In the twelfth century, Genghis Khan united the Mongol clans and created an empire. He conquered much of Asia but killed many people and destroyed many towns in the process. Many people consider the Mongols to be barbaric because of their ruthlessness and the amount of people they kill. However, this statement is incorrect. Barbaric means to be savage, primitive, and unsophisticated and no history of the Mongols could be adequate if it only dwells on its destructive side. The Mongols weren't barbaric due to the effective way they organize their empire, their tolerance towards the other people they conquer, and the advancements they made in their economy and empire.
The Mongols had a very organized empire with evenly divided cities, effective systems, and a well-ordered and efficient army. Friar William of Rubruck, one of the first Europeans to visit the Mongol capital, wrote a description in 1254 of the city. According to Friar William, the city is divided into two districts: the Saracen’s houses with the markets and the merchants, and the Cathayans houses filled with artisans. The city is surrounded by a mud wall and has four gates, each with a different object being sold (Document 7). The postal system was also great. According to Marco Polo, a European who served Kublai Khan for seventeen years, a messenger will only ride twenty-five miles on each horse, switching to a rested one when they get to the next posting station. This guarantees that the messenger can reach his destination as soon as possible (Document 12). The Mongols also have a very efficient army. According to John of Plano Carpini, the army is organized into a system of tens, where there is a captain of ten, of a hundred, of a thousand, and of ten thousand, or tuman, as the Mongols called it. Two of three chiefs are in command of the army but only one holds supreme command (Document 3). The Mongols had well-organized cities, a great system for mail and messages, and a structured and disciplined army. They came up with and executed these things to near perfection. They were able to achieve this because of their high level of sophistication and civility.
However, organization was not the only thing the Mongols did well. The Mongols were also very tolerant of the people they conquer both religiously and culturally. According to a timeline of Kublai Khan’s reign in China made by Morris Rossabi, instead of destroying China and treating their people poorly, Kublai Khan was tolerant and gave them many rights and freedoms. He gave Buddhists tax exemptions and prohibits Mongols from settling on Chinese farmer’s land. He even moved the Mongol capital to modern-day Beijing (Document 8). The Mongols also believed that people had freedom of religion and that all religion was equal. According to William of Rubruck, Mongke Khan said, during a discussion with religious spokesmen of Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, that God has given every man a different belief and a different path. The Mongols were respectful enough to allow others to have religious freedom and many other rights. This says a lot about how the Mongols treated the conquered, and that is with respect, with tolerance, but definitely not barbarically.
To put the icing on the cake, the Mongols also made much advancement to the economy, the culture, and the industries of the people they conquered. According to the timeline made by Morris Rossabi, with the Mongol conquest of China, Chinese theater blossomed and the number of postal services for servicing mail and trade also skyrocketed (Document 8). Charles J. Halperin wrote that the Mongol conquest also promoted economic diversification, as well as making Persian viniculture and the Persian silk industry thrive (Document 10). These advancements boosted the economy of other countries greatly. The Mongols helped improve many aspects of the countries they conquered as well as instigating many improvements in their economy with their rule.
The Mongols were a people with a well-regulated empire, tolerance and respect for the people they conquered, and also had a positive effect on the economy and many different industries of the conquered. Sure, the Mongols killed a lot during their conquest, but that does not make them barbaric. After conquest they ruled their empire very well. The Mongol’s expertise in ruling their empire was actually a big reason for the Pax Mongolica, where trade flourished and many Chinese innovations reached Europe. Many people today remember the Mongol’s as merciless barbarians who destroyed, but the sophistication of their nature and all the positive contributions to society proves that, at the end of the day, the Mongols were truly not barbaric.