Mongol horsemen attack Chinese soldiers. Under the leadership of Genghis Khan (1162/7–1227), the Mongols became an organized army that nobody could resist. In 1211 they defeated the Jin Empire of northern China. Then Genghis turned against the Muslim powers of Central Asia and the Middle East. His armies surged across Russia into Europe. The conquest of China was completed by Genghis’s grandson, Kublai Khan (1215–1294). In the 14th century, another Mongol leader, Tamerlane (1336–1405), repeated Genghis’s conquests. He was a brilliant warrior but a poor governor. His empire collapsed at his death.
The Mongols were a nomadic (wandering) people who lived on the steppe grasslands of Central Asia, from the Ural Mountains to the Gobi Desert. They moved from place to place with their herds of sheep, goats and cattle and they were skilful and daring on horseback. The Mongol peoples lived in tents made from felt, called yurts. Besides providing good protection from the weather, yurts were easy to take down and put up again.
The Mongols were fierce warriors, and members of one tribe often raided another tribe to accumulate wealth and prestige. In 1206, a Mongol leader named Temüjin rose to power and brought all the Mongol tribes under his control. Temüjin became known as Genghis Khan, which meant "Ruler of All".
Genghis Khan was born in either 1162 or 1167. His early life was one of poverty, existing on roots, nuts and berries. We know about his life from the Mongol chronicle, known in English as the Secret History of the Mongols, which was written in about 1240. He was the first leader to bring the Mongols together as one nation, and to organize the Mongol armies in large-scale and successful campaigns.
The Mongol Empire of the 13th century covered up to 22% of the world’s land area and contained around 25% of its population.
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