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C HAP TER
12
Pastoral Peoples on the Global Stage
The Mongol Moment, 1200–1500
CHAPTER OVERVIEW
CHAPTER LEARNING
OBJECTIVES
• To make students aware of the significance of
pastoral societies in world history
• To examine the conditions of nomadic life
• To investigate the impact of the Mongol Empire
on world history
• To consider the implications of the Eurasian trade
sponsored by the Mongols
CHAPTER OUTLINE
I.
Opening Vignette
A. Legacy of Chinggis Khan in Mongolia
1. his spirit banner was destroyed by
Communists in 1937
2. late twentieth-century revival of Chinggis
Khan’s memory
3. 2006 was 800th anniversary of foundation of
Mongol Empire
B. The story of the Mongols is an important
corrective to historians’ focus on
agriculturalists.
II. Looking Back and Looking Around: The Long
History of Pastoral Nomads
A. Economies focused on livestock production
emerged around 4000 B.C.E.
1. dependent on horses, camels, goats, sheep,
cattle, yaks, reindeer
2. pastoral societies developed in:
a. grasslands of Eurasia and sub-Saharan
Africa
b. Arabian and Saharan deserts
c. subarctic regions, Tibetan plateau
d. not in Americas: lack of large animals for
domesticating
B. The World of Pastoral Societies
1. standard features of pastoral societies:
a. generally less productive than agricultural
societies
b. needed large grazing areas
c. populations much smaller than in
agricultural societies
d. lived in encampments of related kinfolk,
usually common ancestry in male line
e. clans sometimes gathered as a tribe; could
absorb unrelated people
f. more egalitarian than sedentary societies,
but sometimes distinguished between
nobles and commoners
g. women usually had higher status than in
sedentary societies
h. mobility—nomads
2. pastoralists had deep connections to
agricultural neighbors
a. sought access to foodstuffs, manufactured
goods, luxury items
b. especially in inner Eurasia, longing for
civilized products encouraged formation of
nomadic states
3. formation of nomadc states was difficult
a. charismatic leaders like Chinggis Khan
could make a series of tribal alliances that
became powerful states
263
264
C HAPTER 12 • P ASTORAL P EOPLES ON THE G LOBAL S TAGE
b. when formed, almost the whole male
population (and some women) became
warriors
4. cultural interaction with agricultural lands
a. inner Eurasian nomads adopted Judaism,
Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and
Manichaeism at various times
5. mastered environments unsuitable for
agriculture
a. brought food-producing revolution and
significant human presence to fringe
regions
b. life changed significantly for Inner Asian
steppe peoples with introduction of
horseback riding ca. 1000 B.C.E.
C. The Xiongnu: An Early Nomadic Empire
1. mounted warfare made nomadic empires
possible
2. the Xiongnu (in Mongolian steppes
north of China) formed an important
early confederacy (from Manchuria to
central Asia) in third to second centuries
B.C.E.
3. ruler Modun (r. 210–174 B.C.E.)
revolutionized nomadic life
a. created a more centralized, hierarchical
political system
b. divinely sanctioned ruler
c. distinction between “junior” and “senior”
clans became more important
d. exacted tribute from other nomads and
from China
4. Xiongnu Empire was a model copied by
Turkic and Mongol empires
D. The Arabs and the Turks
1. nomads made their greatest impact on world
history between 500 and 1500 C.E.
a. Arabs, Berbers, Turks, and Mongols
created largest empires of that millennium
b. Islam derived from largely nomadic Arabs,
carried by Turks
c. Byzantium, Persia, India, and China were
all controlled at least for a time by formerly
nomadic people
2. Bedouin Arabs became effective fighters
with development of a good camel saddle
(sometime between 500 and 100 B.C.E.)
a. made control of trade routes through
Arabia possible
b. camel nomads were shock troops of
Islamic expansion
3. Turkic-speaking nomads (homeland in
Mongolia and southern Siberia)
a. gradual southward/westward spread
b. series of short-lived nomadic empires 552–
965 C.E.
c. spread of Turkic language and culture over
much of Inner Asia and beyond
d. Turkish conversion to Islam between tenth
and fourteenth centuries
e. Seljuk Empire (eleventh to twelfth
centuries): Turks began to claim the
Muslim title sultan; exercised real power
f. carried Islam to India and Anatolia
E. The Masai of East Africa
1. best information on nomad/agrarian
relations in Africa comes from after 1500
2. no large states or chiefdoms, pastoral or
agricultural, developed in what is now
Kenya and Tanzania
3. Masai were nomadic cattle-keepers
4. Masai had been partly agricultural before
eighteenth to nineteenth centuries
5. Masai interaction with settled peoples
a. Masai would admit outsiders into their
society
b. depended on hunters and farmers
c. during times of drought or disease, Masai
might take refuge with hunters or farmers
d. farmers adopted elements of Masai culture
and military
III. Breakout: The Mongol Empire
A. The Mongols formed the greatest land-based
empire in history following their breakout from
Mongolia in the thirteenth century.
1. extensive linkage of nomads of inner
Eurasian steppes with agricultural
civilizations
2. created far greater contact between Europe,
China, and Islamic world than ever before
C HAPTER 12 • P ASTORAL P EOPLES ON THE G LOBAL S TAGE
3. total Mongol population was only about
700,000
4. did not have a major cultural impact on the
world
a. did not try to spread their ancestor
worship/shamanism to others
b. mostly interested in exploiting conquered
peoples
c. Mongol culture today largely confined to
Mongolia
d. Mongol Empire was the last great nomadic
state
B. From Temujin to Chinggis Khan: The Rise of
the Mongol Empire
1. Temujin (1162–1227) created the Mongol
Empire
2. Mongols before Temujin were unstable
collection of feuding tribes and clans
3. Temujin’s rise
a. father was a minor chieftain, but was
murdered before Temujin turned ten
b. Temujin’s mother held family together
after they were deserted by the clan
c. when Temujin grew up, he drew together a
small following of friends, allied with a
more powerful tribal leader
d. shifting series of alliances, betrayals,
military victories
e. won a reputation as a great leader
4. 1206: Mongol tribal assembly recognized
Temujin as Chinggis Khan (“universal
ruler”)
5. Chinggis Khan then began expansion to hold
his followers together
a. major attack on China in 1209 started 50year Mongol world war
b. Chinggis Khan, Ogodei, Mongke, and
Khubilai created an empire that included
China, Korea, Central Asia, Russia, much
of Middle East, and parts of Eastern Europe
c. setbacks marked outer limits of Mongol
Empire
C. Explaining the Mongol Moment
1. Mongol Empire grew without any grand
scheme
265
2. by the time of his death, Chinggis Khan saw
conquests as a mission to unite the whole
world
3. Mongols were vastly outnumbered by their
enemies
4. Mongol success was due to their well-led,
organized, disciplined army
a. military units of 10, 100, 1,000, and 10,000
warriors
b. conquered tribes were broken up and
scattered among units
c. tribalism was also weakened by creation of
imperial guard
d. all members of a unit were killed if any
deserted in battle
e. leaders shared the hardships of their men
f. elaborate tactics: encirclement, retreat,
deception
g. vast numbers of conquered peoples were
incorporated into army
5. Mongol reputation for brutality and
destructiveness
a. those who resisted were destroyed
b. kingdom of Khwarizm murdered Mongol
envoys
6. ability to mobilize resources
a. elaborate census taking and systematic
taxation
b. good system of relay stations for
communication and trade
c. centralized bureaucracy began
d. encouraged commerce
e. gave lower administrative posts to Chinese
and Muslim officials
f. practiced religious toleration
IV. Encountering the Mongols: Comparing Three
Cases
A. China and the Mongols
1. Mongol conquest of China was difficult,
took from 1209 to 1279
2. began in northern China (ruled by dynasties of
nomadic origin), was vastly destructive
3. conquest of southern China (ruled by Song
dynasty) was far less violent
a. more interest in accommodation of local
populace
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C HAPTER 12 • P ASTORAL P EOPLES ON THE G LOBAL S TAGE
b. landowners were guaranteed their estates in
return for support
4. Mongols unified a divided China, made
many believe that the Mongols had been
granted the Mandate of Heaven
5. Mongols didn’t know how to govern an
agricultural society, so they used many
Chinese practices
a. gave themselves a Chinese dynastic title,
the Yuan (“great beginnings”)
b. built a new capital—Khanbalik (“city of
the khan”; now Beijing)
6. Khubilai Khan (r. 1271–1294) had a set of
ancestral tablets made
7. still, Mongol rule was harsh, exploitative,
and foreign
a. Mongols did not become Chinese
b. “Forbidden City” in the capital was set up
like the steppes
c. relied heavily on foreigners for
administration, rather than the traditional
administrative system
d. few Mongols learned Chinese
e. Mongol law discriminated against the
Chinese
f. Mongol women were shockingly free by
Chinese standards
8. by 1368, rebellions had forced the Mongols
out of China
B. Persia and the Mongols
1. conquest of Persia: first invasion led by
Chinggis Khan 1219–1221; second assault
under his grandson Hulegu 1251–1258
2. massive impact of invasion
a. very destructive
b. shook faith: how could Muslims be
savaged so badly by infidels?
c. sacking of Baghdad in 1258 ended the
Abbasid caliphate
d. profound damage to Persian/Iraqi
agriculture
e. increase in wine and silk production
3. Mongols were transformed far more in
Persia than in China
a. extensive use of Persian bureaucracy
b. Ghazan (r. 1295–1304) tried to repair some
of their earlier damage
c. Mongols in Persia converted to Islam on a
large scale
d. Mongol elites learned some Persian
e. some Mongols took up agriculture
4. Mongol dynasty collapsed in 1330s
C. Russia and the Mongols
1. Mongol devastation of Russia 1237–1240
a. Russia was a number of independent
principalities
b. could not unite against Mongol threat
c. destruction of cities, widespread slaughter,
and deportation of skilled workers
2. Russia was integrated into Mongol Empire
as the Kipchak Khanate (Russians called it
the “Khanate of the Golden Horde”)
a. but Mongols did not occupy Russia
i. remained on steppes north of Black
and Caspian seas
ii. collected tribute and heavy taxes;
also raided for slaves
3. some Russian princes and the Russian
Orthodox Church flourished
4. Moscow became primary tribute-collector
for the Mongols
5. Mongol rulers of Russia were far less
assimilated or influenced
6. Russian princes adopted Mongol weapons,
diplomatic rituals, court practices, tax
system, and military draft
a. Moscow became the core of a new Russian
state
b. used the Mongol mounted courier service
7. Russians broke free of Mongol rule by the
end of the fifteenth century
V. The Mongol Empire as a Eurasian Network
A. Toward a World Economy
1. Mongols produced little for distant markets;
were not active traders
2. but they promoted international commerce
as source of tax revenue
3. made it relatively safe to travel across
Central Asia
4. Mongol trading circuit was central to larger
Afro-Eurasian commercial network
C HAPTER 12 • P ASTORAL P EOPLES ON THE G LOBAL S TAGE
B. Diplomacy on a Eurasian Scale
1. Mongol encroachment into Eastern Europe
led both the pope and European rulers to
dispatch diplomatic missions to the Mongols
a. had no diplomatic or religious
consequences
b. but brought back valuable information
about the East
2. Persian and Chinese courts developed close
relationships
C. Cultural Exchange in the Mongol Realm
1. thousands of craftsmen and educated people
were forcibly relocated by the Mongols
2. Mongol religious tolerance and support of
merchants drew foreigners
3. the Mongol capital of Karakorum was a
cosmopolitan center
4. lively exchange of ideas and techniques
a. westward flow of Chinese technology and
art (painting, printing, gunpowder
weapons, compass navigation, hightemperature furnaces, medical techniques,
etc.)
b. Muslim astronomy spread to China
c. circulation of plants and crops
d. Europe benefited particularly from new
contact with Asia
D. The Plague: A Eurasian Pandemic
1. the plague (a.k.a. pestilence, Black Death)
spread across trade routes of the Mongol
Empire in early fourteenth century
a. probably originated in Central Asia
b. carried by rodents and transmitted by fleas
2. the plague broke out in northeastern China
in 1331
a. reached Western Europe by 1347
b. Mongol siege of Caffa (in the Crimea) in
1346: Mongols catapulted plague-infected
corpses into city
c. massive death toll
d. periodic returns of the plague for centuries
3. India and sub-Saharan Africa were much
less affected
4. best information about the plague’s impact
comes from Europe
267
a. the plague was described in apocalyptic
terms
b. Jews blamed for the plague; many fled to
Poland
c. longer-term changes in European society
5. the plague was a primary reason for the
breakdown of the Mongol Empire in
fourteenth to fifteenth centuries
a. with population contraction, volume of
trade was reduced
b. by 1350, the Mongol Empire was in
disarray
c. within a century, Mongols had lost control
of China, Persia, and Russia
d. the Central Asian trade route largely closed
6. disruption of land routes to the east
encouraged Europeans to seek trade routes
by sea
a. European naval technology gave them an
advantage
b. similarity of sixteenth-century Europeans
to Mongols: people on the periphery who
were economically less developed and
forcibly plundered wealthier civilizations
VI. Reflections: Changing Images of Nomadic
Peoples
A. Nomads have often received “bad press” in
history books.
1. only mentioned in regard to their destruction
of established civilizations
2. educated, sedentary peoples have feared and
usually despised nomads
3. nomads were usually illiterate, so we don’t
have their perspective
4. agricultural societies eventually won out
B. There have been recent efforts to present a
more balanced view.
1. emphasize what nomads achieved as well as
what they destroyed
2. the total wars and genocides of the twentieth
century have made people less judgmental
toward the Mongols
3. historians are shaped by their times

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