Grade Level: Middle School – High School
Includes curriculum unit + CD-ROM
How did a starving boy in the dry Mongolian steppes grow to become the founder and leader of history’s largest empire? The story of the Mongol Empire is not only an important piece of world history; it is a dramatic tale of ambition and conquest, devastation and renewal, and expansion and dissolution. At its zenith, the empire’s influence stretched from Southeast Asia to central Europe and from Korea to Syria. Even after the empire fragmented and collapsed, the Mongols’ influence echoed in time, shaping the fates of its descendant civilizations, inspiring new generations of conquerors, and leaving a legacy of intercontinental commercial, cultural, and technological diffusion across Eurasia.
This curriculum unit introduces students to the various societies, individuals, and dynamics that played a part in the saga of the Mongol Empire. Students study the empire’s expansion and decline, its achievements and deficiencies, and its bright and dark characteristics. In the process, students learn to explore, assess, and appreciate the impact of the Mongol Empire on world history.
Lesson One introduces students to nomadic life on the Mongolian steppes. Students learn about the traditional Mongol lifestyle—food, dwellings, social organization, etc.—and consider how Mongol culture was shaped by Mongolia’s climate and physical geography.
In Lesson Two students learn about Chinggis (Genghis) Khan’s early life and political rise through short readings and a graphic novel activity.
Lesson Three traces the Mongol Empire’s expansion across Eurasia, highlighting the different peoples and lands conquered and the characteristics of the Mongols’ many military campaigns.
Lesson Four examines the effects of the so-called Pax Mongolica (“Mongol Peace”) and considers how the Pax Mongolica fostered trade and cultural interaction between East and West. Students examine various primary documents (such as Marco Polo’s Description of the World) and play an online game in which they travel the Silk Road.
Lesson Five illustrates the decline and legacy of the Mongol Empire. Students examine why the Mongol Empire stopped expanding and lost power and how it continued to influence the lands and people it conquered.