Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Across the Centuries

The Mongols

Objective: Students research and study the culture of the Mongols and its transformation as these once-nomadic people became world conquerors.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
3 hours over 3 days

Building Background:
The Mongols were a nomadic people from the steppes of Central Asia. Known as fierce horsemen and warriors, the Mongol clans were united in 1206 by the powerful chief Temujin, later known as Genghis Khan. After uniting these clans, Genghis Khan began a series of conquests that left him in control of Asia from Beijing, China, to the Caspian Sea. However, Genghis Khan was not only a skilled conqueror, but also a great ruler. Genghis Khan adopted many of the technological and cultural advances of the people he conquered, such as military equipment and written language. Although, he died in 1227, expansion of the empire continued under the leadership of his family, who pushed the empire deeper into Russia, China, and the Middle East. As the empire expanded, the Mongols became more like their conquered subjects -- no longer considered the wild and fearsome nomads they once were. Your class will research and learn more about this Mongol transformation. Inform students that they will use this information to make two collages that depict what Mongol culture was like before the conquests and then after settling amongst their conquered subjects.

What To Do:

1. Distribute The Mongol World worksheet and the Northern Asia: Political map. Suggest that students use the map to locate and label the places listed on the worksheet. If students have difficulty locating places on the map, refer them to a historical atlas. Also, encourage students to create a map legend to explain symbols and shading on their maps. When students have completed their maps, ask them to share the results with the class.

2. Tell students that they will research Mongol culture before Genghis Khan began his conquests and how it changed after the Mongols conquered much of the known world. Have students begin by reviewing Unit 4, Chapter 7 of their textbooks and then encourage them to visit their school or local libraries. If your class has access to the Internet, they can visit the following site:

The Chinese Empire -- The Mongolian Empire: The Yuan

This site describes the rise of the Mongols from nomadic clans to Kublai Khan's creation of the Yuan Dynasty in China.

3. Have students form small working groups. Each group member should take a turn discussing one aspect of Mongol culture they learned about. Make sure that each group covers Mongol culture before Genghis Khan and how it later changed. Offer the example of Kublai Khan moving the Mongol capital from Mongolia to China's Beijing as one example of a change.

4. Inform each group that they will be creating two collages: one that displays Mongol culture prior to the period of conquest and one that shows how Mongol culture was assimilated into or changed by the cultures they conquered. Suggest students create their own illustrations or, if your class has Internet access, print out photographs and illustrations from the various Web sites listed above.

5. Have each group share its collages with the class. Keep track of students examples by creating a list on the board. Encourage students to revise or add to their collages any examples mentioned during these presentations that they may not have included.

The Mongols are similar to conquerors that preceded them. Discuss how the Mongols, like the Romans and Muslims, brought wealth and prosperity to their empire while they expanded their territory. Continue on to explain that as territorial expansion slowed, internal struggles for leadership and external pressures weakened these empires. Compare the Mongol Empire to its predecessors.

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