Course: ECON 3R03 - The History of Economic Growth
Instructor: J. Leach
Genghis Khan’s army consisted of horsemen and after uniting the Mongols
he started on a quest to expand his empire. He was one of the most brutal
emperors ever: his conquest of China resulted in 35 of 115 million Chinese
peoples losing their life.
Even after his death his son continued his expansion all the way to the gates
of Vienna. It is thought they turned back because Europe was a less ideal area
for raising and feeding horses so the Mongols felt it wasn’t worth conquering.
After Mongke Khan the Mongol Empire was divided among Genghis’ grand-
sons. A special note about Hulagu, he captured al-Tusi and became his patron
even building him an observatory to work in.
Kublai Khan begins the Yuan Dynasty in China. After the conquest he left
China mostly alone but employed foreigners in key public positions, including
Marco Polo. This was predicated on his fear of Chinese oﬃcials who he felt
still saw him as the conqueror. Marco Polo originally arrived in China as a
trader but Kublai Khan employed him for discovery.
The Golden Horde controlled Russia at this time but again like Kublai Khan
they largely left society untouched as their main purposes was to drain cash
from the economy. The only real change was the implementation of heavy
taxes on Russians, mostly shouldered by the peasants. This situation became
known as the “Tatar yoke” and it lasted for approximately 2 centuries.
Mongols also encouraged trade and policed the major trade routes in the
empire, this was the ﬁrst time that Europeans had a direct trade link to
China. Not only were goods exchanged but ideas were also traded between
1 the Far East and Europe. This put Venice at the crossroads of two paths to
the East and made many towns & villages in Italy very wealthy.
The opening of interior trade routes by the Mongols was a blow to the Islamic
world as they lost their monopoly on trade between Europe and the Far East.
This caused Islamic trade to fall dramatically and European convoys to the
Islamic world decreased massively in number.
Europe from 1300 to 1500
During this period of time Europe is repeatedly visited by famine, pestilence
and war. This led to a decline in population in the middle of this period and
it took almost a hundred years to get back to 1300s population levels.
Illustration of Malthusian economics as all arable land was mostly claimed, the
age of the frontier was over. More output was required per acre of land than
before. Another problem was the Little Ice Age which shortened summers
and caused repeated crop failures, these two developments led to numerous
famines during the 14th century.
It was presumed to have been brought to Asia and Europe by the Mongols
as they moved westward, carrying the plague with them. It would strike
repeatedly in the 14th and 15th centuries returning every few years. It was
estimated to have killed 1/3 of all Europeans, cumulatively.
This was also a period of continuing wars as nation-states tried to consolidate
and expand their borders in all directions. The wars themselves didn’t kill
many people, relatively, instead the subsequent looting and destruction of
crops led to famine which was responsible for most of the deaths. The