1.  Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Empire:  be sure to know what things he did that made him an effective military leader.  Be ready to discuss how Mongol rule affected Russia and China (or if it did).

2.  China’s Treasure Fleet and the European Voyages of Discovery:  read up on China’s Treasure Fleet and be ready to explain why the fleet was created, where it went and what, if any, the long term affects of its voyages were.  Then, do the same thing for the European Voyages of Discovery covered in the slides (Chapters 11-13).

3.  Bubonic Plague:  study the various short term and long term changes the Black Death caused.  Be ready to explain these changes in terms of society, economics and politics (power structures).

4.  The Columbian Exchange:  Study all of the slides on this and be prepared to explain what it was, what kinds of things were exchanged (there’s a lot more to this than food!) and how these exchanges changed the New World and the Old World.  Don’t forget the fatally important role disease played for both worlds!

Pastoral Peoples

World History I, Chapter 11

Pastoral Peoples

Pastoral societies were peoples who focused on raising livestock, usually because the lands they lived in were poor for farming. Horses, goats, sheep, llamas, yaks, cattle, camels and reindeer are the most common livestock these people built their entire culture around.

In many cases, these peoples’ civilizations rose and fell without much notice to the rest of the world, in part because they tended to occur in areas that were not widely populated, so the pastoral peoples themselves were often somewhat cut off from other societies. In a few cases, though, certain pastoral groups changed the world.


Family Groups

Because they lived fairly insular lives away from most other peoples, they tended to have very closely-knit groups.

Women usually had more personal freedom and equality in pastoral societies because they often did much of the same work the men did.

Most pastoral societies moved around at least a little according to the seasons, if they were not almost completely nomadic. Because they relied on their animals for food and other items, they had to continually take their herds to and from feeding grounds which varied in location according to the season.


Trading and Raiding

Even though they kept to themselves, typically, they did rely on trade with local farmers since most pastoral people could not adequately live on just the food their animals provided. Trade networks were important, therefore.

Some pastoral societies became adept at not only trading but raiding others. It was pastoral groups who invented iron stirrups for saddles and compact bows that could be fired while on horseback, among other types of armor and weapons. These inventions made some groups such as the Mongols and Huns into truly fierce conquerors.


The Arabs were an excellent example of a pastoral group that became so good at warfare they eventually built their own empire. Once a camel saddle was created that would actually stay in place, the Arabs were able to fight from atop their camels, giving them a higher perch – and thus an advantage- than anyone on horseback.

The Mongol Empire

The Mongols were the most successful of the pastoral empires. At one point the Mongul Empire stretched from Eastern Europe all the way to the Pacific coast of Asia- the largest ever in history.

Even though it was huge, the empire didn’t leave anything lasting such as a language, or a new religion.


AKA Genghis Khan

The empire began with its greatest leader, TEMUJIN, more commonly known to us as Chinggis Khan (which means universal ruler).

From his lowly start as a fatherless child living on the edges of pastoral society, he grew to be a warrior and leader that many wanted to follow but nobody wanted to have to face in battle. He readily accepted warriors from tribes who had been defeated and was loyal to those who were loyal to him.

He helped to unify the many Mongol tribes into a single Great Mongol Nation and was given the title of Chinggis Khan in 1206.


Successful Conquering 101

Chinggis Khan then turned his great Mongol army towards China and other areas, beginning what was in essence a Mongol World War which was carried on after his death in 1227 by his sons and later his grandsons.

This war included attacks in China, Central Asia, Russia, most of the Middle East, and some of Eastern Europe. The empire grew massively, which is amazing when you consider that there were only about 700,000 Mongols to begin with, but they often fought yet defeated civilizations with many, many more people and resources.

Chinggis Khan managed this because of several factors that have since been copied by many other armies….

1. He organized his troops into very precise military units ranging in size from only ten to as many as 10,000, just as many military units do today (for instance, the U.S. army uses squads, then companies, then battalions, then brigades, then divisions).

2. He made sure all were rigorously trained and disciplined and punished desertion with death.

3. He and his leaders ate the same food as the soldiers, shared the same supplies and slept on the same ground.

4. Tactics and strategies were carefully discussed, and the soldiers were trained in them until everyone knew what to do once the battle started.

5. Finally, he made sure that all shared in the spoils of war, even if they didn’t share equally.


Savage Rule

Chinggis Khan was also mindful to adopt any new weapons or tactics his enemies used. Although there was plenty of slaughter when a group was conquered, Chinggis Khan made sure that some of the conquered were sent to work as slave laborers on roads, bridges and in supplying the troops.

Skilled laborers especially were identified and spared execution, but civilians as a whole were not likely to be left alive, especially if Chinggis Khan felt they would make troublesome captives. All were slaughtered, men, women and children.

This made the Mongol Hordes so feared that in some cases there was no resistance at all- groups would simply surrender to the Mongols without a fight.

When they did allow the conquered to live, the Mongols created a bureaucracy where they kept a strict census of the conquered people so they could exact tribute from them. Mongols held the highest offices, but Chinese and Muslims were allowed to be part of the government too.

Most religions were tolerated as long they weren’t disruptive or didn’t encourage rebellion.

Many different civilizations were conquered by the Mongols, but some were more affected by Mongol rule than others.

We’ll look now at Mongol rule in China, Persia and Russia.

China Under Mongol Rule

It took the Mongols 70 years to conquer China and not all areas of China were treated the same. For the Northern provinces, where the Mongol raids began, the conquering was brutal and merciless, but by the time the Mongols made it to the Southern provinces, ruled by the Song dynasty, there was less killing as long as the Chinese there agreed to assimilate peacefully into the Mongol empire.

The Mongols succeeded in unifying China (even though it was a unification of provinces conquered by outsiders), which made many Chinese scholars and leaders believe the Mongols served with the Mandate of Heaven and thus were legitimate rulers rather than conquering outsiders.

Khubilai Khan, the first Yuan

The Mongol empire transferred its treasury from the Mongol city of Karakorum in Mongolia to a city called Khanbalik, which is now known as Beijing, China’s capital city.

KHUBILIA KHAN, a grandson of Chinggis Khan who ruled over China even had his ancestors’ name’s changed to Chinese names and declared the beginning of the Yuan dynasty.

Khubilia Khan adopted many Chinese bureaucratic methods including their taxation system and set about learning how to squeeze every last drop of money from agriculture, a concept that was new to these nomadic warriors.


He then made various improvements to the infrastructure of China including building roads and canals, lowering some taxes, supporting the peasants in agriculture, removing torture and the death penalty for some crimes, etc., all things the Chinese felt Confucius would have approved.



Under the Mongol Yoke

Not everyone in China loved Mongol rule, of course. Marco Polo, the Venetian world traveler, reported the Mongols treated the Chinese like slaves. They took bribes, executed people at will and sexually abused their female Chinese captives. They also did not adopt the much-venerated Chinese examination system for government jobs, which all of China’s education was based upon. Instead, they gave jobs to Muslims who traveled with the Mongol hordes.

Mongol women had more rights and freedoms than Chinese women, which was another sore spot for the Chinese. Furthermore, the Chinese themselves did not have the same rights as Mongols, which is only to be expected since they were the conquered, not the conquerors, but this still irked the Chinese.

The Mongols stayed in China for about a hundred years until a combination of factors including factionalism, plague, inflation and peasant rebellions drove them out to seek greener pastures.


Chinese paying obeisance to the Mongol Khan

Persia Under Mongol Rule

Persia had been attacked before and conquered before from the Arabs, the Turks and Alexander the Great, but none of these could compare to the hell the Mongol hordes brought with them. They killed so wantonly and on such a massive scale that in some places the population never recovered.

The Mongols’ herds also destroyed the farmland in many areas, stripping the land of vegetation so badly it became desert.

The Mongols in Persia changed more than Mongols in China. In Persia, many adopted Islam and many became farmers, no longer living in pastoral societies. When Mongol rule in Persia finally began to falter as conquerors inevitably do, the Mongols who stayed were simply assimilated into Persian culture.


The Mongol Sack of Baghdad

Russia Under Mongol Rule

The Mongol invasion of Russia seems to have been particularly brutal, with reports of mass slaughters of men, women and children on an epic scale.

Even though the Mongols conquered Russia, they did not occupy cities or keep permanent administrators there, because Russia had nothing the Mongols wanted. Russia was farther away from trade routes, and really had no goods the Mongols wanted to take.

Instead, the Russian princes had to send huge amounts of tribute to the Mongol khan, and peasants paid heavy tax burdens as a result. The Mongols did raid the borderlands periodically, capturing Russians to sell into slavery.

As with other groups invaded by the Mongols, if a city resisted it was destroyed, but if it peacefully allowed itself to be inculcated into the Mongol Empire, it could survive and possibly thrive under Mongol rule.

As with Persia, Mongols who stayed in Russia eventually adopted Russian culture, although to a lesser extent than Mongols in Persia or China.



Western Europe Gets Lucky

Western Europe probably would have suffered the same fate as Eastern Europe under the hands of the Mongols, but the Great Khan Ogodei (right) died suddenly and the Mongol leaders were all called back to Mongolia.

Western Europe lacked the huge pastureland Mongols required in any event, though they would probably still have been conquered eventually had the Mongol empire not begun to fragment.


Cultural Exchange

Although the Mongol Empire came and went, the trade routes it established linked various civilizations together in a step towards a world economy, also creatin a massive cultural exchange throughout Eur-Asia.

Chinese medicine, which was more advanced and inventions such as gunpower circulated throughout the continent. Crops and plants were also introduced from one area to another- Lemons and carrots from the Middle East made it to China, for example. Drama, art, sports, religious and political ideas were all swapped back and forth from the far East to the far West and everywhere in between.


Chinese dancers wearing Mongolian-inspired headdresses


Maybe the Most Profound Cultural Exchange of All

Not all cultural exchange was beneficial, however. The bubonic plaque, or Black Death, spread from the Mongol Empire throughout the trade routes it had established, and the consequences were catastrophic.

One ironic effect was the weakening of the Mongol Empire, where the plaque seems to have arisen. As population declined from the deaths, cities began to decline and trade as well, weakening the empire, which finally collapsed in the 1400s.



Plague victims from 14th Century

Worlds of the Fifteenth Century

World History I


Changing Ways of Life

The fifteenth century saw some enormous changes in cultures worldwide.

Some cultures such as those found in most of Australia and in the far northern reaches of North America, were still hunter/gatherers, not because they were failing to progress, but because the land was providing everything they needed in abundance, so there was probably no impetus for change.

Pastoral societies continued on during this century, also, particularly in the middle east, Asia, and Africa, as before. But these types of cultures were in the minority by 1500, as agriculture continued to improve.



In China, the MING dynasty arose, spanning from 1368-1644. It ruled over a China that had been decimated by Mongol rule and then by Bubonic Plague.

The Ming emperors rebuilt the roads, canals and fields destroyed by the Mongols, rebuilt the government and reinstated the examination system for government workers.

Emperor Yongle even ordered the creation of an encyclopedia of 11,000 volumes, containing basically everything China knew up to that point.

Yongle also moved the capital of China to Beijing, creating a palace complex within it known as the Forbidden City, (see at right) for himself and future emperors.

This reconstruction ushered in an era of peace in China that allowed it to become the most prosperous civilization in the world by 1500.


The Chinese Treasure Fleet

Yongle also ordered a huge fleet of ships to be built that were then sent on various voyages to explore the rest of the world. The first voyage, captained by a eunuch named Zheng He, had more than 300 ships and was manned by more than 27,000 Chinese.

They traveled throughout Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and probably as far as North America. In some cases they brought back rulers who paid tribute to the emperor and in return were given gifts as and welcomed as trade partners.

When Yongle died, however, this immense fleet was left idle and eventually disappeared. Part of the reason for this was that China considered itself to be self-sufficient didn’t see the need to partner with other people.

It certainly believed its own culture to be far superior to others, and so once Yongle died, subsequent emperors saw no point in connecting with the outside world, inferior as it was to the Chinese.



Western Europe on the Rise

Like China, Western Europe had been decimated by plague, but it had at least been able to escape deprivation by the Mongol hordes. It still had many years of rebuilding before population and infrastructure returned to the pre-plague levels.

Where China continued to be one massive state, in Western Europe many separate states arose, such as Spain, Portugal, England and France. Italy was not yet a single entity, it was instead a conglomeration of city-states, and Germany was a collection of smaller kingdoms called principalities, and Russia was not even that organized at this time.

These areas all had various bureaucracies, strong taxation systems and large standing armies, and they all waged war against each other fairly constantly.



The Renaissance

Just like China, Europe had a time of positive cultural growth, in Europe’s case known as the RENAISSANCE.

During this time, European states looked towards the classic knowledge and arts of the ancient Greeks and Romans and even Islam and improved upon them.

This is the era of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and other artists. The Renaissance extended to more than painting and sculpture- history, politics, philosophy, science, etc. were studied and improved upon.

Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Note the realism of

the painting.

Raison d’état: The Reason of the State (might makes right)

An important writing at the time was Machiavelli’s The Prince, a treatise on government and military power.

In it, he said that basically any action was allowed by a ruler if it was good for the state as whole – raison d’état, as it is known. This concept is widely taught in military academies around the world even today.


The Renaissance was especially noted for viewing and learning from the world as it really was, not simply as viewed through a religious filter.

This in turn will lead to the great Enlightenment movement which in turn will lead to some momentous revolutions, including the one that will give birth to the United States.


Voyages of Discovery

Like the Chinese, some European nations made voyages for the sake of improving trade.

Portugal explored the West coast of Africa, with Vasco de Gama making it around the tip of Africa, and eventually farther East; and of course Spain funded Christopher Columbus’ voyage to India that instead made it to North America, thus discovering the New World.

The amazing thing about these European voyages is that the ships that were taken were really small compared to the massive Chinese ships that emperor Yongle had sent out to explore the world, but they actually accomplished more. To the right is an actual sized reproduction of Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria. Imagine sailing across the Atlantic in that dinky thing!


Sack of Constantinople

Meanwhile, in the middle east, the Ottoman Empire had continued to grow in size and strength.

In 1453, the empire seized Constantinople and destroyed what remained of Byzantium.

Now that the eastern reaches of the former Roman Empire were under Islam control, the Western reaches- Europe itself- lay open to Islamic conquest as well.


Islamic Divisions: Shia and Sunni

To the east of the Ottoman Empire, another Islamic power grew, the Safavid Empire, founded by Sufis from the Shia version of Islam, in what will become modern day Iran.

Because the Sufis were Shia, they found plenty of enemies in the rest of the Islamic states, who were Sunni.

This Shia/Sunni division continues in the nations of Islam to this day, with bloody consequences.


The Aztec Empire

In North and South America, meanwhile, two other massive civilizations reached their zeniths: The Aztecs and the Inca.

The Aztecs rose as a people around 1325, from the Mexica people of modern-day northern Mexico. They had a strong military that enabled them to create their own empire, with a capital city at Tenochtitlan.

In 1428 it allied with two neighboring city states and within a hundred years, the resulting empire had spread throughout much of Mesoamerica.

Conquered peoples were used primarily as slaves and the conquered rulers were made to pay tribute including textiles, clothing, jewelry, weapons, food, building material, paper and other goods.


Tenochtitlan itself was considered to be one of the wonders of the world at its height- it was a walled city with palaces and temples, surrounded by bridges, canals, and smaller plots of land within the waterways that grew many different kinds of plants- “floating gardens,” the Spanish called them.

Massive marketplaces were spread throughout the city as well and contained an array of goods that seemed to encompass the entire world – if it was bought or sold anywhere on the planet, it was available at these marketplaces. Europe at the time really had nothing to compare with this empire’s cities.


Ritual Sacrifice

Human sacrifice was very important to the Aztecs, and slaves were bought and sold at marketplace to provide for this practice.

The Aztecs believed that the sun god, necessary to the survival of man, often became weak as it battled against darkness. In order to strengthen the sun god, a sacrifice of human blood was needed. Slaves and war captives were the main source for these sacrifices, so the Aztecs made sure they took as many prisoners as possible during warfare rather than simply killing their enemies.

An Aztec drawing of human sacrifices

Aztec Government

Religion and political power were strongly intertwined in the Aztec empire, as rulers and priests alike both demanded blood sacrifices to maintain the health and prosperity of the empire.

When the Aztecs conquered a civilization, they then left them alone to govern themselves for the most part, as long as the people paid tribute to the Aztec empire.


The Incan Empire

In South America, the Inca Empire spread along the Andes mountains, growing much larger than the Aztec empire. It had some 10 million subjects at its height, but it lasted less time than the Aztecs, coming along in the 1400s and being eradicated around the same time as the Aztecs, in the 1500s.

The Inca Empire had a more structured government than the Aztecs- when a city state was conquered, it was brought into the empire and its lands were taken over by a governor appointed by the emperor.

Former rulers and officials of now-conquered lands sent their sons to the capital city of Cuzco to learn the official language of Quechua, which is still spoken in many areas of South America today.

Incan Government

Incan culture required people to work at least a period of every year for the good of the government. Farmers spent part of the year working on state-run farms, craftsmen such as ceramic and metal workers created goods for the use of the government, non-skilled workers worked in construction, etc.

Interestingly, it was Incan custom that decreed if an area met with some natural disaster, the government was expected to send food and other aid.


Machu Piccu, an

Ancient Incan city

World History II

Early Modern Era 1450-1750

Age of Empires

The Early Modern Era, from 1450-1750 is also known as the Age of Empires.

Although empires had existed previously, such as the Aztec and Inca empires, this section focuses on empires created by European and Asian societies

The age begins with the exploration of the New World of the Americas by the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese

Great Age of Exploration

European nations looked across the Atlantic for lands that had abundant natural resources and trade goods.

The original object was not to colonize, merely to explore, but colonization followed soon after as it became apparent that great wealth could be obtained in the New World

Voyages were funded and colonies founded for three reasons….God, Glory, and Gold



“We came here to serve God and the King

…and also to get rich”


European Advantages

European explorers had improved mapmaking, navigational tools, ship design, and weapons, including gunpower and other innovations from China and the Near East.

The Spanish brought horses with them, allowing them to quickly subdue native peoples who had never seen this animal.

Another advantage was that some native civilizations had factions within them that were willing to ally with the newcomers to help destroy the existing native power structures.

The Great Dying

The biggest advantage the Europeans had over the native people was one they weren’t aware of: Europeans brought with them various germs and diseases the native people had never been exposed to and thus had no resistance against.

New World natives were exposed to smallpox, measles, typhus, yellow fever, malaria and influenza, as well as diseases carried by the livestock the Europeans brought with them.

These diseases decimated the native population by as much as 90%.

A contemporary wood cutting of native Americans dying

from smallpox, circa 1500

The Great Dying

Within 50 years of Columbus’ landing in the Caribbean, the local Caribe Indians vanished entirely.

Central Mexico’s population before the Spanish arrived had been between 10-20 million. In less than one hundred years it had dropped to about one million.

According to some accounts, the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock found a ready-made village with empty huts and some crops in the field…with the bones of the dead scattered everywhere.

“By God’s visitation, a wonderful plague!”

The Columbian Exchange

Besides diseases, Europeans brought crops such as wheat, rice, sugarcane, grapes and other vegetables and fruits, and livestock such as horses, cattle, goats, pigs and sheep.

All of these things changed the ecosystems around them.

Horses in particular changed the history of North America, as some Indian tribes became dependent on them and grew more warlike as a result.

Columbian Exchange

From the New World to the Old World, sailors brought back tomatoes, squash, beans, peanuts, corn and potatoes as well as tobacco, coffee and chocolate. New diseases such as syphilis came back with these sailors, also.

The new crops were very successful in the European climate, allowing the population to explode.

Population in Millions

Europeans 1400 1900 60 390





Empires in the Americas

Mercantilism was prevalent; the colony existed for the sole purpose of making money for the mother-country.

Natives were often enslaved, or if necessary, slaves were brought in from elsewhere (usually Africa).

Money was made from agriculture and mining



Spanish Empire

Spain took over the areas of the Aztec and Inca empires, which were densely populated. These natives were often enslaved and forced to convert to Catholicism

Spain used the hacienda system with rich landowners being in power and paying very low wages to the natives who were denied many rights.

Where the Spanish interbred with natives, a mixed-race class called mestizos resulted.

Spanish colonies focused on agriculture and mining. They send massive quantities of gold and silver home to Spain, making it the richest nation in Europe for a time.


Spanish gold coins from the New World

Portuguese Empire

Portugal found its New World fortune in the production of sugar. Because raising sugarcane and creating sugar from the juice was extremely labor-intensive, many slaves were imported from Africa to augment surviving natives.

In some Caribbean and South American areas, African populations now outnumber indigenous people.

Where Africans and Europeans mixed, the resulting class were called mulattoes.


English Empire

Colonies founded by the English were not always founded just to make money but sometimes to exercise religious or political freedom.

Because the soil and climate in the first English colonies would not support slavery, it wasn’t used. Family farms were the norm instead.

Many English settlers were Protestant and had a strong streak of independence.


Jeanette Pellegrin (JP) –

Russian Empire

As the Mongul empire began to weaken, Russia rose as an independent state.

Russians banded together to protect themselves from further invasion. The Russian nation became the largest in the world.

Pastoral lifestyles in many areas of the empire faded away as Russian became increasingly agricultural.

Russian Empire at its height

Peter the Great’s Reforms

Peter was tsar from 1689-1725

Reforms made to modernize Russia included creating a more modern administration of government, improved educational systems (for sons of nobility; not for everyone); increase in industries

Russian nobles had to dress like and adopt mannerisms of other European nobles, including being clean-shaven- or pay a beard tax

Peter the Great


Asian Empires – China

China’s final dynasty, the Qing (or Manchu) Dynasty, ruled from 1644-1912.

The Manchus were not actually Chinese, they were Manchurian. To keep bloodlines pure, they were not allowed to interbreed with Chinese.

They practiced cultural tolerance, allowing conquered peoples to keep most of their customs, religions and languages.



A portrait of a Qing Emperor

Asian Empires- India

In India, the Mughal Empire (1526-1707), which was Muslim, unified the area but allowed native Hindus to live peacefully.

Akbar, the empires’ best emperor, encouraged other religions to exist and gave more rights to women.

His successor, Aurangzeb, undid most of these reforms which created unrest. When he died, the empire began to fracture and eventually lost power to England.

Asian Empires- Ottoman

The Ottoman Empire was created from the Turks. Traditionally, the ruler of the empire was considered to be the defender of the faith of the Muslim religion.

Women traditionally had few rights under this empire, under Muslim (sharia) law.

The holy cities of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem were all within this empire.

Ottoman Empire

Two differing factions of the Islamic religion, the Sunni and the Shia, could not coexist peacefully for long.

In 1453 the Christian city of Constantinople, seat of the Byzantine Empire, fell to raids by the Ottoman Turks and became known as Istanbul.

The Ottoman Empire became large enough to threaten Germany and Austria

Ertogrul, the first ruler of the Ottoman Turks

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