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The Mongol Empire

Learn how the Mongols both terrorized and advanced the world, in this fascinating course taught by a spellbinding teacher and historian.
The Mongol Empire is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 48.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from very informative! We listened to these lectures several years ago. It was excellent, especially since we have since traveled in portions of the areas covered in the lectures. We have talked of listening to the lectures again.
Date published: 2022-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Details galore The author sometimes overwhelmed me with the plethora of details in this course. I very much enjoyed learning who conquered whom at what time, as this is what one would expect from a history course. I'm letting the details settle out and trying to piece together the big picture stuff now. I'm looking to repeat the course in a month or so, just to test my recollection of the main facts.
Date published: 2021-12-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Nothing Received Despite being advised that the DVD was sent on 6 December 2021, I have still not received it, some 3 weeks later.
Date published: 2021-12-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very interesting - if you've got the vocabulary The course is well organized, comprehensive and dense with facts and interpretations. The main problem I had was with the vocabulary. Many of the names of people and places were unfamiliar and it was difficult to follow where and who in the story. Major names were OK but, unless you are already reasonable familiar with Central Asia and the Middle East, you may, like me with the audio version, get lost as the narrative powers on. If you are prepared to just skim - ie not focus on the names and just follow the overall story - the insights it gives of an amazing part of human history is well worth it. Maybe the video version had maps and written names which would make the material more accessible.
Date published: 2021-12-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Names, names and more names I expected this to be as informative as the other great courses I've listened to but, unfortunately, the professor expended far too much time listing name after name of Mongol clan leaders who didn't get further mention in any context whatsoever. I found this to be a distraction at first and an annoyance by the end of the lecture series. I would not recommend this to any but the most ardent student of Mongol history.
Date published: 2021-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Explores the most expansive empire in history. I found this course far more interesting, informative, and balanced than “The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes.” Drawing on an array of sources, especially contemporary chroniclers both within and without the Mongol empires as well as modern historians, Professor Benjamin covers not only battles, but also the structure of government and taxation, the Mongol khans’ passion for luxury and beauty, their tolerance for all religions, the status of women, and so much more. When it comes to battles, he does not spare the gory details, but he does explain the advantages and disadvantages of their traditional practices and how they had to adapt and enhance their repertoires as their empires expanded. I strongly advise getting the video course. There are the requisite maps and a genealogical table which I found essential for Lecture 15, but it is the use of dozens of paintings and graphics, many of which are contemporary Chinese, Persian, and Mongol works of art that portray life in the Mongol courts that enhanced the dialogue. These were supplemented by some beautiful modern paintings, lithographs from the 19th century, and illustrative graphics. Whenever Professor Benjamin quoted a source, it was displayed onscreen. Likewise, when many names were introduced, they were given a few seconds on a small tag onscreen. I found this very helpful, especially as many names were unfamiliar to me. Each of the lectures is condensed for the guidebook.
Date published: 2021-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing history of a time and place far away The information was presented by a very understandable manner. The lectures are well connected without too much repetition. This course along with the Ottoman were very revealing of the Eurasian past.
Date published: 2021-10-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting and Full of Facts I Learned a lot. Dr. Benjamin is articulate and lectures are all organizes. My one cmplaint is the entire subject is massive in scope, reflecting the size of the Mongol Empire. Especially daunting are the great number names of key characters, geographic areas, and events spanning mainly the 13th and 14th centuries. Much of this was unfamiliar to me. A lot to digest, but worth the effort.
Date published: 2021-08-04
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Overview

Taught by Professor Craig Benjamin of Grand Valley State University, this course follows the Mongol mounted warriors who emerged out of Central Asia in the 13th century to conquer much of the known world. Although the Mongols fought with unparalleled brutality, they aspired to many of the civilized values of their victims and helped trigger long-lasting cultural interchange between East and West.

About

Craig G. Benjamin
Craig G. Benjamin

These big ideas of Eastern civilization emerged thousands of years ago, but they endured and shaped the long history of these regions all the way to the present.

INSTITUTION

Grand Valley State University

Dr. Craig G. Benjamin is Associate Professor of History in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), where he teaches East Asian civilization, big history, ancient Central Asian history, and historiography. He earned his undergraduate education at The Australian National University in Canberra and Macquarie University in Sydney, and his Ph.D. in Ancient History from Macquarie University. Professor Benjamin has received several awards for teaching, including the 2012 Faculty of Distinction Award from Omicron Delta Kappa Society (a national leadership honor society) and the 2009 Student Award for Faculty Excellence from the GVSU Student Senate. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including The Yuezhi: Origin, Migration and the Conquest of Northern Bactria and Readings in the Historiography of World History. He is coauthor (with David Christian and Cynthia Stokes Brown) of Big History: Between Nothing and Everything. Professor Benjamin is an officer of the World History Association and the International Big History Association. He is also a consultant for The College Board and a member of the SAT World History Subject Committee and the Advanced Placement World History Development Committee.

By This Professor

The Big History of Civilizations
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Foundations of Eastern Civilization
854
The Mongol Empire
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The Mongol Empire

Trailer

The Mongols’ Place in World History

01: The Mongols’ Place in World History

Starting with eyewitness accounts of the arrival of fierce Mongol armies at unsuspecting cities across Eurasia, Professor Benjamin launches his survey of the rise and decline of the Mongol Empire, the largest the world has ever known. After outlining the content of the course, he sketches the history of civilizations destined to be controlled by the Mongols—from China to Persia to Eastern Europe.

32 min
The Origins of Eurasian Steppe Nomadism

02: The Origins of Eurasian Steppe Nomadism

Use a “big history” perspective to understand the origin of militarized nomadism in the pastoral culture that developed on the grasslands of Eurasia beginning 7,000 years ago. Consider the paradox of nomadic empires that rarely build cities, yet still interact with the great civilizations on the periphery of the Eurasian steppe. Focus on the importance of the horse and composite bow to nomadic military power.

29 min
Nomadic Predecessors of the Mongols

03: Nomadic Predecessors of the Mongols

In this lecture, set the stage for the leader who founded the Mongol Empire in the early 13th century, Chinggis Khan (also spelled Genghis Khan). See how previous Mongolian-centered steppe empires established a template that was perfected by Chinggis. Trace these precursors to Turkic rulers in the 7th and 8th centuries, and to the Xiongnu steppe empire a thousand years earlier.

29 min
The Rise of Chinggis Khan

04: The Rise of Chinggis Khan

Drawing on The Secret History of the Mongols, written soon after Chinggis Khan’s death in 1227, chart the rise of the obscure son of a minor Mongol chief to earn the title “Strong” or “Universal Ruler”: Chinggis Khan. His martial daring and hairbreadth escapes have all the drama of a Hollywood epic. There is even a beautiful and formidable love interest, Borte, who Chinggis chose as his wife.

29 min
Chinggis Khan’s Early Conquests

05: Chinggis Khan’s Early Conquests

Having consolidated his power over the Mongol tribes, Chinggis Khan had to decide what to do next with his unbeatable army, and how to prevent it from dissolving into division and chaos. Review the geopolitical situation in inner Eurasia at this time. Then follow Chinggis’s forces on their first campaigns outside of Mongolia. Their number-one target was the Jin dynasty in China, longtime antagonists of the nomads.

29 min
Mongol Institutions under Chinggis Khan

06: Mongol Institutions under Chinggis Khan

Spotlight three innovations introduced by Chinggis Khan to unify and modernize the Mongol state: his reorganization of Mongol society; his taxation reforms; and his creation of a new law code, the Great Yasa, which included injunctions designed to protect horses, water, and wild animals. The code also specified seemingly minor breaches of decorum that were punishable by death.

29 min
Chinggis Khan’s Khwarazmian Campaign

07: Chinggis Khan’s Khwarazmian Campaign

Take off on the brutal campaign called by one historian a “masterpiece of Mongol warfare at all levels.” This was Chinggis Khan’s military operations in the early 1220s against Shah Muhammad, ruler of the Khwarazmian Empire, located in the regions of modern-day Iran and Central Asia. Incited by the shah’s murder of his traders and emissaries, Chinggis led a vengeful invasion of death and destruction.

29 min
The Death of Chinggis Khan

08: The Death of Chinggis Khan

Ever restless, Chinggis Khan withdrew from his western conquests to start a new campaign thousands of miles away in northwestern China. Learn about the hunting accident that reportedly led to his death in 1227, the mystery surrounding his burial place, and his chosen successor among his sons. Then weigh the legacy of Chinggis Khan. Was he a civilizing force or an agent of unparalleled disaster?

28 min
Ogedai Khan’s Western Campaigns

09: Ogedai Khan’s Western Campaigns

Chinggis Khan’s third son and successor, Ogedai, wasted no time striving to fulfill his father’s dying order: “Life is short. I could not conquer all the world. You will have to do it!” The new khan took up unfinished business against the Jin dynasty in China and sent a force to subdue lands in Eastern Europe, defeating the cream of European knighthood. Discover what stopped his onslaught.

28 min
Mongol Queens and the Contest for the Empire

10: Mongol Queens and the Contest for the Empire

Delve into the administration and politics of the Mongol Empire during the 10-year hiatus from expansion that followed the death of Ogedai in 1241. Learn about the Mongols’ remarkably swift “pony express,” and spotlight two influential queens, Toregene and Sorkaktani, who managed the empire and paved the way for their favored candidates for Great Khan: Guyuk and his successor, Mongke.

28 min
Dividing the Empire: A Tale of Four Brothers

11: Dividing the Empire: A Tale of Four Brothers

Relive the exploits of four sons of Tolui, the youngest heir of Chinggis Khan. Among other adventures, Mongke Khan led the attack on China’s Song dynasty in concert with his brother Qubilai, eventually to become the legendary Qubilai Khan. Meanwhile, Hulagu Khan engineered the brilliant siege of Baghdad, while the youngest brother, Ariq Boke, attempted to usurp the khanate, sparking a civil war.

29 min
The Strengths of Mongol Military Organization

12: The Strengths of Mongol Military Organization

Survey the armament, tactics, and organization of the Mongol military machine. Far from being a mob of fanatical mounted warriors, the Mongols were superbly trained and disciplined. Consider the close connection between their traditional hunting practices on the steppe and the skills needed to outsmart and defeat another army. Few fighting forces in history have been as consistently effective.

28 min
The Mongols in China

13: The Mongols in China

Follow Qubilai Khan’s conquest, unification, and leadership of China, which was the world’s most technologically advanced state at the time. In order to overcome China’s formidable defenses, Qubilai had to adopt new tactics, including ships and catapult heavy artillery. During Qubilai’s reign as the first head of the Yuan dynasty, he hosted and employed an exotic visitor from the West: Marco Polo.

29 min
The Mongols in East and Southeast Asia

14: The Mongols in East and Southeast Asia

Driven by the Mongols’ sacred mission to conquer the world, Qubilai Khan twice mounted invasions of Japan. Both times he was defeated by the samurai warrior ethic, with a generous assist from catastrophic typhoons. Termed kamikaze—or “divine winds”—these storms were afterwards seen as heavenly protectors by the Japanese. Also, learn how Qubilai had mixed success subduing states in Southeast Asia.

28 min
The Mongols in Central Asia

15: The Mongols in Central Asia

After the Mongol Empire broke apart, descendants of Chinggis Khan’s middle sons Chagatai and Ogedei ruled large parts of Central Asia. Investigate the internecine, familial strife that plagued this region, exacerbated by conflicts with the Mongol rulers of China, Persia, and Russia. Despite the political chaos, the economy functioned relatively well, with Silk Road commerce flourishing.

29 min
The Mongols in Persia and the Middle East

16: The Mongols in Persia and the Middle East

Using the contemporary chronicle of Rashid al-Din as a guide, turn to the history of Mongol rule in Persia and the Middle East. An important element of the story is the clash of religions in a region that was becoming increasingly Muslim. A good example is the Mongol ruler of Persia, Oljeitu, who was raised as a Christian, converted to Buddhism, later to Sunni Islam, and then to Shi’a Islam.

29 min
The Mongols in Russia: The Golden Horde

17: The Mongols in Russia: The Golden Horde

Travel to the Golden Horde, the farthest west of the khanates established after the death of Mongke Khan in the mid-13th century. Named by Russian chroniclers, the Golden Horde was a fertile arena for civil war and eventually played a pivotal role in the rise of Moscow and the Russian state. Hear about a notorious incident of germ warfare instigated by the Mongols, involving bubonic plague.

29 min
The Pax Mongolica: Eurasia Reconnected

18: The Pax Mongolica: Eurasia Reconnected

Follow in the footsteps of a succession of travelers who gave Europeans their first glimpse of the extraordinary cultural diversity of Asia during a period of stability called Pax Mongolica. Marco Polo is the most famous of these medieval globetrotters. Evaluate the veracity of his account, and hear about lesser known merchants, envoys, missionaries, and adventurers who also made the arduous trip.

27 min
The Collapse of the Mongol Empires

19: The Collapse of the Mongol Empires

Chart the disintegration of the Mongol Empire, observing its rapid collapse in the Persian Ilkhanate in 1335 and Yuan China in 1368. Also, analyze the much more gradual break-up of the Chagatayid khanate and the Golden Horde, as the Mongols splintered into smaller, more autonomous units. Finally, focus on some of the long-lived successor states to the Mongols, such as the Ming dynasty in China.

28 min
Timur the Lame, a.k.a. Tamerlane

20: Timur the Lame, a.k.a. Tamerlane

Launch into the career of the last of the great Mongol rulers, Timur, the reputed “Scourge of God”—also known as Tamerlane from his lameness due to a war wound. War was the lifeblood of this minor Turco-Mongol noble, who rose to found the Timurid Empire. Cover his early exploits and his campaign against Toqtamish, khan of the Golden Horde. Also learn about Moscow’s miraculous escape from Timur.

29 min
Timur’s Major Campaigns

21: Timur’s Major Campaigns

Ride with Timur on his major expeditions that brought him infamy throughout Eurasia and made European monarchs shudder with fear. Cover two invasions of Persia and the destruction of Baghdad; an incursion into India and the sacking of Delhi; a military operation into Anatolia, where he defeated the army of Ottoman sultan, Bayezid I; and his final planned assault on the Ming dynasty in China.

28 min
Samarkand: Timur’s Cultural Capital

22: Samarkand: Timur’s Cultural Capital

Take a break from conquests to explore Timur’s fabled capital, Samarkand, located in present-day Uzbekistan. Already rich in history, the city was reborn under Timur, financed by booty and built by artisans captured during his campaigns. Investigate Timur’s mausoleum and the effort of Soviet-era archaeologists to reconstruct his appearance, which some argue provoked an ancient curse.

29 min
From Mughals to Soviets: Eurasia after Timur

23: From Mughals to Soviets: Eurasia after Timur

Track the fortunes of several of Timur’s descendants, who attempted to govern the remnants of his vast empire. Among them was his grandson, Ulugh Beg, a matchless astronomer, scholar, and patron of civilization, but unfortunately an indifferent ruler. Also consider the history of Inner Eurasia over a period of more than six centuries, from the early 15th century to the end of the 20th century.

31 min
The Mongols and the Making of the Modern World

24: The Mongols and the Making of the Modern World

Close the course by assessing the heritage of the Mongols from a variety of perspectives—as conquerors, unifiers, social and political revolutionaries, as promoters of religious tolerance, protectors of commerce, and even as facilitators of the spread of plague across Eurasia, but also as disseminators of crucial technologies that undoubtedly played a role in the making of the modern world.

32 min