did the Mongols create a great land empire?
Students will be
- identify the extent
of the Mongol Empire at the end of the 13th century
- assess the role
of horses, military strategy and weapons
- analyze the impact
of their pastoral lifestyle
It is important
for students to understand that the major achievement of Chinggis Khan
was in unifying a widely scattered nomadic people by capitalizing on the
strengths of these nomadic people. As a result, he was able to unify his
subjects when much of the rest of Asia was divided. Although China's population
was approximately 100 million at the time, they were relatively weak and
disunited and , therefore, ripe for conquest as were other regions.
These lessons will
begin with how the Mongols were able to establish the largest
contiguous land empire in world history and then proceed to discuss the
enduring significance of the Mongol conquests.
- Distribute Handout
1-Map of the Mongol Empire in late 13th Century. Ask students
to work with a partner and compare the historical map with a modern
map. List the modern names of the countries which were included in the
Mongol Empire at the end of the 13th century. Ask class to think about
some of the difficulties that an army of nomadic people would face in
the creation of this empire which stretched from Korea to eastern Europe.
Brainstorm some of the challenges and difficulties involved in conquering
this vast land area and record the responses on the chalkboard.
- Read Handout
2: Selections from All the Khan's
and Handout 3: The Devil's Horsemen
- Why did horses
play such an important role in the success of the Mongols?
- What technological
improvements did the Mongols devise to make their armies more effective?
- How does the
battle of the Kalka River illustrate the Mongol battle tactics?
- Describe the
weapons carried by the soldiers in the heavy cavalry. What do you
think would be the major difficulty for the riders?
- One of Chinggis
Khan's commands to his soldiers was not to shed the blood of rival
princes. From what you have read in this account of the battle,
was this a compassionate order or not? Discuss. 3 In Handout 3,
James Chambers claims that in the 13th century the Mongol army was
the best army in the world. From what you have read in these two
readings, discuss the military and cultural factors that contributed
to the success of these nomadic people.
Based upon what you
have read about the Mongols ,write a brief essay discussing how the harsh
environment of the steppes, their tribal beliefs and their pastoral lifestyle
all contributed to their success in creating a great empire.
For Further Reseach:
- Read the following:
" Big domestic mammals ...revolutionized human society by becoming
our main means of land transport until the development of railroads
in the 19th century. Before animal domestication, the sole means of
transporting goods and people by land was on the backs of humans. Large
mammals changed that: for the first time in human history, it became
possible to move heavy goods in large quantities, as well as people,
rapidly overland for long distances...The most direct contribution of
animal domestication to wars of conquest was from Eurasia's horses,
whose military role made them the Jeeps and Sherman tanks of ancient
warfare on that continent." (Jared Diamond, Guns,
Germs and Steel, p.91)
Do a research
project focusing on the military advantages of peoples who used horses.
Pay particular attention to their role in the overthrow of the Inca
and Aztec Empires.
- Research other
armies of the 13th and 14th centuries and compare the military weapons
and technology that were employed in different regions of the world.
- From A Horse
of a Different Chromosome?
- Oliver A. Ryder
Although Chinggis Khan's armies probably never numbered more than
200,00 troops, they may have had as many as 800,000 horses. Thirteenth-century
sources, including The Secret History of the Mongols, give a tantalizing
account of the training of Mongol horses. Captured in the wild and broken-in
during the first two years of their lives, the young horses were then
allowed to graze for three years. At he age of five they were once again
ridden and prepared for combat. The Mongols depended on their horses
so much, and gathered so many of them, that John of Plano Carpini, a
papal emissary to the Mongol court from 1246 to 1247, noted with amazement
that "they have such a number of horses and mates that I do not
believe there are so many in all the rest of the world."
Research the training methods outlined in these 13th century sources
(many of which are included in this book), and prepare to report on