The Mongol Empire was established in the 13th century by the Great Genghis Khan and existed up to the 14th century. The empire created by Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire, is considered the largest ever continuous land empire in World history. Numerous historical accounts have been written about the Mongol Empire and its leader Genghis Khan. This paper provides a studious comparison and analysis of two historical accounts about the Mongol Empire. These accounts include The Mongol Empire. In A Global History of War: From Assyria to the Twenty-First Century by Chalind et al. (2014) and Mongol Dynastic History, 1302-1304. In Making Mongol History: Rashid al-Din and the Jami’ al-Tawarikh by Kamola (2019). The two historical accounts provide different perspectives on the rise, governance, expansion, and fall of the Mongol Empire. This paper establishes the similarities and differences between the two historical accounts of Genghis Khan and his Mongol Empire.
The historical account of the Mongol Empire by both Chalind et al. and Kamola are similar in their provision of a detailed introspection of the life of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire as a whole. The two accounts narrate the rise of Genghis Khan from his humble backgrounds to his warrior years and how he finally created the expansive Mongol Empire by uniting heterogeneous populations and kingdoms. According to both accounts Genghis Khan was born as Temujin in the year 1162 in a poor family hailing from one of the numerous nomadic tribes who lived in the Central Asian Steppe (Chalind et al., 2014; Kamola, 2019). Both accounts describe the poor, violent, and unpredictable life Temujin faced as a child more so upon his father’s death. The historical accounts also converge in their analysis of the Mongol Empire government and political structure. Chalind et al. and Kamola talk about how Genghis Khan and his administration fostered trade, peace, and stability in the vast empire through shrewd leadership (Chalind et al., 2014; Kamola, 2019). The historical accounts analyze in detail Genghis Khan’s promotion of freedom of religion which was then a novel idea in governance. Genghis Khan though practiced animism allowed for the free practice and spread of Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam in his empire (May, 2019). Khan also in a big shift from the prevalent Mongolian tradition appointed his administrators and warriors based on competency and meritocracy rather than familial ties and relationships (Steinhardt, 2019). This made Genghis Khan gain the respect and admiration of the numerous nations and kingdoms he had conquered. Both historical accounts also highlight the brutal wars of expansion used by Genghis Khan to annihilate nearby Kingdoms and to expand his empire. Kamola and Chalind et al. refer to the numerous expansion conquests such as that against the Xi Xia kingdom of Northern China and that against the Jin dynasty of China (Chalind et al., 2014; Kamola, 2019). Both historical accounts look at the fall of the once-great Mongol Empire. Chalind et al. and Kamola both trace the genesis of the collapse of the empire to the death of Genghis Khan and the subsequent leadership wrangles between his heirs. The two historical accounts about the Mongol Empire though written from different perspectives are similar in numerous ways.
There are substantive differences between the two historical accounts on the Mongolian Empire. The historical account by Chalind et al. is written mainly form a war perspective as it tries to analyze the military strategies utilized by the Mongol Empire. On the other hand, the historical description by Kamola takes presents the history of the Mongol Empire from an Islamic point of view. Kamola’s historical account investigates the place of Islam in the Mongol Empire and how Islam affected and got impacted by the Mongolian way of life and cultural practices during the reign of Genghis Khan. The two historical accounts, therefore, describe the same subject, the Mongol Empire, but from two different viewpoints – religion and war. The description of Chalind et al. (2014) provides a detailed description of the birth of Temujin and the harsh childhood that hardened him into a fearless soldier. According to Chalind et al. (2014), Temujin and his family were ostracized by their community after the death of their father who was poisoned to death by an enemy community. Later as a young adult, Temujin killed his own half-brother so as to take over the leadership of their poverty-stricken household (Scheidel, 2019). This made him responsible for the welfare of his six siblings and elderly mother. In 1178 Temujin got married to Borte with whom he raised four sons and numerous daughters (Chalind et al., 2014). According to the historical account by Chalind et al. (2014), Temujin gained his reputation as a fearless warrior after making a daring rescue of his wife, Borte, who was captured by a nearby clan. The great reputation of Temujin as a warrior made him gain numerous followers whom he trained as warriors for his political conquests. Chalind et al. (2014) argues that Temujin used his large number of followers and military reputation to make alliances with his neighboring clans who by 1206 proclaimed him Genghis Khan; the Universal Ruler. The above historical events are not provided for by Kamola in his historical account of the Mongol empire. Kamola’s historical account does not provide an analysis of what enabled Genghis Khan to be declared the universal ruler of the several Mongolian nomadic tribes.
The historical account of Kamola focuses in detail on the civic leadership strategies employed by Genghis Khan while Chalind et al. focuses on military strategies. Both astute leadership and military acumen of Genghis khan was essential in the expansion and administration of the Mongol empire. The historical chronicle of Kamola focuses on how Genghis Khan managed the Civic political environment of his expansive empire. According to Kamola (2019), Genghis Khan focused on the promotion of stability and peace in his kingdom as he knew that peace was essential for trade which provided the Mongol Empire with the much-needed economic resources. In a bid to contain conflicts stemming from the practice of the different religions in the Mongol Empire Genghis Khan decreed freedom of religion in his empire (Steinhardt, 2019; May, 2019). To maintain good relations with the neighboring nations and kingdoms Genghis Khan allowed foreign ambassadors to work freely in his empire (May, 2019). According to Scheidel (2019), the emperor also guaranteed the security of all businessmen and merchants who traded with the empire. Genghis Khan’s decree on freedom of religion made it possible for Islam to spread in the vast Mongolia Empire even among the native Mongols who were mostly animists (Chalind et al., 2014). The historical account by Chalind et al. focuses on the numerous war strategies utilized by the Genghis Khan to expand and secure his Kingdom. The Mongol hordes which were the elite force of the Mongolian Empire used propaganda and ruthlessness as its basic mechanism of securing Genghis Khan’s interests (Chalind et al., 2014). To make sure that the Mongolian hordes remained loyal Genghis Khan appointed leaders of the military on the basis of meritocracy and competency. Genghis also rode out into battle to prove to his soldiers that he was also capable of fighting and to inspire confidence in his warriors (May, 2019). Genghis Khan both excelled in matters of civil governance and military conquests and this is what enabled him to rule the largest ever empire in the world.
The historical account of the Mongol Empire by Chalind et al. convinced me more than that written by Kamola. The historical account by Chalind et al. is based on the work, The Secret History of the Mongols, which is the oldest book ever written on the Mongol Empire it was written a few years after the death of Genghis Khan. The book provides a firsthand description of life in the Mongol Empire and the real-life story of Genghis Khan. I find the historical account by Chalind et al. to be more detailed than that of the Kamola. For example, Kamola’s narration does not cover the fall of Genghis Khan from horseback a tragic event that contributed to the death of the emperor and is narrated by Chalind et al. Moreover, I feel that the religious perspective upon which Kamola’s historical account is written limits the understanding of the Mongol culture and the role played by Genghis Khan in forming the empire. I believe that the religious perspective of Kamola’s historical narration tends to narrow the role of warfare in the expansion and administration of the Mongol empire. Besides, Kamola’s historical account also takes the focus off the bloody conquests by the Mongolian hordes and their humanitarian consequences.
Chalind, G., Mangin-woods, M., Woods, D., & Wong, R. (2014). The Mongol Empire. In A Global History of War: From Assyria to the Twenty-First Century (pp. 141-150). University of California Press. www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zw1cg.13
Kamola, S. (2019). Mongols in a Muslim World, 1218–1280. In Making Mongol History: Rashid al-Din and the Jamiʿ al-Tawarikh (pp. 1-27). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. https://doi.org/10.3366/j.ctvrs91bj.5
May, T. (2019). The Rise of Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Empire. In The Mongols (pp. 9-42). Leeds: Arc Humanities Press. www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvmd838h.5
Scheidel, W. (2019). From Genghis Khan to Napoleon. In Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity (pp. 174-216). Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvg25294.11
Steinhardt, N. (2019). The Mongol Century. In Chinese Architecture: A History (pp. 202-219). Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvc77f7s.18