Migrants and Refugees were Genghis Khan’s best weapons

I enjoyed Professor Dorsey Armstrong’s Years that Changed History: 1215 course.

One interesting tidbit: When Genghis Khan wanted to take over a big fortified city, he would attack surrounding small villages and drive the inhabitants as migrants and refugees to the big city. Swelled with a larger-than-usual population, the big fortified city would collapse from within, its resources (such as food) exhausted. This saved Temüjin, the Great Khan, the effort of a traditional Greek/Roman-style siege and catapult attack on a walled city.

Thus did Genghis Khan assemble the largest contiguous land empire that the world has ever seen.

9 thoughts on “Migrants and Refugees were Genghis Khan’s best weapons

  1. For a few months this year, media in the United States actually cared a little about what was going on at the border between Greece and Turkey. We’ve been too preoccupied since the end of March, but for a while it looked like actual shooting war might erupt between two NATO allies with something like 3.6 million Syrian refugees caught in the middle.

    You can gauge how much people care by the fact that there are 0 comments on this article at the London School of Economics:


  2. I haven’t done any reading about the Mongol Empire recently but just a quick glance at Wikipedia reveals an astonishing fact: Genghis Khan was declared ruler of the Mongols in 1206 and was dead just 21 short years later, in 1227, by which time the empire had expanded to about half its eventual extent. That’s some effective leadership.

    The Great Courses is offering a sweet deal during coronaplague: two weeks free trial to their Plus service, $20/month thereafter for unlimited use. One would think they’d be overwhelmed by young people in high school and college slaking their limitless thirst for knowledge. Why doesn’t the MTA just say: “Furlough the bus drivers, lunch workers, etc., and give every high school student in Massachusetts a six-month subscription to the Great Courses Plus while we negotiate a schedule for reopening?”

  3. Are you sure his technique wasn’t to lure the world’s one remaining superpower into 2 completely pointless land wars in undeveloped tribal countries, where everybody hates anyone not from their particular group, to the point of wanting to kill one another?

  4. So I decided to read the Yassa, or the “forty millenary oral law code of the Mongols” or the de facto law of the Mongol Empire.

    Not too bad, really. They put a lot of people to death for a lot of things, but I think most modern people could make it in the Mongolian Empire.

    There was religious freedom. Sexual assault or abuse of women was punishable by death. You can’t be the emperor unless you’ve been elected. You have to get permission before you pillage the enemy. If you don’t want to go to war, you have to work for a while. Children born of a concubine are considered legitimate, but adultery is punishable by death, whether the adulterer is married or not. You can’t wash your clothes during a thunderstorm. They respected ethnic diversity:

    “Verkhovensky reports that the Yassa begins with an exhortation to honor men of all nations based on their virtues. This pragmatic admonition is borne out by the ethnic mixture created by Genghis Khan in the Mongolian medieval army for purpose of unity (Ezent Gueligen Mongolyn), the United Mongol Warriors.”

    You know, all together, not so bad. Well, sodomy was punishable by death. That wouldn’t go over too big today. But I think most people could probably hack it under the Mongols. They don’t mention any lawyers or anything, and the laws have the benefit of being very clear and easy to understand.


    Maybe we’re all just in the wrong time.

    • I am sorry to say but this sorts of apologia for the most genocidal empire (5%-10% of the total world population was exterminated) beats even the NY Pravda commie love affair from the times of Walter Durante until today.

      Half of the China population vanished (fell from 120M to 60M), the population of Persia was decimated in the literal meaning of the word. But great guys otherwise, religiously tolerant and stuff.

    • Ivan: If they killed 5-10% of world population, that’s nothing compared to the coronaplague fatalities we were told to expect!

    • @Ivan: No offense taken, I know it was way over the top. I should have marked it /sarc. The world is beginning to get to me these days.

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