The Mongols are widely known for one thing: conquest. Through the ages, word "horde" has entered the English lexicon with a negative connotation, conjuring up images of warriors on horseback, sweeping across the plain--a virtual human flood destroying everything in its path and then receding, leaving a wave of devastation and grief.
Such is often the popular perception of the Mongol empire under Chingghis Khan and his successors, who came to control much of Eurasia in the mid-thirteenth century. In the past few decades, scholarship has started emphasizing other aspects of the three hundred year Mongol project--after all, waves of destruction don't tend to also be referred to by names like "Pax Mongolica," or "the Mongolian Peace."
In this majestic new study, Marie Favereau (Paris Nanterre University) takes us inside one of the most powerful sources of cross-border integration in world history. For three centuries, the Mongol Empire was no less a force for global development than the Roman Empire. The Horde--ulus Jochi, one of the four divisions of Chingghis Khan's Empire--was the central node in the Eurasian commercial boom of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Its unique political regime--a complex power-sharing arrangement among the khan and the nobility--rewarded skillful administrators and diplomats and fostered an economic order that was mobile, organized, and innovative.
The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World (Harvard UP, 2021) is an ambitious, accessible, beautifully written portrait of an empire little understood tand too readily dismissed. Challenging conceptions of nomads as peripheral to history, Marie Favereau makes clear that we live in a world inherited from the Mongol moment.
Christopher S Rose is a social historian of medicine focusing on Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean in the 19th and 20th century. He currently teaches History at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas.