Deep Ditches and Well-built Walls: A Reappraisal of the Mongol Withdrawal from Europe in 1242
By Stephen Pow
Master’s Thesis, University of Calgary, 2012
Abstract: In 1241, Mongol armies invaded Poland and Hungary, and small reconnaissance forces even penetrated the borders of the Holy Roman Empire. The following year, the Mongols pulled out of Central Europe though they retained their hold on Russia, the Black Sea steppe, and the Volga region.
A number of explanations have been offered for the withdrawal by modern scholars. This thesis argues that these theories are unconvincing and contradicted by the existing primary source evidence. As an alternative explanation, it posits that European fortifications produced a strategic problem that the Mongols were unable to surmount in the 1240s with their available manpower and siege engine technology.
In order to corroborate this theory, analyses of several Mongol campaigns against sedentary societies outside of Europe are provided. These analyses reveal that fortifications posed a serious problem to any Mongol effort to subjugate a sedentary population.
Top Image: Mongols in Hungary, 1285 depicted in the Illuminated Chronicle