of vernacular novels like Water Margin andRomance of the Three Kingdoms. The Ming was also known for its porcelain making and for other goods, including furniture, lacquered screens, and silk.
VI. Centralization and Militarism in East Asia, 1200–1500
A. Korea from the Mongols to the Yi, 1231–1500
1. Korea’s leaders initially resisted the Mongol invasions but gave up in 1258 when the king of Koryo surrendered and joined his family to the Mongols by marriage. The Koryo kings then fell under the influence of the Mongols, and Korea profited from exchange with the Yuan in which new technologies, including cotton, gunpowder, astronomy, calendar making, and celestial clocks, were introduced.
2. Koryo collapsed shortly after the fall of the Yuan and was replaced by the Yi dynasty. Like the Ming, the Yi reestablished local identity and restored the status of Confucian scholarship while maintaining Mongol administrative practices and institutions.
3. Technological innovations of the Yi period include the use of moveable type in copper frames, meteorological science, a local calendar, the use of fertilizer, and the engineering of reservoirs. The growing of cash crops, particularly cotton, became common during the Yi period.
4. The Koreans were innovators in military technology. Among their innovations were patrol ships with cannon mounted on them, gunpowder arrow-launchers, and armored ships.
B. Political Transformation in Japan, 1274–1500
1. The first (unsuccessful) Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274 made the decentralized local lords of Kamakura Japan develop a greater sense of unity as the shogun took steps to centralize planning and preparation for the expected second assault.
2. The second Mongol invasion (1281) was defeated by a combination of Japanese defensive preparations and a typhoon. The Kamakura regime continued to prepare for further invasions. As a result, the warrior elite consolidated their position in Japanese society, and trade and communication within Japan increased, but the Kamakura government found its resources strained by the expense of defense preparations.
3. The Kamakura shogunate was destroyed in a civil war, and the Ashikaga shogunate was established in 1338. The Ashikaga period was characterized by a relatively weak shogunal state and strong provincial lords who sponsored the development of markets, religious institutions, schools, and increased agricultural production.
4. The delicate artistry and the simple elegance of architecture and gardens were influenced by the popularity of Zen Buddhism, which emphasizes meditation over ritual.
5. After the Onin War of 1477, precipitated by conflict over succession upon Yoshimasa’s retirement, the shogunate exercised no power and the provinces were controlled by independent regional lords who fought with each other. The regional lords also carried out trade with continental Asia.
C. The Emergence of Vietnam, 1200–1500
1. The area of Vietnam was divided between two states: the Chinese-influenced Annam in the north and the Indian-influenced Champa in the south. The Mongols extracted tribute from both states, but with the fall of the Yuan Empire, they began to fight with each other.
2. The Ming ruled Annam through a puppet government for almost thirty years in the early fifteenth century until the Annamese threw off Ming control in 1428. By 1500, Annam had completely conquered Champa and established a Chinese-style government over all of Vietnam.
A. Trade between China and Europe received active Mongol stimulation through the protection of routes and encouragement of industrial production.
B. The Mongols ruled with an unprecedented openness, employing talented people irrespective of their linguistic, ethnic, or religious affiliations, generating an exchange of ideas, techniques, and products across the breadth of Eurasia.
C. Where Mongol military activity reached its limit of expansion, it stimulated local aspirations for independence.
D. In China, Korea, Annam, and Japan the threat of Mongol attack and domination encouraged centralization of government, improvement of military techniques, and renewed stress on local cultural identity.
Example Provided by the College Board
(modified question from 2010)
The time allotted for this essay is 40 minutes, 5 minutes of which should be spent planning and/or outlining the answer.
Directions: You are to answer the following question. You should spend 5 minutes organizing or outlining your essay. Write an essay that:
• Has a relevant thesis and supports that thesis with appropriate historical evidence.
• Addresses all parts of the question.
• Makes direct, relevant comparisons.
• Analyzes relevant reasons for similarities and differences.
Analyze similarities and differences in techniques of imperial administration in TWO of the following empires.
• Han China (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.)
• Mauryan/Gupta India (320 B.C.E.–550 C.E.)
• Imperial Rome (31 B.C.E.–476 C.E.)
What should a good response to this question have?
A good response provides valid similarities and differences, substantiated by specific pieces of evidence from within the time period. Important similarities include centralized governments, elaborate legal systems,administrative bureaucracies, the promotion of trade and food production, road-building, larger armies, and expanded systems of taxation. Important distinctions include: For Han China: a bureaucracy selected through a civil service examination; Confucian ideology about hierarchies; the idea of the Mandate of Heaven; regular diplomacy with peoples beyond their borders. For Rome: a uniform legal code; the promotion of a ruler cult, and later of Christianity; great concern with control of ocean-borne
trade that brought in food. For India: the Mauryan emperor Ashoka’s acceptance of Buddhism, which enhanced his position; public welfare projects paid for by the emperor; the more decentralized government of the Guptas.
Good essays do not include evidence that is outside the time period or any of the stipulated empires, for example, discussion of the Roman Republic, Qin dynasty, Genghis Khan, Mansa Musa, or Akbar. A good response could include information on technology, military history, religion, gender, disease, or other topics, but then needs to tie these to techniques of imperial administration, not simply discuss everything the student knows about the empires. For example, a good essay
would say, “Both the Maurya/Gupta and the Romans used their armies to maintain control within their borders and to attack neighboring states.” The statement “Both the Maurya/Gupta and the Romans had large armies and expanded their borders,” while true, does not relate these developments to the topic of the question, techniques of imperial administration. Students
should be told to make their connections clear, because readers will not infer that a particular essay demonstrates content knowledge that is not present in the plain language of the student response.
Students should be discouraged from constructing comparison questions by discussing one region as a block and then the other region as a block, loosely linked by a transitional sentence. That sentence might be the only comparison in the student’s response, and if it is incorrect, the student is unable to earn any points for comparison, analysis, or addressing the question. Students should be discouraged from writing to a pre-existing format such as political, economic, social/cultural or PERSIA
(Political, Economic, Religious, Social, Intellectual, Artistic). Students need to respond to the question asked —which, in this case, is political. A good response provides analysis and uses this analysis as an explanation of a reason for a similarity or difference between techniques of imperial administration for the two empires. It thus links the historical thinking skills of comparison and causation, and does not simply provide a discussion of causation that involves only one of the empires.
For example, a discussion of why the Roman Empire fell that does not link or compare this to why the other chosen empire fell is not appropriate analysis for this question.
A strong essay would go beyond the minimum on any of the core points. It could relate the techniques of imperial administration to larger global processes or apply relevant knowledge of other world regions, such as noting the ways in which invasions by pastoral nomads from central Asia put pressure on the administration of each of the three
empires. It could consistently analyze cause and effect for the noted similarities and differences, such as pointing out that the religious toleration of both the Gupta emperors and (most of) the Roman emperors promoted loyalty to the empire and with it more regular payment of taxes. It could recognize nuance within empires, for example by pointing out that the
techniques of Roman imperial administration were different in the city of Rome from those in the outlying provinces. It could discuss change over time, for example by discussing changing methods of imperial administration as the empires began to decline because of epidemic diseases, environmental damage, and external problems.
After the Venn
From here it is time to flesh out some form of outline, what are the major points that will make up the body paragraphs and what supporting facts are going to be there. The comparison should indicate some conclusion based on the evidence.
Analysis and deduction are important in the outlining process because this is essential to the formation of a quality thesis. The thesis of any essay should clearly indicate the position of the essay and provide an overview of the supporting arguements. A comparison essay needs to make a determination from the similarities and differences. Lets look at the following example which relates to our previous Venn diagram:
Compare the process of state-building in TWO of the following in the period 600 C.E. to 1450 C.E.
• Islamic states
• Mongol khanates