The Mongols and the Islamic World

The Mongols and the Islamic World: From Conquest to Conversion by Peter Jackson (Yale University Press, 2017)

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In this dense study of the Mongol conquest of Dar-al-Islam, or the Islamic World, Peter Jackson aims to dig further than previous books have done. For most people, the Mongols were a blood-thirsty group who spread quickly across most of the known world and subjugated all the peoples they came across to their violent rule. Naturally, the truth is more complex than that. Professor Jackson looks at all the available sources, including some previously untapped, to examine the reality not only of the Mongol conquest, but of life under Mongol rule. It explores how Mongols managed to rule such a great expanse of land, how the Muslims felt about Mongol rule, and how the Mongols were eventually converted to Islam.

So what was really at the core of Mongol success? For one thing, according to Professor Jackson, the inability of the Islamic world to unite against the infidel invaders. For another, the Mongols were far from the vicious savages they have often been portrayed as. Rather, they were incredibly adept at learning from the people over whom they ruled. In one city or country they would learn techniques that would help them annihilate the next. And it was not just ideas that they took. By the time the armies of Chinggis Khan had spread all across Asia, they were not comprised of Mongols from the steppe… they were made up of the people over whom he ruled. As he dominated the Islamic world, his fighters were often Muslims.

Professor Jackson’s book is an incredibly long and detailed history, with a full hundred pages of notes. It is not an easy read, but it is certainly informative and goes well beyond previous works.

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