While Europe was littered with principalities and petty kingdoms headed by princes and kings with ambitions beyond their resources; while both American sub-continents were spacious open homes for native tribes (also for ever warring against each other), Genghis Khan had founded in the thirteenth century his Mongol Empire.
The Mongols were near-related tribesmen from Central Asia who had advanced in civilisation enouigh to live in huts made of felt, and ate meat in vast quantities, drank milk and their own form of yoghurt – fermented mare’s milk (koumiss). These tribes seemed content to unite properly for the first time under the leadership of their Khan (king, kaiser, tsar etc.).
Out they swept on their fast Siberian ponies to the rest of Asia and Eastern Europe. They were splendid horsemen. They also used a simplified form of the bow and arrow to good effect. No could stop them. No-one dared.
The Mongols met little resistance. Khans became Great Khans as the descendents of Ghengis continued his conquests, spilling blood here, setting up Mongol-ruled satrapies there. They overran and ruled Central Russia, Poland, Hungary and Romania. After Great Khan Ogodei died in 1421 the Mongols withdrew to attend an election in the capital of Mongolia, Karakorum. The ‘election’ has caused surprise among historians, as anything quite as bossy and savage as the Mongol Empire might not be expected to be democratic.
Notwithstanding, the ‘Golden Horde’ as it was unpopularly known stayed put in control of Russia, for the moment. In 1225 a movement towards Mesopotamia happened, and in 1258 Ghengis’ grandson Hulagu attacked, took and sacked Baghdad, only to be surprisingly smashed by the Mamelukes at Ain Halut in 1260.
It took sixty-five years for the Mongols to re-group sufficiently for Kublai Khan to organise and expedite the invasion of China– a great enterprise indeed. Again, historians note the death and destruction that invariablyaccompanied Khanish invasions and occupations. Nevertheless it is a fact that once established, the Pax Mongolica descended, rather in the same way as the Pax Britannica lasted for nearly a century after the establishment of the British variety, and before the United States’s politicians decided otherwise.