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European Tribune - Comments - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants - Europe and the Mongol Empire

Rather, when the Mongols invaded in the East of Europe they won some huge victories and large areas of territory. However, the booty gained was not on the scale found in other areas neighbouring the Mongol Empire - notably the Sung Kingdom in China and the Muslim states in the Middle East. Thus, the Mongols turned their armies back towards more profitable regions. In effect, Europe escaped being part of the Mongol Empire because it was too poor and backward to be a target.

The dominant historical narrative holds that coincidence - mainly in the form of Ögedei's death - played a huge part. Having come halfway across Europe the undefeated Mongol armies turned because their leaders needed to protect their interests in the succession.

Do Weatherford dispute this narrative, or does he simply place it within a larger context?

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by A swedish kind of death on Fri May 10th, 2013 at 02:13:12 PM EST
My bad - he talks about Ögedei's death - it's true that just before Ögedei's death Europe was teetering on the edge of collapsing before the invader and the death resulted in the leaders turning away but he also puts it in a larger context.

After all, many invasions took place after Ögedei's death, the reason the invasions weren't in Europe were because there were richer areas to attack.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri May 10th, 2013 at 03:17:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, that is one more piece of luck for the Europe that is...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri May 10th, 2013 at 03:19:08 PM EST
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There were further invasions in Europe: in Eastern Europe, the Golden Horde kept invading the various Slavic principalities and kingdoms and even the re-born Byzantine Empire.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 10th, 2013 at 03:51:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was ongoing imperial warfare of subjugation waged on border states all around the Empire, including in Europe. I did not mean to intimate otherwise.

However, invasions on the scale of the Mongol absorption of the Sung Empire, or the drive to Baghdad simply didn't occur in Europe, largely because they didn't see the profit in it.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri May 10th, 2013 at 03:59:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To be extra clear I'm speaking about the period up to the Black Death. The Horde survived beyond that as an independent state - overlords of the oppressed natives. They launched further wars, but at that point it's much more a history of Rus as a European power, admittedly ruled by a foreign/Asian ruling class, but it's a different situation.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri May 10th, 2013 at 04:03:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me give a longer reply that is also a broader re-consideration of the issue (having slept one night on it).

  • I think one key factor for the Mongol withdrawal and more limited further action is imperial over-stretch. The Mongol armies tried to hold territory, and that territory got vastly bigger with each decade. Demanding tribute instead of direct occupation (as also in the attack against the Byzantine Empire) is another angle of that, from which follow wars against neighbours refusing to pay tribute. Note that in effect, the sack of Baghdad was a similar border war: the Abbasid Caliphate paid tribute earlier.

  • Another issue is the separation of the Mongol Empire into smaller units, which started well before the end of the nominal joint empire. The Golden Horde started out as the region controlled by Batu and later Berke, who were in a minority faction. The area controlled by Hülegü (a member of the majority faction), Persia and later Mesopotamia, later became another independent state as the Ilkhanate. In other words, there wasn't a monolithic force seeking profit, but various factions all seeking their own profit with their own border wars, some bigger, some smaller. In fact, the faction that became the Golden Horde began to fight the one to become the Ilkhanate and ally with non-Mongol forces just two years after the sack of Baghdad.

  • I submit the westward drive from the Ilkhanate is different from stuff like the destruction of Vladimir (but also the taking of the Song Empire) in the sending of auxiliary troops from the other sub-empires and the direct order from the Great Khan. However, the drive to Baghdad was apparently part of a broader westward drive, as Berke began another conquest of Europe (which ended when he fell out with Hülegü):

Golden Horde - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In 1259 Berke launched savage attacks on Lithuania and Poland, and demanded the submission of Béla IV, the Hungarian monarch, and the French King Louis IX in 1259 and 1260.[19] His assault on Prussia in 1259/60 inflicted heavy losses on the Teutonic Order.[20]

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 11th, 2013 at 03:17:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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