Empire in Asia

A New Global History

The Mongol Empire: Its Rise and Legacy

Book Cover

Book Title

The Mongol Empire: Its Rise and Legacy. New Brunswick, N.J.: AldineTransaction, 2006

Author

Prawdin, Michael

Synopsis

In The Mongol Empire: Its rise and Legacy, Michael Prawdin described the rise and fall the Mongol Empire, which at its height, dominated over two centuries China Iran, Russia and parts of Southeast Asia. The book began by depicting the early days of Jenghiz Khan, giving the reader a clearer picture of the social-political environment that shaped the soon-to-be Khan. Through the rest of the book, Prawdin charted the political and military exploits of Jenghiz Khan, and the legacies that his feats left for his descendants and also the subsequent political circumstances of Asia. Using the feats and legacies of Jenghiz Khan as a window, the author also explored the military, social and political tension between settled and nomadic communities.

Scope (Topics Covered, Time Period)

With the subject of discussion being the Mongol empire, one sees that debating about their successes and failures in conquering new territories are unavoidable. However, Prawdin takes this concept one step further and states that the empire was deemed to be held together by a single purpose; world conquest. The more conquests carried out by the Mongols, the more resources they possessed, particularly that of human resources. With more soldiers and labor to wage wars and conquests, the Mongols emerged as still more powerful.

In addition, the continuation of Mongol conquests was seen as having originated from Jenghiz Khan's heritage, which presented itself as a demand for the completion of world-conquest. This automatically imposed upon his sons the prompt performance of three great tasks: the definitive subjugation of the Kin Empire, the completion of conquest of Western Asia and European subjugation. However, an unprecedented problem presented itself when the Mongol soldiers and resources became overstretched over the vastness of their conquered lands. Thus, nothing but obedience to their own Khan and his subordination to the will of the Khakan served to unite the Mongols around the world. This proved to be a fragile state of being.

Argument (Methodology, Significance)

The author argues that with additional conquests carried out by the Mongols, the more resources they had at their disposal, specifically that of human resources. With more people to wage wars and conquests, it was deemed that the Mongols were becoming increasingly powerful. However, the empire was deemed to be held together by a single purpose; world conquest. This was deemed to have led to a strengthening of the people well skilled in warfare; not merely talented commanders and strategists but also statesmen. He also makes the argument that Jenghiz Khan was not a man who made all the decisions regarding the administration of the empire, but that he had valuable help from Yeliu-Ch'uts'ai and Tuli. In this way, the power structure in the Mongol empire needs closer examination, particularly concerning their decision-making process. In addition, the heritage of Jenghiz Khan's; a demand for the completion of world-conquest, had imposed upon his sons the prompt performance of three great tasks. These were: the definitive subjugation of the Kin Empire, he fulfillment of the conquest of Western Asia and the subjugation of Europe.

The impending decline of the Mongol empire was seen to be contained within the formidable unity which Asia manifested under the dominion of the "Pax Tatarica" arousing both incredulity and astonishment in the disintegrated West. There had, for example, come into being the firmly compacted and almost independent realm of the Golden Horde, the Mongolian-Chinese Kin Empire, an admirably organized militarist state; and in Western Asia the still consolidating empire of the Ilkhans. These faced each other with equal rights.

The problem was that the dispatching of both the people of the Khakan and armies into remote regions to conquer new territories had detached larger and larger agglomerations of people from their tribal home. The Mongols who had settled down in the Russian steppes, upon the plateau of Iran, and beside the rivers of China gradually lost touch and sense of kinship with their primal fatherland. Nothing binded them to the physical conditions of Mongolia, its comparatively barren pastures, its harsh climate. Thus, only obedience to their own Khan and his subordination to the will of the Khakan served to unite the Mongols around the world. The unifying will of the Khakan later disappeared with Mangu's death.

Arguably, the army faced problems of maintaining their grip upon all the countries they had subjugated. But since these subdivisions was so large, it was barely possible to enforce rule from a single centre and maintain obedience to that centre. The army thus had to be broken up for the occupation of strategic points as soon as the vassal princes with their troops returned to their fiefs. The Khan who had gone to war as one of the commanders of the Mongolian empire, became ruler of a conquered territory with his own peculiar cares and interests.

The epilogue finally broaches the importance of the present Mongolian territory as the key of Asia, particularly in the rivalry between China and Russia. Both consists of a vast expanse of territories and diversity of peoples. When Russia stopped China's expansion in the Asian Upland, the heart of Jinghiz Khan's empire, it was because behind Outer Mongolia lay Tannu Tua, which was incorporated in Russia but with a large Mongolian population. Additionally, there lies extremely vital industrial centers near the Baikal Sea. In spite of the same ideology and professed friendship between China and Russia, the decision as to who is to be the true heir of Jenghiz Khan, the new Lord of Asia, is deemed to be one that sooner or later have to be dealt head-on with.


Annotated by Michelle Djong