Mongols (mŏng´gəlz, –gōlz), Asian people, numbering about 6 million and distributed mainly in the Republic of Mongolia, the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China, and Kalmykia and the Buryat Republic of Russia. Traditionally the Mongols were a predominantly pastoral people, following their herds of horses, cattle, camels, and sheep on a seasonal round of pasturage, and, when encamped, living in felt-covered yurts. Shamanism was the traditional religion of the Mongols, but Buddhism was introduced in the 16th cent.; competition between the two produced Lamaism, a combination of both. The Mongols have a written language; the earliest extant work written in Mongolian dates from 1240. The origin of the Mongols is obscure, but it is believed that many of the so-called Huns, who invaded Europe, as well as the Khitan, who founded a dynasty (916–1125) in N China, may have been Mongols. However, it was not until the early 13th cent. and the creation of the Mongol empire by Jenghiz Khan that the numerous Mongol tribes, hitherto loosely confederated and constantly feuding, emerged in world history as a powerful and unified nation. The Yasa (Jasagh), or imperial code, was promulgated. It laid down the organizational lines of the Mongol nation, the administration of the army, and criminal, commercial, and civil codes of law. As administrators the Mongols employed many Uigurs, whose script they adopted. From their capital at Karakorum the Mongol hordes swept W into Europe and E into China, and by c.1260 the sons of Jenghiz Khan ruled a far-flung Eurasian empire that was divided into four khanates. They were the Great Khanate, which comprised all of China and most of E Asia (including Korea) and which under Kublai Khan came to be known as the Yüan dynasty; the Jagatai khanate in Turkistan; the Kipchack khanate, or the Empire of the Golden Horde, founded by Batu Khan in Russia; and a khanate in Persia. Actually, the Mongol hordes (particularly those who conquered Russia and penetrated as far as Hungary and Germany) included large elements of Turkic peoples; they came to be known collectively as Tatars. Timur, who conquered most of the Jagatai khanate in the 14th cent. and founded a new empire, claimed descent from Jenghiz Khan, as did Babur, who in the 16th cent. founded the Mughal (i.e., Mongol) empire in India. The Mongols were completely expelled from China by 1382 and soon thereafter lapsed into relative obscurity.

See H. H. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship Structure (2d ed. 1957); E. D. Philips, The Mongols (1969); F. W. Cleaves, ed. and tr., The Secret History of the Mongols (1982).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Mongols: Selected full-text books and articles

The Mongols: A History
Jeremiah Curtin.
Combined Books, 1996
The Mongol Empire and Its Legacy
Reuven Amitai-Preiss; David O. Morgan.
Brill, 1999
Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia
Thomas T. Allsen.
Cambridge University Press, 2001
Early Mongol Rule in Thirteenth Century Iran: A Persian Renaissance
George Lane.
Routledge Curzon, 2003
Mongols, Turks, and Others: Eurasian Nomads and the Sedentary World
Reuven Amitai; Michal Biran.
Brill, 2005
FREE! The Mongols in Russia
Jeremiah Curtin.
Little Brown, 1908
The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia
René Grousset; Naomi Walford.
Rutgers University Press, 1970
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "The Mongols of Russia"
Central Asia in Historical Perspective
Beatrice F. Manz.
Westview Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The Legacy of the Mongols"
A History of Inner Asia
Svat Soucek.
Cambridge University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Seven "The Conquering Mongols"
The Church of the East: A Concise History
Wilhelm Baum; Dietmar W. Winkler.
Routledge Curzon, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Age of the Mongols"
Nationalism and Revolution in Mongolia: With a Translation from the Mongol of Sh
Owen Lattimore; Owen Lattimore; Urgungge Onon.
E.J. Brill, 1955
Librarian’s tip: "The Mongols under Manchu Rule" begins on p. 6
Warfare in Inner Asian History: 500-1800
Nicola Di Cosmo.
Brill, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Part Two "The Mongol Age (1200-1400)"
Warfare in Chinese History
Hans J. Van Der Ven.
Brill, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Mountain Fortress Defence: The Experience of the Southern Song and Korea in Resisting the Mongol Invasions" begins on p. 222
The Great Battles of Antiquity: A Strategic and Tactical Guide to Great Battles That Shaped the Development of War
Richard A. Gabriel; Donald W. Boose Jr.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "The Mongols: Sajo River"
Subotai the Valiant: Genghis Khan's Greatest General
Richard A. Gabriel.
Praeger, 2004
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