Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Mongols and the Northeast Passage- Commentary #2

In the beginning of the Thirteenth Century, trade flourished within contained areas of Europe and Asia. People did however travel long distances for the exchange of goods. The Champagne Fair, the port of Aden, the Strait of Malacca, the coast of Malabar, and of course Venice and Genoa. The Mongols sought a new opportunity for economic gain by contributing to the system of world trade. They were not offering their own supply to trade, nor were they providing further demand for products. The Mongols proposed neutral land for transfer and security through a Northeast Passage.
Europeans understanding of the Mongols was limited. They were considered barbaric and even Tartars from hell. Before the Northeast Passage was established, Europe and Asia had little ability to connect or communicate. This left a lack of understanding that the Europeans were more eager to resolve. The crusaders were first intrigued by the possibility of new allies. The Pope sent out many of his men to explore and document their findings. One of the most extensive early records of eastern exploration was documented by Marco Polo. He noted the goods they produces, what they traded, and what was considered valuable. By the end of the thirteenth century, Europeans became impressed by the reports of Asia’s prosperity. This intensified the Mongols influence between Europe and Asia.
The Mongols did find some drawbacks in their new role within the world trading system. Firstly, they found that profit related directly to taxation increase and trade-land expansion. Secondly, the rapid monopolization of trade routes would eventually leader to an even more rapid demise. The Mongols united so many regions through the Northeast Passage that the ease of transport became dangerous. A pandemic erupted where Europe, the Middle East and Asia unintentionally exchanged their “disease pools (p170).” Measles, smallpox, and the bubonic plaque spread far and wide. The Mongols connected these areas to simplify trade, but ultimately left the Black Death as their central historical mark.


  1. I would only like to add to your last paragraph. Relative to the downfall of the Mongol Empire. You mentioned that they amassed so many territories that the North East passage became dangerous. It was in fact at one time well secured even with the empire divided. I feel that the bubonic plaque actually led to rebellions in the far lands that were controlled by Mongols. The Black Death made it hard for the Mongols to quell the rebellions, due to weekend man power, leading to their ultimate demise.

  2. It seems to me that the effects of the Black Death wasthe last step in the decline of the Northern Passage. Indeed the Black Death made it very difficult for the Mongols to keep control of their lands but the constant threat of insurrection by conquered peoples seems to be the true cause of decline. I think it's reasonable to say that the downfall of the Northern trade route was a result of their operating on conquered land. Since this required a large military force to be garrisoned which propagated the plague.