The Rise and Fall of Trade Routes
The fate of the Northern trade route was written when Genghis Khan died suddenly which left the line of succession for the Mongol Empire uncertain. Trade from the Silk Road years had become a slow trickle of traders (mostly Muslim and Jewish merchants). The Mongol Empire was divided into 3 zones. The success and stability of this new system allowed for trade across the “northern” paths to expand. Since W. Europe was spared from extensive invasion (when Khan turned his attention back East, then died). Europe re-emerged as a trading partner with the Far East. This renewed trade in the Northern route would not last. As the 3 Mongol regions began to separate from each other and from Europe (some regions converting to Islam), conflict broke out and trade along this route suffered.
Like the Northern route, the middle route had enjoyed a long history as a major trade route. The hegemony of Baghdad as a centre of trade was indisputable. Also like the northern route, the middle passage would lose significance during this time period. The combination of the effects of the crusades, its location between Christendom & the Mongols and rampant warfare would reduce the importance of the region of Iraq and the centre of trade Baghdad.
The Southern route was a long preferred route for many European traders, especially during this critical period in history. After the decline of Baghdad, Cairo became the “most important capital of the Muslim world.” If one had to choose the best trade route between the 13th and 15th centuries, the majority of people would say that it was the one that went through the Egyptian/Mamluk lands. It is Egypt that kept trade open with European merchants (most coming from the Italian peninsula city states).
I was fascinated to learn about the attempt by the Pope to create an alliance with the Mongols against their Muslim rivals. The response of the Mongol ruler was remarkable in that he asked for the Pope’s submission. What are the reasons for this refusal to take down a common threat/rival?