Iran under Mongol domination: The effectiveness and failings of a dual administrative system
By Denise Aigle
Bulletin d’Etudes Orientales, Suppl.57 (2008)
Introduction: At the beginning of the thirteenth century, Mongolia’s unstable nomadic clans were brought together by an energetic leader, the future Genghis Khan. He practiced a policy of intimidation towards the peoples that he wished to subject to his rule. Those who submitted were allowed to live. Resistance was considered an offence and punished by a general massacre . In less than twenty years, all the peoples of Central Asia had, willingly or by force, become part of the “Great Mongol State” (yeke monggol ulus) created by Genghis Khan in 1206. This new order contrasted greatly with the previous situation. Political equilibrium on the steppe had been unstable of its nature, as the various tribal chiefs vied for leadership in the region.
Genghis Khan’s successors extended the boundaries of the Mongol empire still further: at its height, it stretched from the Pacific to the plains of Hungary. The Mongols thus established an enormous “state” which, although governed in their traditional manner, rapidly acquired the administrative and judicial structures required to control the conquered territories effectively. The formation of the Mongol empire marked a break in the history of Eurasia, as countries with a long sedentary tradition, such as China and Iran, were made subject to a single people of the steppes for over a century.