Surviving stone turtle from the palace at Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century CE; photo credit

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The Mongols were a group of nomadic tribes occupying roughly what is now Mongolia. In the thirteenth century these tribes united under the leadership of Chinggis (aka Chingis, Jenghiz, Jinghis,Temujin, Tumuchin or Genghis) Khan (1162?-1227 CE). Mongol armies quickly swept south into China and west into Russia and the Near East, smashing anyone who dared to resist. By about 1300, the Mongols had erected a huge empire, divided into several smaller "pieces" (or khanates).

The Mongols created probably the largest, land empire in world history. At its height, the empire spanned from Eastern Europe to China and into the Near East. That was truly an amazing accomplishment given the obscure origins of the Mongols in the twelfth century on a distant plateau, isolated in the heart of Asia. The military advantages enjoyed by the Mongols over any potential adversaries stemmed from their legendary discipline, extraordinary expertise on horseback, ability to organize and coordinate large military units and, finally, their noted ferocity. The Mongols also were tolerant of the religions of the conquered peoples. By the height of Mongol conquests in the mid-thirteenth century, the Mongols were feared by everyone across Europe and Asia. Please feel free to review my lecture notes on the Mongols. You may send me any suggested corrections or additions.

To create one of the greatest empires in world history under the control of one man meant a lifetime of war, and Genghis Khan was a great warrior. From practically nondescript origins, he arose to power and created probably the largest empire ever to exist in world history. By August 1227 when Genghis Khan died-allegedly at age 72 although that is not clear--during a campaign against the Xi-Xia empire, his enemies had come to justifiably fear his wrath, but he could be a relatively moderate ruler in practice.

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Some recommended online lectures and websites:


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