13th Century

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The 13th century began on January 1, 1201 and ended on December 31, 1300 . The world population in this century is estimated at 360 to 443 million people. Large parts of Europe and Asia became part of the largest land empire in world history, the Mongol Empire , through the expansion of the Mongols . In addition to great sacrifices and destruction, the exchange of goods and ideas between Europe, the Orient and East Asia was strongly promoted. The Chinese society, which had previously lived in several empires , was also united in the Mongolian Empire until 1279. The first non-Chinese emperor on the dragon throne ruled through a system of control and strict social stratification. Further south, the Khmer Empire was able to repel the Mongolian attacks with tribute payments, but the consequences, as well as high expenditure on infrastructure, put a heavy burden on the empire.

The other major turning point in Asia was the takeover of rule by the Delhi sultans . With it began a phase in which Muslim rulers ruled over large parts of the predominantly Hindu Indian subcontinent . At the interface of Asia and Africa, the Egyptian Mamluks established their rule over an important regional power for more than 250 years. The Crusades , which were directed both inwards and outwards, were formative for Europe . France gained in importance, while the Roman-German Empire lost much of its relevance. The economic boom and the process of social differentiation continued in this century.


Europe in the 13th century

In the 13th century, the High Middle Ages ended and the late Middle Ages began in Europe . The continent was divided into numerous domains that were shaped by Roman Catholic Christianity . On the one hand, the Europeans broadened their perspective as a result of the Crusades, on the other hand, the Christian majority separated themselves more sharply from other groups.

Central Europe

Augustalis coin of Emperor Friedrich II.

Central Europe was dominated by the Holy Roman Empire . This was ruled by an increasingly weaker kingship, while the independence of the territories within the empire grew continuously over the course of the century. These fought among themselves in numerous military conflicts for a better position of power. A small number of princes, the electors , enforced the custom in the 13th century that only they could elect the Roman-German king.

The century began with the German throne controversy between the Staufer Philip of Swabia and the Guelph King Otto IV for the office of king. But none of the contestants, but Friedrich II. Prevailed as Roman-German king in the 1210s. The last great Hohenstaufen ruler led regular arguments with the popes. They feared a loss of power, among other things through a union of Frederick's legacy of Sicily and the Holy Roman Empire. One of the concerns of the king and later emperor was to strengthen the royal power, but the centralization of his rule through bureaucracy and law was only achieved in Sicily. The empire-wide strengthening of the royal position attempted by his son Heinrich (VII.) Failed, so that Frederick had to make extensive concessions to the imperial prince in the statute in favorem principum . At the end of his reign he had to struggle with his deposition by the Pope and the opposing kings. Frederick's death in 1250 was followed by a period of powerless kings called the interregnum . It was not until King Rudolf von Habsburg , who was elected in 1271, that he was able to assert himself as a monarch against the princes through his domestic power policy. One of Rudolf's most lasting achievements was the establishment of the Habsburg power in Austria. In contrast, he was unable to get his son to succeed him as the Roman-German king.

Like other territories, some of the Swiss valleys wanted to secure their rights against the background of changing rulers. That is why they wrote the Federal Letter of 1291 , which marked the beginning of a dispute with the House of Habsburg that lasted more than a century , at the end of which the independence of the old Swiss Confederation stood.

Western Europe

The French crown domain (blue) before and after the government of Philipp August
Lehen of the Plantagenets in red, other vassals in green

Western Europe, especially France, became increasingly important in this century. The French kings extended their power over many parts of the empire, over which they previously ruled only formally. The victory in the Battle of Bouvines in 1214 effectively ended a process by which the English kings and nobles were almost completely driven out of France. Normandy was partly added to the crown domain, partly given to loyal vassals. In the following years, the French royal family joined the Albigensian Crusade . She used this to destroy most of the Cathar communities and to extend her rule to this area through the disempowerment and replacement of the nobility in Provence and Languedoc . As a result of their politics, the north of France replaced Occitan as a written language in southern France . Their strength allowed the French kings, the Capetians , to make their kingship hereditary. The French feudal principalities also became hereditary. At the end of the century, the Capetians then postulated royal precedence over the officials of the French Church and thus sparked an open conflict with the Pope. The failure of King Ludwig IX. carried out crusades, the sixth and seventh oriental crusade, did not prevent the French kingship from developing its power.

England was a rival to France. In 1215, the English barons were able to enforce extensive rights against King John , who had been weakened by the defeat in France , which he recorded in the Magna Carta . Johann's successor Heinrich III. could not prevail against the aristocratic opposition. The clashes culminated in a civil war in 1264 . In the course of the clashes with the barons, parliament was stabilized from the middle of this century. In the last decades of the century , King Edward I , who had more authority than his father, conquered Wales and placed it under the English crown. His invasion of Scotland at the end of the century finally failed in 1328 after the English defeat in the first Scottish War of Independence .

Central and Eastern Europe

Several Christian Polish duchies rivaled one another east of the Oder. Many people who lived on the Baltic coast to the north of them were still followers of ethnic religions at the beginning of the century . During the 13th century, crusaders subjugated them and forcibly converted them to Christianity. At the head of this movement, the continued German Order , which the people of the Prussians subdued, and in their fields German Teutonic Knights built. In the further course the order had successes in the Baltic States. The defeat in the Battle of Lake Peipus in 1242 against several Russian principalities, however, marked the end of further eastward expansion. As a result of the migration of German settlers to the Teutonic Order, the Polish principalities and Bohemia, the Deutsche Ostsiedlung , there was a transfer of culture and knowledge in these areas and numerous cities were founded.

The raids and conquests of the Mongols that began in the 1230s were formative for Europe east of the Oder . If the Polish, Silesian and Hungarian territories suffered exclusively from the attacks and raids by the Mongols, the Mongols forced the Russian principalities to submit and pay tribute. The rulers of the Golden Horde , a Mongolian empire, exercised supremacy over the Russian princes from the city of Sarai on the lower Volga. They did not intervene in the internal structure of the principalities, especially the position and assets of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Southern Europe

On the Iberian Peninsula, the Christian empires won a decisive victory over the empire of the Muslim Almohads in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 . After the defeat, their empire Al-Andalus , which extended to the south of the peninsula, broke up into numerous small Taifa kingdoms . By the middle of the century, the Christian empires conquered almost all the Taifas and temporarily concluded the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim rule , known as the Reconquista . The emirate of Granada was the only taifa to escape complete conquest by submitting itself to the king of Castile . Further attempts by Castile, which had previously finally unified with the Kingdom of León , to conquer the Maghreb failed.

The Italian peninsula was divided into three differently structured regions, the Kingdom of Sicily, the Papal States and Northern Italy. The latter belonged to the Holy Roman Empire, but numerous areas and cities were largely independent, especially in the second half of the century. The cities included the rival maritime trade republics of Venice and Genoa , both of which controlled much of the Mediterranean trade. They achieved their wealth through their own trade and as importers and exporters for the European continent.

The Kingdom of Sicily, which included the southern Italian mainland, was ruled by the Staufers in the first half of the century and through them connected to the Holy Roman Empire. Emperor Friedrich II in particular organized the kingdom as a hierarchical and bureaucratic empire. The Melfi constitutions increased legal certainty. After the Hohenstaufen all of southern Italy fell to the French house of Anjou . Peter III , King of the Catalan Aragon , took advantage of the revolt against the House of Anjou known as the Sicilian Vespers to gain power on the island of Sicily. This enabled Aragon to secure its naval rule in the western Mediterranean.

With the reigning Pope Innocent III at the beginning of the century . papal power reached its peak in the Middle Ages. He and the following popes made the Papal States the strongest territorial power in central Italy. At the same time, the popes demanded sovereignty, supremacy, over the secular rulers, which became concrete, for example, in the demand for a say in the election of the Roman-German king. In the course of the century this papal demand was fought off more and more successfully by England and France. In return, the latter expanded its influence in Italy and on the papacy.

Southeast Europe

The Latin Empire and the Greek successor states of the Byzantine Empire at the time of partition, around 1204

Southeastern Europe and Anatolia experienced several political upheavals in this century. The most serious was the sacking and conquest of Constantinople by the Latin knights of the Fourth Crusade . Its original objective, the reconquest of the Holy Land , changed against the will of the Pope after several interventions by Venice. After conquering the capital of the Byzantine Empire , the conquerors could only partially establish their Latin Empire . In addition to another Latin empire and territories under the rule of Venice , several Byzantine provinces continued to exist as independent empires in exile. The Byzantine empires in exile continued the Byzantine social structure and culture. The rulers promoted justice, agriculture, and trade. In the competition to best represent Byzantium, they commissioned public buildings and art. The emperors of the Latin Empire, which was organized according to feudal principles, were unable to adequately meet the numerous challenges. These included the scarce resources resulting from the looting and the linguistic and religious heterogeneity of the population. The conquests by the Bulgarian Tsar made the empire increasingly smaller. The capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders significantly increased the rift between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. This event also promoted the independence of the Serbian, Bulgarian and Russian churches.

In 1261 one of the Byzantine exile empires, the Nicaea Empire , succeeded in recapturing Constantinople, destroying the Latin Empire and renewing the Byzantine Empire. The easternmost Byzantine exile empire, the Trapezunt Empire , remained as an independent empire. Like the Rum Seljuks who dominate the rest of Anatolia , Trebizond became dependent on the Ilchanat , a part of the Mongol empire . In the last few decades Byzantium, Bulgaria and Serbia vied for power in the Balkans, with the latter eventually gaining a position of supremacy in this region.

If these three kingdoms were strongly influenced by Byzantine culture, the northern kingdom of Hungary was influenced by the culture of Latin Europe. Mongol armies wreaked havoc in Hungary in the 1240s, and 20 to 25% of the rural population died. The royal policy before and after the Mongol invasions led to the establishment of an order of estates at the end of the century, which the king had to take into account. Furthermore, the king became dependent on a few grand vassals. During the century, the Cumans played an important role in Hungarian politics, both as supporters of the king and as plunderers.


Society in Europe was by and large a feudal class society. Despite similar basic structures, the individual relationships were structured very differently. Although monarchs were at the top of most empires, their assertiveness against the nobility was very different in the individual empires. In the Holy Roman Empire north of the Alps, ministerials , originally mostly unfree, performed central military and administrative tasks for the high nobility. Most of this group managed to rise as knights in the lower nobility in this century , which accounted for an estimated 80% of the total nobility. Both the lower and the high secular nobility felt obliged to the culture of chivalry. The high nobility organized the court festivals, tournaments and poetry readings that were part of the knightly way of life . In addition to participating in these events, the knights should behave in accordance with the ideal of a knightly ideal that was shaped by both religious and secular influences. But the real behavior was often far from that. The women's service propagated in minnesang had little to do with the real position of women in this social group.

In Europe, the urbanization wave of the 12th century continued with the founding of numerous cities in Central Europe. Everywhere the cities gained more autonomy and the inner-city rulership and social structures continue to develop. The urban ruling classes, mostly large merchants, stood out clearly and secured their power. Overall, the differences between the poor and the rich in the cities increased.

Religion and church

Franz and his brothers ask for confirmation of the rule. (Fresco by Giotto di Bondone , around 1295)

The Christian religion played a central role in society and in the lives of individuals. In the religiously heated atmosphere, mainly landless peasant sons gathered for two children's crusades , which for their participants mostly ended in death or slavery. In the Fourth Lateran Council the Church further specified and regulated the beliefs and their organizational structures. The clarification of the theology of the sacraments strengthened the role of the clergy. The council also urged members of other religious communities, such as Jews and Muslims, to clearly distinguish themselves from the Christian population by their clothing. The council also called for tougher action against people and groups whose religious views differed markedly from church doctrine. These were called heretics . The action against religiously dissenters was initiated or organized in the form of crusades and inquisition proceedings , on the one hand, without or in contrast to the official church mandate, such as numerous pogroms against Jews. Although they were under the protection of the king as chambermaids , the king was often unable or unwilling to help them.

At the beginning of the century the opposite church of the Cathars was destroyed with the Albigensian Crusade except for small remains. The church was able to integrate other religious movements, such as the poverty movement of this century, in the form of mendicant orders such as the Dominicans and Franciscans . The Franciscans, a movement made up of lay people and clergy, emerged from the urban milieu. The clerical order of the Dominicans, which was devoted to learning, deepening and spreading the faith, produced great scholars such as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas . Furthermore, the Order members carried out most of the inquisition proceedings. This was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in order to identify and punish those who deviate from church doctrine. Its procedure was standardized more and more strictly, whereby the position of the accused was extremely weak. Torture was increasingly used to obtain confessions from the middle of the century. The secular authorities carried out the ecclesiastical judgments, which was legitimized by regulations from Emperor Friedrich II, among others . Apart from regional developments, prison and property sentences outweighed the death penalty.

Towards the end of the century, the influence of the French on the College of Cardinals grew on the one hand through the Kingdom of Naples, ruled by the House of Anjou, and on the other through the University of Paris, which was a leader in theological training.

economic and legal

Heidelberger Sachsenspiegel : The choice of the king

The economic boom of the past centuries continued. Productivity advances and further clearing led to an increase in agricultural production and population. Towards the end of the century, the climate became colder and the increase subsided. In parallel with the upswing in agriculture, the productivity of the manufacturing sector increased as a result of technical innovations. One focus of the technical development was the expansion of mills and the expansion of their areas of application. Due to the spread of the camshafts built into mills , they could be used for forging and milling, among other things. In handicraft production, which was increasingly concentrated on the cities, the division of labor and specialization increased. Trade, especially long-distance trade, expanded. This was divided into long-distance land trade, Mediterranean trade and North and Baltic Sea trade . The latter was strongly promoted by the flourishing of the Hanseatic League , whose most common type of ship, the cog , made the transport of large quantities of goods very economical. In the late 13th century, advances in shipbuilding allowed the Italian Maritime Republics to reach the coasts of England and Flanders, while trade in the Mediterranean suffered from numerous wars. From the middle of the century, the champagne fairs changed from a goods trading center for long-distance traders to a financial center.

The money economy continued to develop, so that in the course of the century, gold coins were used in long-distance trade in addition to silver coins. Money and profits from trade became important to wealth, while landed property became less important as a source of wealth. The financial situation both in the cities and in the villages varied. At the head of the cities were the wealthy long-distance traders, while artisans and local traders mostly still farmed for their livelihood. In the villages, wealthy farmers bought fields and equipment.

Merchants and artisans came together in different forms. The merger of Low German merchants to form the Hanseatic League that began in the previous century was deepened and expanded in this century. The merchants achieved greater security by traveling together and sharing risks. Furthermore, as a group, they were granted exclusive privileges in many ports in the North and Baltic Seas. At the local level, the merchants in guilds and the craftsmen in guilds , which often had their own rights.

The expansion of trade, the differentiated structure of the cities and the increasing bureaucratisation of government trade led to efforts to systematize law and put it into writing. The spectrum ranged from collections of laws, such as the Melfi constitutions, published by kings for their empire, to regional collections of customary law, such as the Low German Sachsenspiegel or the Coutumes du Beauvaisis . Often demarcated groups of people, such as clerics, had their special rights. In the 13th century more and more cities got their own city charter. New cities in Eastern Central Europe were based on the city charter of existing cities, such as the city charter of Lübeck or Magdeburg . Wisdoms were more widespread in rural areas.

Art, culture and science

As in law, in other areas, such as business, the importance of writing increased. More and more Europeans were learning to read and write, although overall only a small proportion of the population was literate. More and more people wrote in the vernacular and about everyday matters. Numerous literary works, historical works and encyclopedias were created. The literary works were written in Latin and increasingly in the vernacular. Epics, novels, text and song collections like the Nibelungenlied , Parzival , the Carmina Burana and the Cantigas de Santa Maria were written. With the Ebstorf world map , the largest and richest world map of the European Middle Ages was created. Marco Polo's travelogue Il Milione , which was written down in the last few years of the century , made a significant contribution to the European worldview . To support readers, glasses were invented in the second half of the century .

The differentiating economy increasingly required mathematical skills. The mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci brought his knowledge of Indo-Arabic numbers, which he had learned in the Arab world, to Europe. In the field of education, the 12th century trend towards professionalization and secularization continued. At the beginning of the 13th century universities in Oxford and Cambridge were founded on the Paris model.

East of the Rhine, more and more churches were built in the Gothic style , which was built in France in the previous century. The churches were adorned with stone sculptures, which were made much more lifelike in this century than in previous centuries. In the North and Baltic Sea region, the brick Gothic, a variant of the Gothic, spread.


Maghreb and Ifrīqiya

The loss of the Iberian Al-Andalus weakened the Almohads in North Africa. In the middle of the century, power in the western Maghreb passed to another Berber dynasty, the Merinids . The Abdalwadids and Hafsids in Ifrīqiya to the east had already taken over the rule from the Almohads. After the preliminary conclusion of the Iberian Reconquista, attempts by the Christian states to conquer the three emirates failed. These cultivated diverse economic and political relations with the Christian empires in the north, whereby the fronts do not always deliver along religious borders. Numerous Christian mercenaries from the realms of the northern Mediterranean served the emirs.

Despite the change of rulers, North African society was influenced by the Moorish culture, which had the last refuge on the European continent in Granada. There she could develop a late bloom. Many Muslims from Al-Andalus fled to the three emirates and settled in the coastal cities. The society of the Emirates was divided into nomads, farmers and townspeople. Due to the heterogeneity within these groups, the emirs could not always build a strong rule.

Egypt and Levant

Egypt and large parts of Palestine and Syria were ruled by the Ayyubid family at the beginning of the century . The emir of Cairo was at the head of the empire, but had to take into account the interests of the various family members to whom partial empires were assigned. Apart from a few attempts at conquest by crusaders, there was peace between the crusader states, which covered a narrow strip of the east coast of the Mediterranean, and the emirate, from which both sides benefited economically. In this atmosphere the Emir loaned Jerusalem to Emperor Frederick II for 10 years in the Peace of Jaffa . This agreement sparked outrage on both the Christian and Muslim sides. The last sultan built up a strong army of military slaves to better assert himself against the claims of his relatives. After his death in 1249, the Mamluks called slaves seized power and founded the Mamluk Sultanate. They legitimized their rule through numerous military successes. In the battle of ʿAin Jālūt in 1260, they brought the Mongols the first great defeat and were thus able to maintain their territories. With the conquest of Acon in 1291, they completed the conquest of the Crusader states and thus ended the Mediterranean Crusades.

The Mamluks formed a self-contained military aristocracy of Turkish descent that ruled over the vast majority of the Arab population. From their ranks came the ruling sultans, who were either elected to their office or who fought for it. In this “one-generation aristocracy”, the children could not inherit the office of their fathers, but mostly had to take up civil professions. Many of them became writers and scientists. The rest of the population was made up of Christians and Muslims, with Muslims becoming the majority in this century, according to historians.

Africa in the 13th century

Africa southern of the Sahara

To the south of Egypt were the Christian Nubian empires . In the second half of the century, the most important Nubian port city was conquered by the Egyptian Mamluks because they feared that Egypt would be bracketed by an alliance of Nubians and Crusaders. The conflict between the Egyptians and the Nubians escalated through retaliatory attacks on each other and ended with the conquest of Nubia in 1276. This became an Egyptian vassal state, which was ruled by a Nubian Christian governor for the rest of this century.

West of Nubia north of Lake Chad was the base of the Kanem Empire . This empire profited from trade with the African Mediterranean states, with the slave trade being a strong economic pillar. In that century the empire expanded east and northwest. While Islam and traditional religion coexisted at court in the past centuries, the first ruler of the century, Mai Dunama Dibalami II, asserted the supremacy of Islam. After his death in 1248, the division of rule between his two sons weakened the empire.

Further to the west, Sundiata Keïta united the Malinke tribes of the upper Niger basin and defeated the regional power Soso with them in the 1220s. The Mali empire , which he founded , conquered areas from Niger to near the Atlantic coast, both by subjugating and by annexing neighboring empires. The expansion of the Muslim kings of Mali into regions that were still largely shaped by traditional African religion was motivated by power politics and not religiously. Due to their military strength, the Mali kings controlled large stretches of trade routes within West Africa and to the Mediterranean coast. The Kingdom of Mali was a federation of small kingdoms and provinces whose kings were vassals of the Malian kings. The Malian monarchs ruled the empire with a court of faithful from the capital Niani. The craftsmen were organized in guilds for the first time in sub-Saharan Africa.


The Mongolian expansion

Mongolian expansion

At the beginning of the century Temüdschin had united the Mongolian tribes under his rule, who then appointed him Genghis Khan . Then he initiated the Mongol storm , through which the Mongol Empire under his successors became the largest land empire in world history. First he conquered the empire of the Jin dynasty , which included northern China. Furthermore, the Korean Goryeo and the Tangut Xi-Xia empires could not withstand the Mongol forces. In between, the Mongol armies conquered large parts of Central Asia. In the previous century, the Kara Kitai had dominated large areas of the world. But at the beginning of the 13th century they lost control of many of their vassals. One of their vassals, the Khorezm Shahs , was able to establish a large regional empire in Iran and Transoxania at short notice. However, like the Kara Kitai Khanate, it was not stable enough to oppose the Mongols. Under Genghis Khan's successors , the Mongols subjugated the Russian empires , Mesopotamia and parts of Anatolia . In the conquest of Baghdad and killed the last caliph of the Abbasid , ending the 500-year-long caliphate of this dynasty. Mongolian troops advanced as far as Silesia and Hungary. After the death of Möngke Khan there was a fratricidal war over the position of great khan, which Kublai Khan won in 1260. As a consequence of these inner Mongolian disputes, the Mongolian partial empires, the Khanate of the Golden Horde in the northwest, the Ilkhanate in the southwest, the Chagatai Khanate in Central Asia and the Yuan Khanate in East Asia, achieved a high degree of independence. Later other sub-kingdoms, such as that of the Blue Horde , split off. The Yuan Khanate, the largest closed territory, was the only one to expand even further by conquering the China of the southern Song Dynasty . The first ruler, Kublai Khan , made himself Emperor of China and founded the Yuan Dynasty . In the following years he was able to make several empires of the Southeast Asian mainland tribute. However, his attempts at conquering Japan and Java at the end of the century failed.

Mongols conquer Baghdad

By the year 1260 was the Mongol Empire, whose capital from the 1230er years Karakorum was centrally organized. At the head of the empire stood the various branches of the Genghis Khan family, who elected their head, the Great Khan, from among their number. The partial kingdoms, initially only subordinate subdivisions, were ruled by different branches of the family. The family members also benefited significantly from the distribution of the booty from the conquests. The Mongols often took over the government and administrative systems of the conquered countries, some of which differed greatly from their traditional form of rule, and adapted them to their needs.

The individual economic effects of the Mongol storm were very diverse and varied. Taking a global perspective, historians found that the urban agrarian economy declined sharply, pasture farming expanded, and intra-Asian long-distance trade flourished. In particular, agriculture from Mesopotamia to Transoxania suffered both from the high human losses during the wars and from the destruction and neglect of the irrigation systems. The expansion of the pastureland led to the migration of Turkic-Mongolian nomads to northern Iran and eastern Anatolia. Despite the internal Mongol wars, the Mongols promoted safe and undisturbed travel in their empire. This Pax Mongolica made it possible for trade and cultural exchanges from China to Europe to take on a much greater extent than in the previous period. This influenced art, science and culture in Europe, the Middle East and China. Through trade, which the Mongols particularly encouraged, goods increasingly found their way to other parts of the world.

The Ilchanat in its greatest extent

The partial kingdom of Ilchanat , the center of which was in Iran, extended from Anatolia to the edge of the Indus valley. The Ilkhan first destroyed large parts of Persian agriculture through acts of war and conversion of agricultural land into pastureland. The later promotion of the agricultural infrastructure could not compensate for the losses in this century. Her residence in Tabriz , which developed into a trading center for long-distance trade between China and Europe, benefited from long-distance trade. The highest government organ was the Mongolian court camp. This ruled over the administration organized by the Persian elite. While the tax system introduced by the Ilkhan people continued into later centuries, other policy decisions they made did not result in effective government. In their khanate, in which Persian was the most important language, Persian scholars could develop relatively freely. Therefore, the empirical sciences in particular enjoyed an upswing. The Ilkhans, who converted to Islam at the end of the century, also granted religious freedom. Popular Islam and Sufism found numerous followers in the population . Dervish communities , who saw themselves as advocates of the people with the rulers, developed into mass movements.

Indian subcontinent

As early as the 12th century, the Muslim Ghurids from what is now Afghanistan had conquered parts of northern India. After they were weakened by a defeat by the Khorezm Shahs , their Turkish-born military leader and governor Qutb-ud-Din Aibak took control. He founded the Sultanate of Delhi , a rule of five successive dynasties of Turkish and Afghan military elites, which existed until the 16th century. He and his successor were the first rulers after the 7th century to re-establish an empire encompassing all of northern India. In the middle of the century, the military elites fought for decades for rule until Balban was able to assert himself as sultan in 1266. The succession battles after his death brought the Khilji dynasty to power in 1290 . The sultans were particularly successful because of their agile cavalry. In response, the first Hindu cavalry states also formed in the Hindu areas.

Outside the Indus Valley, which had been Muslim for centuries, the sultans subjugated a predominantly Hindu population. This was able to maintain their faith, if a special tax was paid. Through the work of Sufi orders , larger groups of the population converted to Islam, whereby the conversion took place very differently from region to region and rather affected the urban population. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the subcontinent's population remained Hindu. In contrast, the sultans ousted Buddhism from the Indian subcontinent. Many Buddhists then emigrated to Tibet, the Kingdom of Pagan and other regions of Southeast Asia.

The sultanate was ruled by a military elite. To maintain the army, the military leaders were assigned an area in which they could raise taxes independently. To do this, they often made use of the existing elites and administrative structures that were passed on by the previous regional rulers. In their mosques and other buildings, the sultans took over many elements of the established Indian culture, which is evident in the Qutb complex near Delhi.

China and the Yuan Khanate

The Empire of the Yuan Dynasty around 1300

The Mongolian expansion united several empires shaped by Chinese culture, the Empire of the Jin Dynasty , the XiXia Empire and the China of the Southern Song Dynasty , under Mongol rule. An estimated 40% of the population of these empires lost their lives during the conquest. In addition to acts of war, epidemics and famine contributed to the population decline. In the course of their expansion, the Mongols acquired a great deal of technical knowledge from defectors and members of the conquered peoples, which they used in the continuation of their expansion. In particular, when conquering southern Song China, they made extensive use of the latest military technology. The weapon technologies used by both warring parties, such as incendiary bombs, flamethrowers, rifles and cannons, were the most advanced in the world at the time.

Within the Mongolian Yuan Khanate, China was by far the largest part in terms of population and economic power. So Kublai Khan moved his capital to what is now Beijing and in 1271 proclaimed himself Chinese Emperor, the first of the Yuan dynasty . To secure their rule, the Mongols divided the society of the khanate into four classes, each with graduated rights. The first class were the Mongols, the second class Central Asians, the third class the people of the former Jin Empire and the lowest class the Chinese of southern Song China. They severely restricted the social mobility of Song China. New walls between the city quarters restricted the previously open cities.

Even under Genghis Khan, the Mongols decided to use the resources of the conquered Chinese areas instead of destroying them. They changed the existing structures in their favor. The Yuan emperors adopted the structure of the Chinese administrative system including the provincial division. However, they used Mongols, Turks, Persians and some Europeans, including Marco Polo , as administrative officials. In contrast, they consistently excluded the Chinese elite from power.

The efficient transport and postal system established by the Mongols also served to exercise power and use resources. The Mongols mainly promoted trade via both the terrestrial and the maritime Silk Road. They gave the paper money already known in China the leading role in monetary transactions. Another part of the strategy for optimal use of resources was to make little changes to the local structures, which had been dominated by large Chinese landowners since the Song era.

The Chinese elites, excluded from power, increasingly turned to art. At the same time, people outside the elite became more interested in art and culture. This led to a boom in Chinese drama and theater. A folk theater and folk literature were created, the most famous of which is the story of the west room (xixiang ji). Painting no longer had the aim of realistically depicting nature. She tried to depict internal patterns of things and their effect on the painter.

Even the Korean Goryeo was unable to repel the Mongol invasions . Parts of the territory came under the direct control of the yuan, and the rest became tributary. The severe devastation of the country and the high tribute payments did not prevent the Koreans from continuing their great project, the creation of a Buddhist canon. In order to create this faster, letterpress printing with interchangeable letters is said to have been invented there.

Japan and Southeast Asia

The south gate of Angkor Thom

Although they were not occupied, the Mongol expansion also affected Japan and Southeast Asia. The Japanese fought off two Mongol invasions in 1274 and 1281. They benefited from the strong decimation of the Mongolian fleet in storms. On the main Japanese island, the Hōjō family held the actual power of rule, which ruled on behalf of the powerless shoguns . In this century, Buddhism in Japan, which was previously mainly followed by the nobility, found supporters in broad strata of the population. One of the most important Buddha statues in Japan, which was based on the ideal of beauty of the Chinese Song dynasty, was created in the capital, Kamakura .

The Southeast Asian mainland empires Pagan , Angkor and Champa were also badly hit by the Mongol attacks in the last decades of the century. Only Angkor did not have to pay tribute to them. At the beginning of the 13th century, the Khmer Empire Angkor experienced its last great heyday under Jayavarman VII , in which the great city of Angkor Thom was established. After the king's death, Angkor began to decline. External threats and the high economic costs of temple operations and infrastructure resulted in a loss of power for the empire. Still, Angkor's troops were able to repel the Mongol invasion. The weakness of Angkor made space for the migration of the Tai peoples , who moved from the north into the area of ​​what is now Thailand and spread there. The area had belonged to the outskirts of the Angkor Empire, which its kings could no longer hold. The Khmer infrastructure was used by one of the Thai empires, Sukhothai , as a base for its rise.




Africa and Asia

  • Baibars al-Bunduqdari founded the Egyptian Mamluk rule. With his victory over the Mongols, he prevented their further expansion in the Middle East.
  • Sundiata Keïta conquered large parts of West Africa and founded the Mali Empire .
  • Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, which in that century became the largest land empire in world history.
  • Kublai Khan conquered all empires with Chinese culture and established the Yuan Dynasty .


Web links

Commons : 13th century  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. United States Census Bureau : Estimates of the Historical World Population (English).
  2. a b c Signori: The 13th Century. Introduction to the history of late medieval Europe . 2007, p. 20-42 .
  3. a b c Hilsch: The Middle Ages - the epoch . 2012, p. 164-166 .
  4. a b Hilsch: The Middle Ages - the epoch . 2012, p. 198-202 .
  5. a b c d e Hilsch: The Middle Ages - the epoch . 2012, p. 171-177 .
  6. a b Judith Herrin: Byzanz - An amazing story of a medieval empire . Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-15-010819-2 , p. 293-295 .
  7. Hilsch: The Middle Ages - the epoch . 2012, p. 128 .
  8. a b Hilsch: The Middle Ages - the epoch . 2012, p. 151-153 .
  9. Signori: The 13th Century. Introduction to the history of late medieval Europe . 2007, p. 122 .
  10. Signori: The 13th Century. Introduction to the history of late medieval Europe . 2007, p. 92 .
  11. George Bossang: The Moorish Spain . Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-55488-9 , p. 51 .
  12. a b c Gudrun Krämer : History of Islam . Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-53516-X , p. 159-179 .
  13. a b Heinz Halm : The Arabs . 3. Edition. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-50843-1 , p. 67-68 .
  14. ^ A b Paul: Central Asia . 2012, p. 213-229 .
  15. ^ A b Paul: Central Asia . 2012, p. 278-299 .
  16. ^ A b Hermann Kulke , Dietmar Rothermund : History of India - From the Indus culture to today . 2nd Edition. Special edition. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-60414-0 , p. 207-229 .
  17. Gudrun Krämer: History of Islam . Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-53516-X , p. 246-251 .
  18. a b c Kai Vogelsang : History of China . 3. Edition. Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-15-010933-5 , p. 348-369 .
  19. ^ Tilman Frasch: particularism and cultural transfer on the range of the world - Southeast Asia . In: Thomas Ertl , Michael Limberger (eds.): Die Welt 1250–1500 . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-85476-293-5 , p. 325-350 .