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Empire of the Mongols


This course is an introduction to the Mongols Empire of the 13th century—the largest land empire in the world. In the class, we will look at the Mongols’ unique steppe nomadic lifestyle, how it prepared them for military success, and then how Chinggis Khan (known in the West as Genghis) added rapid adaption to siege warfare and governmental institutions to that foundation. Even after Chinggis Khan’s death, the empire expanded under his sons and grandsons, selectively adding East Asian and Middle Eastern institutions to their own institutions to create a distinctively Mongol style of government.

The Mongol conquest is known through many writers. In addition to David Morgan’s The Mongols, we will look at Chinese, European, and Arabic travelers, as well as the famous Secret History of the Mongols written by a Mongol, twenty-five years after Chinggis Khan’s death. Students will thus have an opportunity to compare differing views of the Mongol empire and see how the background of the writers influences their view of the Mongols. We will also analyze the recent movie “Mongol” by the Russian director Sergei Bodrov.

Regions Covered

Historical Central Eurasia

When Taught

Spring 2013


Department of Central Eurasian Studies