Mongol Empire Research Paper

This sample Mongol Empire Research Paper is published for educational and informational purposes only. Free research papers are not written by our writers, they are contributed by users, so we are not responsible for the content of this free sample paper. If you want to buy a high quality research paper on history topics at affordable price please use custom research paper writing services.

In the early thirteenth century, an empire arose in the steppes of Mongolia that forever changed the map of Asia, enhanced intercontinental trade, and changed the course of leadership in two religions: at its height, the Mongol Empire was the largest contiguous empire in history, stretching from the Sea of Japan to the Carpathian Mountains.

The rise of the Mongol Empire began with the unification of the Mongol and Turkic tribes that inhabited the Mongolian steppes in the thirteenth century. Its immediate impact on the geography, trade, and religion cannot be overlooked, nor should its influence in later eras be ignored.

The Rise of Chinggis Khan

Temujin (c. 1162–1227), who was eventually given the honorific Chinggis Khan, emerged on the steppes as a charismatic leader, slowly gaining a following and a reputation before becoming a nokhor (companion or vassal) to Toghril (d. 1203/1204), the khan of the Kereits, another tribe. While in the service of Toghril, Temujin rose in power and became a major leader among the Mongol tribes. Eventually, however, Temujin and Toghril quarreled; when the quarrel came to a head in 1203, Temujin emerged victorious.

Afterwards Temujin continued to fight other tribes for dominance in the Mongolian steppe. By 1206 he had unified the tribes of Mongolia into a single supratribe known as the Yeke Mongol Ulus, or Great Mongol Nation. He reorganized Mongol social structure and dissolved old tribal lines. Furthermore, he organized his army on a decimal system (units were organized into tens, hundreds, thousands, with the largest grouping at ten thousand) and instilled a strong sense of discipline into it. (For example, troops learned not to stop and plunder the enemy camp before victory was assured; under Temujin’s rule any booty gathered before victory was declared would be confiscated.) Finally, in 1206 Temujin’s followers recognized him as the sole authority in Mongolia by granting him the title of Chinggis Khan (or, traditionally in English, Genghis Khan), which is thought to mean Oceanic, or Firm, Resolute Ruler.

Expansion of the Mongol Empire

The Mongols expanded out of Mongolia, conquering Xi Xia (modern Ningxia and Gansu provinces of China) by 1209. In 1211 Chinggis Khan invaded the Jurchen Jin dynasty (1125–1234) of northern China. Initially, these were not campaigns of conquest; they were raiding activities. But as their successes grew, the Mongols began to retain the territory they plundered. Although the Mongols won stunning victories and conquered most of the Jurchen Jin by 1216, the Jin continued to resist the Mongols until 1234, seven years after the death of Chinggis Khan.

Mongol expansion into Central Asia began in 1209 as the Mongols pursued tribal leaders who opposed Chinggis Khan’s rise to power. With each victory the Mongols gained new territory; additionally, several smaller states sought to become vassals. Ultimately, the Mongols found themselves with a large empire, now bordering not only the Chinese states but also the Islamic world. In Central Asia, they now bordered the empire of Khwarizm, whose territory included Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, and part of modern Iraq.

Initially, Chinggis Khan sought peaceful relations focused on trade with Khwarizm. However the massacre of a Mongol-sponsored caravan by the governor of Otrar, a city in Khwarizm, changed this relationship. After diplomatic means failed to resolve the issue, Chinggis Khan left a token force to maintain military operations in northern China and marched against Khwarizm in 1218.

After capturing Otrar, Chinggis Khan divided his army and struck Khwarizm at several points. With his army spread across the empire in an attempt to defend its cities, Muhammad Khwarizm Shah II could not compete with the more mobile Mongol army in the field. Thus he watched his cities fall one by one until he had to flee with a Mongol force in pursuit. Ultimately Muhammad died from dysentery on an island in the Caspian Sea. Although his son, Jalal ad- Din, attempted to defend what is now Afghanistan, Genghis Khan defeated him near the Indus River in 1221, forcing Jalal ad-Din to flee to India.

Although he destroyed Khwarizm, Chinggis Khan kept only the territory north of the Amu Dar’ya River so as not to overextend his army. Meanwhile, he returned to Mongolia in order to deal with a rebellion in Xi Xia. After resting his army, he invaded Xi Xia in 1227 and besieged the capital of Zhongxing. He died during the course of the siege but ordered his sons and army to continue the war, which they did.

The Mongol Empire after Chinggis Khan

Ogodei (1185–1241), Chinggis Khan’s second son, ascended the throne in 1230. He continued operations against the Jin and successfully conquered it in 1234. Mongol forces also invaded Iran, Armenia, and Georgia during Ogodei’s reign, bringing those regions under control. Meanwhile, a massive force marched west, conquering the Russian principalities before invading Hungary and Poland. While they did not seek to control Hungary and Poland, the Mongols left both areas devastated before departing, possibly due to Ogodei’s death in 1241.

Ogodei’s son Guyuk (d. 1248) came to the throne in 1246 only after a lengthy succession debate. In the interim, Guyuk’s mother served as regent. Guyuk died two years after taking the throne; his wife then served as regent, but did little to assist in choosing a new khan, which led to a coup in 1250 by Mongke (1208–1259), the son of Chinggis Khan’s fourth son. During his reign Mongol armies were once again on the march. He and his brother Khubilai (1215–1294) led armies into the Southern Song dynasty (1127– 1279) while Hulugu (c. 1217–1265), another brother, led an army into the Middle East.

In 1256 Hulugu’s forces successfully destroyed the Ismailis, a Shiite group in northern Iran. He then moved against the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad. The caliph, nominally the leading religious figure in Sunni Islam, refused to capitulate but did little to defend the city. The Mongols sacked Baghdad and executed the caliph in 1258, ending the position of caliph for several centuries. Hulugu’s armies also invaded Syria, successfully capturing Aleppo and Damascus. Hulugu withdrew the bulk of his army in 1259–1260, however, after receiving news that Mongke had died during the war against the Song. Meanwhile, the Mamluk sultanate of Egypt struck the Mongol garrisons in Syria and defeated them at Ayn )alut in 1260. The Mongol Empire spiraled into civil war after the death of Mongke, and Hulugu was never able to recover the Syrian conquests for the long term, as he was preoccupied with his rivals in the rest of the empire.

Khubilai eventually prevailed (in 1265) in the civil war, but the damage to the integrity of the empire was great. While the other princes nominally accepted Khubilai as the leader of the empire, he had very little influence outside Mongolia and China. Khubilai and his successors, known as the Yuan dynasty (1279- 1368), found their closest allies in Hulugu and his successors. Hulugu’s kingdom, known as the 11-Khanate of Persia, dominated the territory of present-day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Central Asia was ruled by the descendents of Chagatai (d. 1 241), Chinggis Khan’s third son. Meanwhile in Russia and the Russian steppes, descendents of Jochi (d. 1225′?), Chinggis Khan’s first son, held power. Their state became known as the Golden Horde.

The Mongol Empire in World History

The impact of the Mongo] Empire on world history is incalculable, especially in geography, trade, and religion.


In terms of geography, both physical and human, the Mongol expansion forever changed the face of Asia. The change began in Mongolia. Prior to the Mongol Empire, the inhabitants of that region were members of many disparate tribes. Under Chinggis Khan, all of the tribes were united into one new collective unit. Furthermore, tribal identities were stripped away as old tribal elites were dispensed with and a new social organi1.ation was forged that focused on the family of Chinggis Khan. The Mongolian nation of the modern era exists today because of the rise of the Mongol Empire. Chinggis Khan also unified the Mongol tribes through the imposition of a written language. Having seen the value of writing among the Naiman, one of the tribes he defeated in 1204, Chinggis Khan ordered that a Mongolian script be instituted. This script was adapted from the Uygur script, itself based on Syriac, brought east by Nestorian Christian missionaries. It remained in use in modern Mongolia until the twentieth century, when it was replaced with a Cyrillic script; it is still in use in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China.

The Mongol expansion also caused the movement of other tribes, primarily Turkic. While some moved into Hungary and the Balkans, as well as Syria, many moved into Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). A strong Turkic presence existed in Anatolia since the eleventh century, but the new influx of Turks eventually led to the Turkification of the region. One of the groups that moved into the region was the Osmanli, who established the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century.

Other groups also emerged from the Mongols. Later Turkic peoples, such as the Tatars of Crimea and Kazan, the Kazakhs, and the Uzbeks, trace their origins to the Mongols who settled the territories of the Golden Horde. The Tatars were direct offshoots from the collapse of the Golden Horde in the later fifteenth century. The Uzbeks, named after a ruler of the Golden Horde during its golden age, also came from the Golden Horde. The Kazakhs split from the Uzbeks and remained a primarily nomadic people until the twentieth century, whereas the Uzbeks settled in the more urban areas of Central Asia in the sixteenth century. For a brief period they established an empire that was a contemporary of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires. The Mughal Empire itself gained its name from the Persian word for Mongol. Its founder, Babur (1483–1530), was a descendent of the Central Asian conqueror Timur (1336–1405), who traced his lineage back to Genghis Khan.

While new groups were formed from the Mongol armies and the Mongol invasions set off a number of migrations of nomads across Eurasia, the Mongols also caused a tremendous amount of destruction. Although much of the data in the sources concerning the number of people killed during the Mongol conquests is exaggerated, those exaggerations do reflect the reality that thousands died, and the Mongols were not above depopulating an area if it suited their purpose.


From the beginnings of the Mongol Empire, the Mongol Khans fostered trade and sponsored numerous caravans. The very size of the Mongol Empire encouraged the wider dissemination of goods and ideas throughout Eurasia, as merchants and others could now travel from one end of the empire to another with greater security.

The fact that virtually a whole continent was under one rule helped make it possible for inventions such as mechanical printing, gunpowder, and the blast furnace to make their way west from China. In addition, commodities such as silk could be purchased at lower prices because cost of travel and security decreased thanks to the Pax Mongolica afforded by the Mongol Empire. Artistic ideas, sciences such as astronomy, and medicinal ideas also traveled back and forth. China, for its part, was enriched by outside influences in art, theater, and by advances in science and medicine as well.


The central importance of Chinggis Khan in the Mongol Empire cannot be ignored. As descent from Chinggis Khan became a key component in establishing one’s right to rule throughout much of central Eurasia, it had a considerable impact on rulers. Russian princes in Muscovy and Central Asian rulers alike often forged their genealogies to connect themselves to Chinggis Khan, much as some Muslims forged genealogies to connect themselves to the Prophet Muhammad. In Mongolia, the principle of descent from Chinggis Khan had a dramatic impact on religion.

Virtually all of the elite in Mongolia could trace their lineage back to Chinggis Khan, which made it difficult for one prince to assert primacy over others and become the leader of the majority of the Mongols. Thus, princes had to find other ways of legitimizing power. Altan Khan (1543–1583) did this by establishing ties with the leader of the Yellow Sect in Tibetan Buddhism, who was bestowed with the title of Dalai Lama, and, with the aid of Altan Khan, became the preeminent figure in Tibet. This courtship of Buddhist figures also led to the conversion of Mongolia to Buddhism in the sixteenth century.

The Mongols’ destruction of the Abbasid caliphate had significant consequences for religion as well. The caliph was meant to be the spiritual, and, if possible, political leader of the entire Islamic world, although even prior to the rise of the Mongols, this was an ideal more than a reality. After the Mongol conquest, although several rulers maintained the presence of a puppet caliph, the institution was not revived with any credible authority until the nineteenth century, when the Ottoman sultan also served as the caliph. The result was a decentralization of Islamic authority in the centuries following the defeat of the Abbasids.

Further Implications

The establishment of the Mongol Empire in many ways marked a crossroad in world history. As the largest contiguous empire in history it united Eurasia in a fashion that has not been repeated. Actions within the empire inevitably rippled across the rest of Asia and Europe, whether through trade, warfare, or religious affairs. Furthermore, because it ended several previous dynasties and instigated the creation of new power centers, the Mongol Empire may be viewed as a catalyst for significant geopolitical change.


  1. Allsen, T. T. (1987). Mongol imperialism. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  2. Allsen, T. T. (2002). The circulation of military technology in the Mongolian Empire. In Di Cosmo, N. (Ed.), Warfare in Inner Asian history, 500–1800 (pp. 265–294). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
  3. Buell, P. (2003). Historical dictionary of the Mongol world empire. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
  4. Halperin, C. (1987). Russia and the Golden Horde. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  5. Juvaini, A. (1997). The history of the world-conqueror. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  6. Martin, H. D. (1950). The rise of Chingis Khan and his conquest of North China. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.
  7. Morgan, D. (1986) The Mongols. Oxford, U.K.: Basil Blackwell.
  8. Morgan, D. O. (1996). Mongol or Persian: The government of Ilkanid Iran. Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review, 3, 62–76.
  9. Morgan, D. O. (1986). The ‘Great Yasa of Chingiz Khan’ and Mongol law in the Ilkhanate. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 49(1), 163–176.
  10. Onon, U. (Ed. & Trans.). (2001). The secret history of the Mongols: The life and times of Chinggis Khan. Richmond, U.K.: Curzon Press.
  11. Ostrowski, D. (1998). Muscovy and the Mongols: Cross-cultural influences on the steppe frontier, 1304–1589. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
  12. Polo, M. (1993). The travels of Marco Polo (H. Cordier, Ed., & H. Yule, Trans.). New York: Dover Publications.
  13. Rachewiltz, I. (2004). The secret history of the Mongols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
  14. Ratchnevsky, P. (1992). Genghis Khan: His life and legacy (T. N. Haining, Trans.). Cambridge, U.K.: Blackwell.
  15. Rubruck, W. (1990). The mission of Friar William of Rubruck: His journey to the court of the great khan Mongke, 1253–1255 (D. Morgan, Ed., & P. Jackson, Trans.) (Hakluyt Society, 2nd Series, No. 173). London: The Hakluyt Society.
  16. Smith, J. M., Jr. (1996). Mongol society and military in the Middle East: Antecedents and Adaptations. In Y. Lev (Ed.), War and society in the eastern Mediterranean, 7th and 15th centuries (The Medieval Mediterranean Peoples, Economies, and Cultures, 400–1453, No. 9). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

See also:

Free research papers are not written to satisfy your specific instructions. You can use our professional writing services to order a custom research paper on political science and get your high quality paper at affordable price.


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality
Special offer! Get discount 10% for the first order. Promo code: cd1a428655