The Mongol Peace and Global Medieval Eurasia
By Marie Favereau
Comparativ: Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung, Vol.28:4 (2018)
Abstract: The Mongol Peace refers to the period when the descendants of Chinggis Khan dominated most of the Eurasian landmass. It was a major moment of the global middle ages for it transformed the human landscape of Eurasia and connected the Mediterranean Sea to India and China. The Mongols stimulated new forms of long-distance trade by concluding agreements with the Mamluks, the Byzantines, the Italians, and others. Under their domination a new economic order emerged that cannot be seen as the mere revival of the “silk roads” of the ancient world. Scholarship has classified the Mongol Peace as a continental phenomenon, but few historians have actually attempted to analyse it beyond noting a mutuality of interest among the Mongol leaders and merchants.
This article deepens understanding of this interdependency by scrutinising the practicalities of the ortaq system more closely. The more general aim is to reinstate the concept of Mongol Peace through a new approach that attends to the nomads’ agency in the commercial economy. This includes a reassessment of the Mongols’ “spiritual” motivations, and of their political and diplomatic skills in integrating northern Eurasia into the biggest economic network of the landmass.
Introduction: The Mongol moment has found its place in new scholarship on early forms of globalisation in Eurasia. It is increasingly recognized that those formerly dismissed as “predatory nomads” in fact initiated economic activities and intensified processes of connectedness on a hemispheric level. In general, however, even revisionist global historians confine the role of the Mongols to acceleration of the links between China and Europe. They tend to see medieval globalisation as a precursor of larger globalization processes, including the Colombian Exchange and the modern world-system. In this article, I approach the Mongol moment without employing the lens of the modern world-system which it supposedly anticipated. To avoid misrepresentation, it is instructive to analyze global medieval Eurasia by focusing on the political and economic motivations of Mongol leaders as they organized their empire.
Top Image: Mongol Empire – illustration by Keith Pickering / Wikicommons