Mongol Group B1

warfare by ethan chi

Transcontinental connection in the aspect of warfare


As the primary approach of Mongol expansions, warfare stimulated transcontinental connections directly and indirectly. From nomads of the steppe, Mongol, through warfare, was able to conquer vast areas of Eurasia and achieve the greatest land power ever based on the vast numbers of cavalry with high speed and mobility and their superior strategy and tactics. Originated in Mongolia, the Mongol empire later expanded to the Arctic Ocean to the North, Southern Sea to the South, Black Sea to the West, and Korea Peninsula to the East. While conquering initially unknown lands, the Mongol empire also learned from local military strategies such as siege warfare for subsequent conquest. Local expertise and tactics have constantly influenced the way Mongol army conduct war. Therefore, from the perspective of transcontinental connection, the Mongol Empire not only connected vast lands across Eurasia under the same regime but also employed military strategies developed in different regions for further expansions. The Mongol conquest, in general, can be characterized into three periods which were reigned separately by Genghis Khan who unified the steppe, Ogedei Khan who attacked Europe, and Khulai Khan who conquered China and attacked Japan. This page focuses on the Western expedition of the Mongols from 1236 to 1241 by analyzing the background of the second Western expedition, the process, and the impacts. Moreover, it intends to provide how Europe was incorporated into the Mongol power and how vast lands of Eurasia was unified, including the mysterious “Mongol Withdrawal.” Finally, this page will analyze the impact of the Second Mongol Invasion of Europe on transcontinental connections.

Brief intro:

The second Western Expedition of the Mongol Empire from 1236 to 1241 was the most famous western expeditions with the greatest scale in the history of the Mongol Empire. Over the timeframe, the Mongols rapidly overtook most of the major Eastern European cities and conquered vast territories, including Russia, Hungary, Volga Bulgaria, Poland, Dalmatia, and Wallachia. Initiated by Ogedei, the Mongol invasion of Europe largely expanded the territories of the Mongol Empire and marked its zenith. Besides the relatively short military presence, Mongol invasions of Europe overturned the status quo and promoted the fusion of East and West by dredge cultural and commercial paths, contributing to transcontinental connection.


Contributing factors:

Under the collision of nomadic civilization and settled civilization, the Mongols established and expanded the Mongol Empire through continuous conquests. Through the first Western expedition from 1219 to 1225, the Mongol Empire strengthened its influence and sovereignty to central Asia, laying the foundation for the second invasion of Europe.

Mongol ambition: Believing in Shamanism, Genghis Khan was guided by the almighty God: Mongke Tengri, which served as a “fundamental prop for the political philosophy of the Mongol Khans. According to their official ideology, a Khan was the absolute embodiment of the supreme power on the earth and through him the Almighty regulates everything in this world. The Khan was chosen as representative of God”[1]. After the unification of Mongolia, Genghis was no longer satisfied with a union leader but determined to create a new regime on the traditional nomadic steppe. The conquests were also driven by the harsh climate and the gradual impoverishment of the grasslands. The Mongols began to invade the surrounding settled civilization and other nomadic areas, plundering property and materials and sufficient pasture resources to provide food for the herds and the Mongolians. “For nomads, war is the most direct form of production. For soldiers, war is success and wealth.”[2] Thus, triggered by the desire for resources, the Mongols initiated a series of conquests. Moreover, the exchange of products and the development of markets prompted the Mongols to expand their territory.

Social structure: the nomadic culture and social network bred in the steppe were other contributing factors for the subsequent Mongol Empire. Based on the central unit of clan-tribe, the Mongols performs all economic, social, political, and military functions. At that time, the Mongol Empire had a powerful army with cavalry, infantry, artillery, and engineers. The armed forces are well organized, highly disciplined, and equal in rank. They will not differ due to financial resources or influence, thus forming a powerful fighting force and making them ready for large-scale western expeditions. The unique social environment and political system of the Mongol Empire contributed to the ambitions of the Mongols. Ogedei’s reign coincided with the rise of the great Mongol empire. After the expansion of the central Plains, Central Asia, West Asia and other places, the economic and military strength stimulated the Mongols to conquer the West.

The weaknesses of Europe: due to the continuous distribution of power and internal conflicts, the politically disunited Russian principalities could not concentrate their manpower and resources to cope with the encroachment of nomads from the steppes.[3] While Russia was too weak to confront the Mongols, Western Europe was in the tense struggle of conflict between religions and kingship and the Crusades campaign to the East.[4] In general, chaos was fermenting in Europe due to countless scrambles for spheres of influence, which spurred the supreme Mongol Empire’s second Western expedition.



The empire of the Volga Bulgars was annihilated in 1238, a victory which opened the way to Russia principalities. Between 1237 to 1240, from Bulgar to Kyiv, the Mongols defeated Russian principalities step by step. Although the Russians were brave at fighting and refused to surrender but fought actively against the Mongols, they were divided in strength, and the principalities were weak to confront the Mongols solely. Failing to unite with each other, the country was eventually destroyed.

Poland and Hungary:

In 1241, while the smaller Mongol force marched to Poland and Germany, the larger force invaded and occupied Hungary. Similarly to the previous warfares, Europeans, though courageous, were loosely organized, resulting in the failures against the invaders. While the Mongol invasion caused massive panic in Europe, Western Europe was still overwhelmed by the confrontation between churches and kingships, offering no tangible assistance. Therefore, the Mongols swept huge parts of Eastern Europe readily until when the Mongols ceased further Western expansion in 1242 mysteriously.

Mongol Withdrawal: there are several theories that, in different directions, explain the “Mongol Withdrawal.” Firstly, many historians believed that this “was due to the death of Great Khan Ögödei in December 1241 CE”[5]; however, Batu never returned to the Karakoram and instead stayed in Russia while consolidating his power. From the perspective of purpose, some others proposed that the mission of conquest was to punish the Hungarians. “Once the punishment had been administered, the Mongols had no reason to stay”[6]. Considering that the Mongol’s military strategy wasn’t explicitly designed for attacking cities, it is also possible that the Mongols discontinued their conquest after they had suffered significant losses when “storming fortifies towns”[7]. Although these factors can contribute to the withdrawal, they all undergone extensive critiques. Climate issues and subsequently the lack of resources, therefore, appear to be most persuasive, arguing that the “steppe region was insufficient to support the huge number of horses in Mongol army”[8]. The climate research also proved “the climatic conditions that occurred in Hungary between 1241 and 1242 had a considerable impact on the productivity of the land as well as on the suitability of the terrain for military operations of the type performed by the Mongols”[9]. While the lower temperature made rivers easier to pass, the thawing snow and ice later resulted in wet and mushy lands, thwarting the conquest.

The impacts of the Mongols’ second Western expedition was undoubtedly significant. While warfare itself connects different regions militarily, it had also set the foundation for further exchange in commerce, culture, and technology. However, the destruction and vandalism were unprecedented. Wherever the Mongol rulers went, they plundered the inhabitants, destroyed the cities, and enslaved the people. They spared no effort to destroy the productivity of the conquered country, thereby eliminating the possibility of rebellion by the town and its inhabitants. Many cities were reduced to ruins and most of the agricultural population was killed. The consequences of this loss for the development of Russian culture is incalculable: hundreds of years of Russian artworks were mostly destroyed. When the Mongols conquered Russia, they razed the cities that had been the centers of civilization. On the other hand, due to the strong mobility of grassland nomads, the Mongols were not good at economic and cultural construction, impeding the development of Russian culture. But there is no doubt that they were also active advocates of cross-cultural communication and even contributed to the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world. With the openness and inclusiveness of their unique nomadic civilization, the Mongols have blended and coexisted with various ethnic cultures in the world, which is of great significance to the formation of the world pattern and world system. In other words, Mongol expansion stimulated transcontinental connections. The Mongols were very keen on trade. While establishing the post system, they also paid attention to the protection of trade routes and merchants. In order to carry out military operations, rule and transport goods more easily, the Mongols built roads and bridges, set up post stations, and protected trade routes extensively in the areas they conquered, which played an important role in the smooth communication between the East and the West, as well as between the central Plains and the north

In ancient society, cultural exchange was either violent or peaceful. Cultural exchange was usually carried out through other channels, while war and trade were regular channels of cultural exchange.

The Second Mongol Western expedition and its rule promoted the cultural exchange between the East and the West. The second western expedition of the Mongol Empire opened the gap of cultural interactions in the form of violent war and promoted the smooth unification of Eurasia and the expansion of international relations by peaceful trade afterward, which effectively promoted the cultural exchanges between east and west. Many European merchants, envoys and tourists came to the East. Meanwhile, the Mongol Empire also sent emissaries and caravans to Europe. Undoubtedly, the second western expedition brought incalculable damage to Europe; however, their conquest was objectively beneficial to Eurasian international trade and the development and expansion of the transportation network, which facilitated the exchange of eastern and Western cultures. As Barthold said: “The Mongol Empire had placed the culture from the Far East and the Near East in the name race and the same sovereignty, which certainly promoted the exchange of trade and goods. The trade between Western Asia and China reached unprecedented development.”

[1]Azad, M.A. Lari. 2003

[2] Jami’al—Tarikh, xx

[3] Boris Dmitrievich Grekov, xx

[4] UIHarm W, xx

[5] Büntgen(2016), xx, Cosmo(2016), xx

[6] Büntgen(2016), xx, Cosmo(2016), xx

[7] Büntgen(2016), xx, Cosmo(2016), xx

[8] Büntgen(2016), xx, Cosmo(2016), xx

[9] Büntgen(2016), xx, Cosmo(2016), xx



List of References

1. Monographs

Pang Weilian 庞伟连, Discussion on the second mongol expedition of Europe 论蒙古帝国第二次西征(Hunan, Hunan Normal University, 2017)

Yang Junling, Briefly Analyzing the influence of Cross-Culture Communication between the East and the West through the ancient Mongolian’s “West Conquering” (Guizhou, Department of Politics and History, 2005)

2. Primary Sources:

Jami’al—Tarikh(1300), ed. By Rashid-al-Din, translated by Dazhao You (Beijing, Beijing Business Press, 1986)

金帐汗国兴衰史 (1985), ed. By Boris Dmitrievich Grekov, translated by Dazhao You (Beijing, Beijing Business Press, 1985)

A ShortHistory of the Papacy in the Middle Ages.London:Methuen.(1974), ed. By UIHarm W.

3. Internet Publications:

Azad, M.A. Lari. “SOME RELIGIO-POLITICAL ASPECTS OF CHINGHIS KHAN AND HIS SUCCESSORS.” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, vol. 64, 2003, pp. 1231–1237. JSTOR, Accessed 18 Dec. 2020.

Büntgen, Cosmo, Climatic and environmental aspects of the Mongol withdrawal from Hungary in 1242 CE,, Accessed 23 Dec. 2020.