The History of the Mongol Empire

Genghis Khan was made ruler of all Mongols in 1206, and it was at this point the empire began its rise to power. Their story is often described as violent, as the Mongols overpowered and outwitted their enemies. Within one century, the Mongols had become one of history’s greatest empires and at its peak, controlled roughly 22 per cent of the world’s total land area. As with most world powers, the empire eventually crumbled, but the lasting consequences of this empire’s impact can still be seen today. In this video, explores the rise, dominance, and fall of this one-time world empire.

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Using a combination of manipulation and might, Genghis Khan began his domination by successfully uniting the one-time rival tribes of northeast Asia. Under his leadership, the Mongol empire expanded out of Mongolia and across Europe and Asia.

By the time of Khan’s death in 1227, the Mongol Empire already ruled from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea. The decades that followed saw the Mongol Empire continue its growth through invasions of neighboring lands, with Genghis Khan’s bloodline leading the way. At its peak, this empire ruled roughly 22 per cent of Earth’s total land area.

The spread of the Mongol Empire is said to have been very organized and extremely violent. Some claim that Persia’s population dropped from 2.5 million to 250 thousand due to the destruction of major cities by the Mongols. A major tactic by the empire was to simply wipe out urban populations that refused to surrender.

Because warfare was crucial to the Mongol Empire, boys began their military life at age 15. Each soldier was given between four and seven horses, and the Mongols tailored their weapons to be used with ease while riding.

However, beginning in 1271, the strong empire showed its first signs of trouble. Kublai Khan claimed control of the Mongol Empire following the death of Mongke Khan, despite protest from his own brother. The two engaged in civil war, ultimately leading to the end of unity within the Mongol Empire. Kublai Khan turned his focus to China. He named himself Emperor of China, and began the Yuan Dynasty. By the time he died, the Mongol empire had split into four. In the years that followed, his successors eventually lost all influence over Mongol lands.

The Mongol Empire is credited with the creation of a writing system that is still used today in Mongolia. Other long-term impacts of the empire include the unification of large parts of Russia and China. Today, these areas remain unified under different rulership. The Mongols mail system, referred to as the Yam by scholars, was particularly ingenious. To ensure the speediest delivery, a messenger would travel 25 miles (40 kilometers) where he would either receive a rested horse, or pass the mail to a new messenger. This same system would be replicated as the Pony Express centuries later in the United States.

Within one century, the Mongol Empire grew from a small territory to become one of history’s greatest empires. Because of this the man who started it all, Genghis Khan, is considered by most as the founding father of Mongolia.

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