The Tatar Yoke. Shifting Power Struggles In The 13th Century.

by Daniel Russ on November 15, 2010


Mongol Warrior

The Tatars swooped out of Central and North Asia on horseback and in clouds of dust, the din of conquerors about to vitiate whatever recovery Germany had attained over the previous century”s bloodshed. Now comes a conqueror who was able ro win the loyalty and respect of the most powerful tribal nomads that ever lived and led them all as far as Silesia in the West and the Pacific Ocean in the Far East. Negotiating was a ruse when dealing with Mongols and Turks. They were conquerors who like so many people in so many places around the globe, they lived on their horses. They had semi permanent homes that they folded up and took with them. They did not own property so much as they owned whatever property that abided in.  The Tatar yoke was a mixed bag of cultures and tastes and smells, all adorned in a violent ferocity that few Europeans had ever seen. Whatever honorable combat that was being formulated by Knights was non existent to the invaders. In a moment, entire civilizations were stunted when the greatest cavalry ever assembled in the East rode into town and killed everyone, took everything, and burned what was left.


It’s hard to estimate the effect that the Tatar yoke had on the history of the world. Consider that was from the 13th to the 15th century, Russia was not a part of a European alliance, rather it was almost entirely a region of Asia. Its effects in ethnicity are still seen today. The Asian republics that broke away with such alacrity after the fall of the Soviet Union were not the remnants of Chinese conquerors, rather they are the ancestors of the warriors who rode in behind the Khans. In 1241 in Legnica, a combination of Western knights attempted to hold off a massive Tatar thrust into Europe. The far more agile, mobile and competent mounted Mongol archers conducted an expert series of faints and withdrawals that effectively separated knight from infantry and allowed both to be decimated. Despite the win and subsequent wins, the Mongols never again moved as far into the west ever again.


In Rudd, Horne, Austin and Johnson’s The Great Events By Famous Historians the authors note


“…. nor did their leaders ever again seek to penetrate the “land of the iron-clad men.” The real “yellow peril” of Europe, her submersion under the flood of Asia’s millions, was perhaps possible at Liegnitz. It has never been so since. In the construction of impenetrable armor the inventive genius of the West had already begun to rise superior to the barbaric fury of the East. The arts of civilization were soon to soar immeasurably above mere numerical superiority….”


There is a tinge of Western exceptionalism in this comment. It elevates western European combat technology in terms of armor and chain mail advancing Western political policies and ignores the fact that the forefathers of these ‘iron clad men’, the Romans and the Greeks were also ‘iron clad men’ and they were soundly defeated by barbarians on horseback. The shift in power is more an example of the visicitudes of the painful economic and infrastructural strain of Empire.


England was coming into its own in the thirteenth century and the effects of the insights that inundated enlightened governance would plant the seed for the real Western exceptionalism to come. The Magna Carta, and the beginnings of constitutional government would have lasting effects felt even today in America. England’s isolation allowed it to abide fewer land invasions and gave it breathing room few monarchies on continental Europe had. It gave Edward I the chance to expend his influence and stop the Scots from throwing off the English yoke. The brilliant Edward was able to formalize laws for his subjects.


The Tatar Empire was waning and the English monarchy gaining power. The Crusades also saw a change in the 13th century. With the Mongols gone, the business of business became more profitable and eventually the Crusades became a way to trade and make money. Thusly, the merchant trumped the knight.


Related Posts:

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: