By Paul D. Buell
Published Online (2010)
Abstract: The Mongols united more of Eurasia under a single political authority than any group before them and in so doing permitted an unprecedented commerce, as well as the broad exchange of people and ideas considerably expanding Old World horizons. The present paper looks at some of the major areas of intellectual interaction during the Mongol era including food, art, medicine, astronomy, geography and political ideas. It suggests that our modern world, and many of its specific cultural goods and characteristics, are one direct result of what took place and represent the continuing influence of Cinggis-qan (r. 1206-1227), the great conqueror and unifier.
Steppe empires, some of which had embraced considerable territory and had exerted a profound influence, had come and gone by the early thirteenth century when the Mongols first appeared. None of them has had the impact of the Mongol Empire which followed; the largest steppe empire in history. Its borders stretched from the Gulf of Bohai into Russia, from southern Siberia into Tibet and the Middle East. It was also easily the most influential, marking the true beginning of global history. The Mongols made communication within Eurasia possible in ways never dreamed of before. Although direct contacts were momentarily lost in the 14th century with the gradual disappearance of the Mongol world order, they were resumed at European initiative after 1498, building upon maritime contacts that had also prospered during the Mongol age. Vasco da Gama finished what Cinggis-qan had started, and our globalized age is the result.