Time Period 1: 1200 - 1450

General Outline
General Timeline
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General Maps

Map # 1: Afro-Eurasia

Map # 2: Americas

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Course Content

Dar al-Islam:


Abbasid Caliphate: 750 - 1258

Key Features:

  • Capital at Baghdad

  • Allowed non-Arabs to hold government positions

    • Shows they were religiously tolerant

  • Developed rockets using gunpowder from China

    • Used these rockets to attack foreign ships

  • Developed paper, wrote many books

  • Taken over by Seljuq Turks for last couple hundred years

  • Tried to spread Islam throughout Afro-Eurasia

    • Sufi missionaries were successful due to their emotional appeal to Islam

    • Descendants established Delhi Sultanate in India

  • Fell as Mongols sieged Baghdad in 1258


Abbasid Achievements in Trade & Economics

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Letters of Credit

The Islamic traders established banks that issued letters of credit. Merchants could deposit money in a bank in their hometown and receive it at a bank in their destination to avoid the risk of robbery. 

Connections to other Empires

The Abbasid Caliphate had overland and maritime connections to many other empires including Mali, Delhi Sultanate, Europe, Mongols, China, and East Africa. 


Camels could hold heavy loads and survive for 10 days in the hot weather of the Arabian & Sahara deserts without water. This allowed Islamic merchants to travel really far efficiently. 

Maritime Technology

Islamic traders acquired many maritime technological innovations, such as the magnetic compass, the lateen (triangular) sail, the astrolabe, and the sternpost rudder. 


Caravanserai were roadside inns in which merchants could rest for the night. The establishment of caravanserai allowed merchants to travel long distances as they had a place to stay for the night. 

Joint Liability

Multiple merchants would invest in multiple cargoes so that if one cargo fails to earn profits (robbery, shipwreck, etc.), all merchants share the losses instead of one merchant taking on all of the losses. 

House of Wisdom

  • Established in 8th century

  • Survived until Mongol Siege of Baghdad in 1258

  • Home to important works in Islamic theology, science, literature, medicine, astronomy, math, etc.

  • Most famously housed al-Khwarizmi, the father of Algebra


Ilkhanate of Persia: 1260 - 1335

Key Features:

  • Founded by Khibulai Khan's brother, Hulagu Khan

  • Hulagu led campaigns in Persia, sieged Baghdad in 1258, killed more than 200,000 Persians

    • Even destroyed Persian qanat irrigation system​

  • Later conquered entire Persia and Syria, failed to conquer Egypt

  • Mongols were excellent warriors but not administrators → hired Persians to serve as provincial ministers in government

  • Tolerated all religions until Ilkhan Ghazan converted to Islam in 1295 → Massacres of Christians & Jews afterward

  • Fell due to inflation and overspending of treasury


What's Special about Ilkhanate of Persia?

Unlike many other kingdoms, Ilkhans were originally religiously tolerant & employed local Persians in the government. This was because Mongols themselves had little experience with government as they were constantly conquering other lands instead of governing them.



Song Dynasty: 960 - 1279

Key Features:

  • Used Confucianism in government, appointed officials through Confucianism-based civil service exam

  • Only Southern Song Dynasty survived from 1127-1279 as Jin empire conquered northern capital of Kaifeng

    • Southern capital was Hangzhou

  • Developed gunpowder, initially used it for fireworks

  • China's economy flourished

    • More foreigners came to China → More exotic goods

    • Naval technology allowed Song merchants to reach Southeast Asia, India, and East Africa

    • Iron industry flourished

    • Paper money was introduced due to scarce supply of copper coins

  • Spread its influence to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam

    • Those nations adopted similar administrative structures and some used Confucianism


Religions that spread to Song China

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Mahayana Buddhism

A sect of Buddhism that allows for the veneration of multiple deities as opposed to one god. Very common in Vietnam and came to China via Vietnamese merchants. 

Pure Land School

Places more emphasis on devotion to the Buddha to reach personal salvation as opposed to personal intuition and meditation. Practiced by Empress Wu Zhao. This is a part of Mahayana Buddhism. 

Zen (Chan) Buddhism

Common in Japan. Emphasized intuition and meditation as opposed to religious texts. Zen meditation is a very famous practice. 


New ideas in Confucianism after exposure to Buddhism.  Studied the soul and its relation to the cosmos as opposed to solely original Confucian ideas of morality and politics. 

Yuan Dynasty: 1279 - 1368

Key Features:

  • Ruled by Mongols, founded by Khubilai Khan

  • Originally conquered northern China, had capital in Khanbaliq (modern-day Beijing)

  • Later led conquests to Southern China

    • Conquered Hangzhou in 1276

  • Allowed Chinese to practice their cultural traditions

  • Prevented Chinese from marrying Mongols or learning Mongol customs

  • Largely governed by foreign governors, including Marco Polo, as Mongols did not trust Chinese to govern

  • Fell in 1368 by Emperor Hongwu's army


Ming Dynasty: 1368 - 1644

Key Features:

  • Founded by Emperor Hongwu in 1368

  • Revived Chinese traditions lost during Yuan Dynasty

  • Used mandarins & eunuchs to govern

  • Built irrigation systems, promoted trade

  • 2nd emperor, Emperor Yongle, supported economic expansion

  • Yongle sent Zheng He on 7 overseas trading expeditions to portray Chinese dominance

    • Later stopped his journeys due to high cost


India and Southeast Asia:

Delhi Sultanate: 1206 - 1526

Key Features:

  • Seljuq Turks converted to Islam, migrated to Afghanistan under leader Mahmud of Ghazni → Led raiding expeditions into India to establish Delhi Sultanate

  • Destroyed Buddhist & Hindu temples in North India

  • Failed to convert majority of North Indians to Islam

  • Largely decentralized political structure as it relied on alliances with local Hindu rulers

  • Could not conquer South India


Chola Empire: 3rd Century BCE - 1279 CE

Key Features:

  • Unified through common belief in Hinduism

  • Decentralized political structure, allied with local villages and taxed them

  • Profited by controlling and taxing trade through Indian Ocean Basin

  • Fell easily by Sinhalese forces of Sri Lanka due to political decentralization


Vijayanagar Empire: 1336 - 1646

Key Features:

  • Founded by brothers Harihara and Bukka, who sought to spread Islam in South India under the Delhi Sultanate but later renounced it & founded Vijayanagar

    • Vijayanagar is "city of victory"​

  • Similar to Chola, loose & decentralized administration, unified through Hinduism

  • Taxed trade through Indian Ocean Basin

  • Fell in 1646 by an alliance of Muslim kingdoms

Features of Indian Ocean Trade

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New Ships: Dhows and Junks

Dhows were Indian ships that were really small and had lateen sails, providing maneuverability with monsoon winds. Junks were Chinese ships developed in Song Dynasty that were really large and could hold lots of cargo. 


Indian port cities were used as storages or warehouses (known as emporia) for goods as merchants would store their goods and sell them here. 

Maritime Technology

New maritime technology helped Indian Ocean mariners travel easily. The magnetic compass told direction, astrolabe told latitude, lateen sail could catch winds on both sides, and sternpost rudder helped with maneuverability. 

Monsoon Winds

The monsoon winds were key features of the Indian Ocean as they would blow with a regular seasonal pattern. Mariners deciphered this pattern, which allowed them to travel efficiently using the winds to their advantage. 

Spread of Religions

The Indian Ocean trade network facilitated the spread of many religions as people came to and openly practiced their religions in cosmopolitan trade cities. Such religions include Sufism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. 

Specialized Goods

Indian Ocean trade facilitated spread of many specialized and luxury goods, including cotton from India, silk and porcelain from China, spices from Indonesia, gold and ivory from East Africa, and perfumes from Arabia. 

Expanded Caste System

The Caste system provided Hindus with a place of belonging in a loosely-unified society. Now, new ideologies were made to give foreigners a place in the caste system, detailing how they should interact with people of each caste. 

Importance of Hinduism

  • Temples were center of society

    • Provided food, banking, education, and invested in commercial ventures to earn money

  • More devotional cults were made

    • People portrayed Shiva and Vishnu as certain objects and worshipped them

  • Guru Kabir failed to harmonize Hinduism and Islam in the bhakti movement


Indian Influence in Southeast Asia

  • Kingdom of Funan adopted Indian administrative structure and used the term raja for king

  • Kingdom of Angkor built Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat to represent the Hindu universe

  • Kingdom of Srivijaya controlled maritime trade around island of Sumatra, adopted Buddhism

  • Kingdom of Melaka dominated trade through Strait of Melaka, adopted Islam


Compare & Contrast: North vs South India

North India had a Muslim government while South India had a Hindu government. Both regions had Hindu subjects, so North India was less stable & unable to impose Islam as the majority religion. South India relied on a common belief in Hinduism among its subjects for political unity. Thus, while North India was in political turmoil, South India was benefiting from the Indian Ocean trade network. 


Central Asia:

Mongol Empire: 1206 - 1368

Key Features:

  • Founded by military leader Genghis Khan

    • Forged alliances with clan leaders

    • Had a capital at Karakorum

  • Known for fierce military tactics

    • Expert equestrian skills

    • Army organized in structure of 10 so each person manages 10 people below them

    • High level of discipline in army: if one person flees battle, entire group of 10 soldiers dies

  • Conquered entire realm from Europe to China

  • Led fierce conquest against Persia​

    • Destroyed qanat irrigation system

    • Led Siege of Baghdad in 1258

  • Facilitated spread of Buddhism

  • Tolerated local religions and traditions

  • Left little cultural footprint but facilitated spread of many cultures and religions

  • Spread bubonic plague from China to Europe

  • Created Yuan Dynasty in China

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Four Khanates of Mongol Empire

Key Features:

  • Khubilai Khan founded Khanate of the Great Khan in China (Yuan Dynasty)

  • Khanate of Chagatai ruled Central Asia

    • Its capital was Samarkand

  • Khanate of the Golden Horde ruled Northwestern Asia

    • Extracted tribute from Russia

  • Ilkhanate of Persia ruled in Persia & Syria​


Timurid Empire: 1370 - 1506

Key Features:

  • Founded by Timur-i Lang ("Timur the Lame" → Tamerlane)

  • Had Genghis Khan as his model, led military conquests throughout Khanate of Chagatai

  • Established Samarkand as his capital in 1370

  • Conquered Persia, Afghanistan, Caucasus, North India

  • Later conquered Southwest Asia & Anatolia

  • Died in 1405 while preparing to attack China

  • Maintained loose authority of his realm, allied with local tribal leaders → His death caused empire to collapse

    • His sons fought over the empire & split it up into 4

  • His empire paved the way for Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman Empires


What is special about the Mongols?

While the Mongols left little cultural imprint themselves, they facilitated the transfer of many cultures and ideas throughout Afro-Eurasia. Because the entire Central Asian land (the land from Europe to China) was ruled under one government, merchants could travel peacefully without fear of crime, so merchants were able to transfer goods, ideas, and cultures throughout Eurasia while the Mongol government kept them safe. 



Mali Empire: 1235 - 1670

Key Features:

  • Founded by Sundiata Keita in 1235

  • Had its capital in Niani

  • Flourished by taxing trade in gold and ivory

  • Spread Islam, built lodges for Muslim merchants, built Islamic schools and mosques


Mansa Musa, King of Mali

  • Went on hajj in 1324, brought enormous amounts of gold with him

  • Distributed gold to many people he met along the way

  • Known as one of richest men of all time

  • Inspired by Islamic teachings when on the hajj → Came back to Mali to spread Islam

    • Built mosques, Islamic schools, sent students to North Africa to study Islamic theology

    • Brought Muslim scholars with him to Mali to help spread Islam


Trans-Saharan Trade

  • Connected Mali to the rest of Islamic world

  • Muslim merchants spread Islam to West Africa

  • West African kings and merchants converted to Islam to forge better relations with Muslim merchants

  • Traded gold and ivory in exchange for salt as salt couldn't grow in West Africa

  • Camels helped transport goods as they could hold heavy loads and survive without water for 10 days


Swahili City-States

  • City-states on East African coast

  • Flourished through Indian Ocean trade

  • Kilwa Sultanate was most prominent city-state there

    • Had multi-story stone buildings

    • Used copper coins for currency

    • Many Islamic scholars traveled there


African Religion and Society

  • Mostly kinship and family-based society

  • Slavery was common, people would raid other kingdoms to capture slaves to trade

  • African religion involved a creator god and lesser deities

    • People would honor their ancestors

    • People would worship diviners, who can communicate between humans and supernatural beings

    • Believed in proper moral behavior

  • While some adopted Islam, everyone still retained their indigenous cultural traditions (syncretism)​

  • Kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia was Christian

    • Avoided spread of Islam due to its isolation

    • Churches were built of stone, Bible was translated into Ethiopian language


What's Special About Islam in Africa?

While many Africans converted to Islam, they still retained their indigenous traditions. For example, many women didn't act subordinate to men & often showed parts of their body that should be covered by a burqa or veil. This is known as syncretism, where people combine two different traditions (in this case, Islam + African indigenous traditions). 



Decline of Feudalism → More Political Centralization, Trade, and Cross-Cultural Interaction

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Letters of Credit

European merchants established banks that issued letters of credit. Merchants could deposit money in a bank in their hometown and receive it at a bank in their destination to avoid the risk of robbery. 

Hanseatic League

This was a group of trading ports in Northern Europe that traded grain, timber, and fur. Some merchants traveled on internal European rivers to trade with Central and Western Europeans as well. 

Urban Guilds

Urban guilds were organizations of workers that would collectively regulate price and quality standards and help apprentices learn their craft. These would also care for robbed or sick/unemployed members of the guild. 

Spread of Food

Foods like sugarcane and citrus fruits spread throughout Europe and Africa. Sugarcane eliminated the need for honey as a sweetener. 

Place Setting
Spread of Technology

More maritime technology spread like the compass, rudder, and astrolabe. Also, agricultural innovations spread like the heavy plow and three-field system of crop rotation. 

Italian Port Cities

Due to Italy's prime location in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, Italian port cities became really wealthy by controlling trade. The most important cities were Venice and Genoa. 


Due to the Pax Mongolica of the Mongols, many people were able to travel long distances. Marco Polo traveled to China, encouraging other Europeans to do so. Ibn Battuta traveled throughout the Dar al-Islam. 

Joint Liability

Multiple merchants would invest in multiple cargoes so that if one cargo fails to earn profits (robbery, shipwreck, etc.), all merchants share the losses instead of one merchant taking on all of the losses. 

Church Gained Power → More Religious Education and Spread of Christianity

  • More Cathedral schools, taught Bible in Latin

  • St. Thomas Aquinas harmonized Catholic teachings with Aristotelian teachings, believed people could use reason to understand god

  • Pilgrimages to honor saints' relics

  • John of Montecorvino became archbishop of Khanbaliq (Yuan Dynasty Capital)

    • Baptized 6000 boys

    • Didn't have much success in converting population to Christianity due to existence of already sophisticated East Asian traditions


Rivalries between Christians and Muslims

  • Pope Innocent IV sent envoys to Mongol Khan to ask to convert to Christianity to form alliance against Muslims, Mongols refused & threatened to take over Europe

  • Persian Ilkhan sent Rabban Sauma as an envoy to Pope Honorius IV to ask for support to retake Jerusalem from Muslims

    • Rabban Sauma couldn't gain any support​

  • Pope Urban II formed Christian armies against Muslims to retake Jerusalem in Crusades

  • Fourth Crusade ended up taking Constantinople

  • Crusades facilitated spread of Arabic ideas and technologies


The Black Death

  • A disease that originated in Southern China in ~1346

  • Spread via fleas on Silk Road merchants & Mongol warriors to Europe by 1347

  • Symptoms included large black nodes & could cause death in a few days

  • Killed 1/3 of European population, often destroyed entire villages

  • Lost population → Labor shortages

    • Less peasants were surviving

    • Surviving peasants could campaign for higher wages & eventually won some freedom​

  • Ended in about 1353 but outbreaks occurred sporadically until 1700s




Aztec Empire: 1428 - 1521

Key Features:

  • Capital at Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City)

  • Triple Alliance of Mexica, Texcoco, and Tlacopan Kingdoms

  • Relied on tribute from neighboring kingdoms

    • Each kingdom had its own list of tributes based on the goods available in the region

  • Tenochtitlan had huge markets

  • Warriors and priests had high social status

    • Women who died in ​childbirth were just like soldiers who died on the battlefield

    • Priests led rituals which were believed to keep society running

    • Priests acted as advisors to the ruler, sometimes even becoming the next ruler

  • Commoners worked on family farms called calpulli

  • Artisans also had high status in society

  • Bloodletting was common

    • Believed it allows blood to flow, which brings more rain down for the crops

    • Many made human sacrifices, especially war captives

  • Huitzilopochtli was the patron of the gods


Inca Empire: 1438 - 1533

Key Features:

  • Capital at Cuzco (located in Peru)

  • Founded by Pachacuti, used military to conquer coastal Chimu kingdom and create large empire

  • Cultivated maize, ​tomatoes, peppers, chiles, etc. and domesticated llamas and alpacas

  • Quipus (string necklaces) would store information

  • Had military leaders collect taxes & agricultural surpluses

  • Large road network (25,000 miles), runners would travel the kingdom to spread information (didn't use horses)

  • Government controlled all trade and independent merchants weren't allowed

  • Religion was really important

    • Sun (Inti) was main god, Viracocha was creator god

    • Believed rulers descend from sun and become intermediaries with god once they die

      • Would mummify rulers & give them offerings of food on special holidays​

    • Priests & temples had high position in society

    • Believed in afterlife

  • Peasants cultivated on family-owned land plots called ayllu (similar to calpulli of Aztecs)


Native Americans

Key Features of Iroquois:

  • Lived east of Mississippi River

  • Cultivated on large farms owned by multiple families

  • Hunted wild game

  • Trade was important, people would travel the rivers to trade throughout Eastern US

  • Built huge mounds for ceremonial purposes​​

    • Most important mound is Cahokia

Key Features of Navajo, Pueblo, Chaco, Mesa Verde:

  • Used rivers for irrigation

  • Cultivated maize, squash, sunflowers

  • Built buildings out of stone and adobe

  • Lived in American Southwest


Australia & Oceania:


Aboriginal Australia & Polynesian Islands

Key Features of Aboriginal Australia:

  • Traded among each other, sometimes with New Guinea

  • Religion was based on local geographical features → Didn't diffuse beyond aboriginal society

Key Features of Polynesian Islands:​

  • Built large agriculture-based societies

  • Inter-island trade was common, some inter-married between islands

  • Cultivated taro, yams, sweet potatoes

  • Nan Madol was a settlement in Sandeleur Dynasty, looks very similar to Great Zimbabwe

  • Specialized labor was common (agriculture, fishing, crafts), government would take agricultural surpluses

  • Some kingdoms emerged as local chiefs would launch raids to other islands, but not as large as rest of the world

  • Religion involved war god & agriculture god

    • Priests were intermediaries between ​people & god

    • Marae were houses of worship

Major Themes


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Song Dynasty used Confucianism and a Confucian-based bureaucracy to justify its rule

Song China instituted the civil service exam in which students would demonstrate their skill in Confucian thought. The top scorers in this exam would gain government positions. Furthermore, nearly everyone followed Confucian policies of relationships, which allowed the government to unify the population through Confucian thought. 

Song Dynasty's culture shaped the culture of its neighboring societies, such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam

Ideologies such as Confucianism and Buddhism spread to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Zen Buddhism became especially popular in Japan, and Japanese traditional buildings looked very similar to those of China. Chinese culture influenced that of Japan and Vietnam when China conquered those places. 

Which other kingdoms used religion to justify their rule?

South India used Hinduism to justify its rule. Incas and Aztecs also used their religion to justify their rule. 

Compare & Contrast

Which other kingdoms shaped the cultures of neighboring societies?

Indian culture influenced Southeast Asian culture significantly. Southeast Asian kingdoms adopted Indian religions and administrative techniques. 

Compare & Contrast

Song Dynasty's economy became more commercialized & trade increased

Increased production capacity, expanded trade networks, and more innovations in agriculture and manufacturing allowed the economy to boom. Paper money was introduced, champa rice came from Vietnam (could harvest 3 times a year), iron industry boomed, and gunpowder was discovered. 

Which other kingdoms became more commercialized?

Most nations bordering the Indian Ocean (India, Arabia, Southeast Asia, East Africa) became more commercialized during this time. 

Which other kingdoms became more commercialized?
Which other kingdoms became more commercialized?
Which other kingdoms became more commercialized?

Compare & Contrast

Dar al-Islam:

Abbasid Empire fell apart

Many other Islamic kingdoms emerged, including the Delhi Sultanate, Mali Empire, Kingdom of Melaka, and the Swahili city-states.  

Other Islamic Kingdoms emerged, ruled largely by Turkic peoples. 
Muslim domination of trade

Islamic kingdoms facilitated the spread of banking/credit, rockets with gunpowder, paper-making, and Islamic intellectual achievements in algebra, astronomy, medicine, etc. 

Facilitated spread of many technological & intellectual innovations

India and Southeast Asia:

Indian religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam shaped the culture of Southeast Asian Kingdoms. Angkor built 2 temples depicting entire Hindu universe. Funan was Hindu, Srivijaya was Buddhist, and Melaka was Muslim. Funan adopted the Hindu term raja for king. 

Indian culture and religions shaped societies in Southeast Asia

Even though the kingdoms of South India were politically decentralized, South India maintained unity through a common belief in Hinduism. Temples served as the center of society, providing banking, food, education, etc. The caste system provided everyone with a place to be and even expanded to include a place for foreigners. 

Hinduism shaped society in India

As mentioned above, Song China shaped the culture of Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. Also, the Islamic kingdoms of North Africa partly shaped the culture of the Mali Empire. 

Which other kingdoms shaped the culture of neighboring societies?

Compare & Contrast

Confucianism shaped society in Song and Ming China. Incan and Aztec societies were shaped largely by religion. African kinship society was also unified by common religion. Europe was also unified by Catholicism. 

Which other kingdoms were societally shaped by religion?

Compare & Contrast


Iroquois built huge mounds for ceremonies (largest was Cahokia), and each town had a social structure with the ruler at the top, then the priests and nobles below, then everyone else below. The societies of Southwest US (Navajo, Mesa Verde, Pueblo, etc.) built buildings of brick and adobe and even built buildings on cliff sides. These societies went extinct due to a drier climate. Aztecs had huge step pyramid-like temples and used a tribute system with customized tributes for each tributary state. Aztecs also practiced bloodletting. The Incas built buildings of stone and honored the sun as their god and believed the ruler descended from the sun and would become and intermediary with the sun after death. Overall, religion shaped and unified societies in the Americas. 

States in the Americas varied in their culture, society, and administrative techniques


Most states in Africa were decentralized and organized into kinship groups, which were small villages based on family heritage. The city-states of the Swahili coast were somewhat centralized but still had some kinship organization. In contrast to those, the Mali Empire was centralized. Most of the kinship states used indigenous African religions, while the Mali Empire and the Swahili city-states adopted Islam. Still, the Mali Empire and the Swahili city-states practiced African religions but just used some Islamic traditions and mostly converted to Islam to forge better relations with Islamic merchants. Overall, religion unified African society. 

States in Africa varied in their culture, society, and administrative techniques


The Catholic church began to gain more power, and many Cathedral schools were developed to teach Christian theology and the Bible in Latin. St. Thomas Aquinas harmonized Aristotelian teachings with Catholicism and believed in using reason to understand god. Many people sought to spread Christianity, as seen with John of Montecorvino, Rabban Sauma, and the crusaders. 

The Catholic church gained more power and continued to shape society. 

Confucianism shaped society in Song and Ming China. Incan and Aztec societies were shaped largely by religion. African kinship society was also unified by common religion. South India was unified by Hinduism. 

Which other kingdoms were shaped by religion?

Compare & Contrast

Previously, Western European society was decentralized since the fall of Rome. Feudal lords consolidated most of the power, and they had knights and peasants on their property. Now, more powerful kings started consolidating power, the initial stage of the development of European nations later on. This shift of power allowed many peasants to be freed from their feudal lords, and many of them joined crafts and trade unions in the urban centers. European trade cities boomed as people traveled throughout the continent to trade. After Marco Polo's and Ibn Battuta's journeys, more people started traveling long distances to trade, leading to cross-cultural interaction and exchanges. 

European society shifted away from a decentralized feudal structure as monarchs began to gain power, leading to more interregional and cross-cultural trade. 

Trade Routes:

Trade along major trade routes fostered the growth of many cities as merchants would travel to these cities and stay for the night. These merchants would come from all over Afro-Eurasia, bringing their culture with them, creating cosmopolitan environments in these cities. Such cities include Samarkand, Bukhara, Merv, Kashgar, Quilon, Cambay, Calicut, Melaka, Timbuktu, Gao, and many others.  

As commercial trading practices improved, trade routes expanded and the volume of trade increased, fostering the growth of new cosmopolitan trade cities. 
More efficient commercial & transportation technologies

More efficient technologies like the maritime innovations, camels, and saddles as well as commercial technologies like credit allowed people to travel long distances with expensive goods, stimulating the desire for luxury goods like cotton, porcelain, spices, and silk. 

More demand & trade of luxury goods
Empires expanded to include a vast stretch of land

As empires expanded, more people were brought into the control of one empire, which allowed more people to connect and trade with each other throughout the empire. The Mongol empire created Pax Mongolica (Mongolian Peace), allowing for peaceful transportation from Europe to China as the entire stretch of land was under one administration. Similarly, the expansion of the Mali empire allowed for more trans-Saharan trade. 

More people were brought into larger trade networks
More conflict & contact between empires

As empires had contact with each other, specialized goods and ideas from one region were often diffused to the other region. The Mongols allowed for the exchange of many ideas including Buddhism and gunpowder. The trans-Saharan routes facilitated the spread of Islam as Muslim merchants from North Africa spread it to West Africa. Furthermore, many religions and goods spread throughout the Indian Ocean. 

More trade & transfer of goods & ideas

The Mongols had little culture of their own, but because they owned such a vast stretch of land from Europe to China, people could travel peacefully from Europe to China without fear of getting robbed as the entire stretch of land was under one administration. This was known as Pax Mongolica (Mongolian Peace). The Mongols facilitated the spread of many things including Buddhism, gunpowder, silk, porcelain, the bubonic plague, and many intellectual achievements. 

Important Idea: While the Mongols left little cultural imprint, they facilitated important cultural and technological transfers throughout Afro-Eurasia

As the volume of trade increased, some states became wealthy by taxing and controlling trade passing through their land or ports. The Mali empire benefited by taxing trans-Saharan trade. Many kingdoms of Southeast Asia, like Melaka, Funan, and Srivijaya also benefited by controlling trade passing through their ports, thus fostering their growth. Also, the Swahili city-states benefited from trade. 

Trade fostered the growth of new states and empires. 

In the Indian Ocean, as mariners deciphered the monsoon wind pattern, they could reach India more efficiently, which promoted trade throughout the Indian Ocean Basin. Similarly, in Africa, due to the variance of environments, different regions produced different products, further incentivizing the need to trade with other regions to acquire different products. 

Environmental factors promoted trade
More cross-cultural interaction

Islam spread throughout the trans-Saharan route and the Indian Ocean Basin, which created a new language (Swahili) on the Swahili coast. Medical advancements from Cairo spread throughout Afro-Eurasia, improving care in hospitals. Maritime technology spread throughout the Indian Ocean and eventually to Europe, aiding Europeans in the Age of Exploration (Time Period 2). Other artistic and intellectual advancements spread, like math, astronomy, theology, medicine, especially from the Islamic world. 

More transfer of literary, artistic, and cultural traditions as well as scientific and technological innovation 
More travelers wrote about their travels

Marco Polo wrote about his travels to China, which not only made Europe known to China but also made China known to Europe. As a result, many European merchants wanted to travel the long distance to China to trade. Similarly, Ibn Battuta wrote about his travels throughout the Dar al-Islam, inspiring many others to travel throughout the Muslim world. 

Other travelers were inspired to travel long distances
More cross-cultural interaction

Crops like Champa Rice and bananas spread. Champa Rice came from Vietnam and spread to China, and it could be harvested 3 times a year, which led to agricultural surpluses and population growth within China. Bananas spread from Malaysia to mainland Africa, and they could be grown anywhere in Africa, which allowed the Bantus to migrate throughout Africa. Previously, the Bantus ate yams which could only be cultivated in certain parts of Africa, which restricted the Bantu migration. Furthermore, the bubonic plague spread from China to Europe via the Silk Road, signficantly affecting the European population. 

More crops and diseases spread
Important People
Ilkhan Ghazan

Ilkhan of the Ilkhanate of Persia that publicly converted to Islam in 1295, ending the prospect of an alliance of Mongols and Christians against Muslims. 

Harihara & Bukka

Brothers send by Delhi Sultanate to spread Islam in South India. Instead, they renounced Islam and founded Kingdom of Vijayanagar in 1336. 


Last king of Singapura (present-day Singapore), fled after Majapahit invaded it. Founded Melaka in 1402. 

Emperor Hongwu

Joined Chinese army & led the army in destroying Yuan Dynasty. Founded Ming Dynasty in 1368. Reinstated Chinese cultural traditions in Ming Dynasty. 

Zhu Xi

Neo-confucian philosopher, wrote Family Rituals about proper family behavior. Believed in abstract behavior as opposed to practicality. 

Sundiata Keita

Son of local African king. His palace was invaded, he was spared due to his broken leg. Formed alliances with local kings, overthrew invaders, founded Mali Empire in 1235.

Genghis Khan

Military leader, founder of Mongol Empire in 1206. Created largest land-based empire in the world. Known for excellent military commanding techniques. 

Mansa Musa

King of Mali, nephew of Sundiata. Went on hajj in 1324, distributed lots of gold. Inspired by Islamic culture in Mecca, spread Islamic education to Mali.  

John of Montecorvino

Archbishop of Khanbaliq (Yuan dynasty capital, modern-day Beijing). Baptized 6000 boys, built many Churches, failed to gain much support. 

St. Thomas Aquinas

Christian theologian. Harmonized Aristotle's teachings with Christianity. Believed in using reason to understand god. 


Created a large empire in Central Asia & Persia after Genghis Khan's death. His empire fell when he died in 140

Guru Kabir

Indian poet who attempted to harmonize Hinduism and Islam in the bhakti movement but failed to do so. 

Ramanuja & Shankara

Hindu philosophers. Ramanuja believed in harmonizing oneself with the deity, Shankara believed in using logical reasoning to understand true world. 

Zheng He

Chinese merchant & traveler, commissioned by Ming Emperor Yongle to make 7 expeditions throughout Indian Ocean to display Ming dominance. 

Emperor Yongle

2nd Ming Emperor. Promoted economic expansion, sent Zheng He on trading expeditions. Compiled ancient Chinese texts into Yongle Encyclopedia

Khubilai Khan

Grandson of Genghis Khan. Founded Yuan Dynasty in China in 1271. Employed Marco Polo as an administrator. 

Pope Innocent IV

Catholic Pope. Sent envoys to Mongol Khan, asking to convert to Christianity to form alliance against Muslims. Mongols refused, threatened to take over Europe.

Hulagu Khan

Brother of Khubilai Khan. Led Siege of Baghdad in 1258, founded Ilkhanate of Persia. 

Rabban Sauma

Envoy of Persian Ilkhan to Pope Honorius IV to ask to form alliance against Muslims to retake Jerusalem. He failed to gain support. 

Ibn Battuta

Muslim traveler from Morroco. Traveled throughout the Dar al-Islam, served as a qadi in Delhi Sultanate, wrote about his travels.  

Marco Polo

Venetian merchant. Went to court of Khubilai Khan, became provincial administrator there, spread knowledge about China to Europe. 


First Inca king. Founded Inca empire in 1438. Led military conquests throughout the region to consolidate Inca rule. 


Dar al-Islam:

The Abbasid caliphate ruled the Middle East since 750 and it brought many great economic achievements that made trade much easier and safer. However, the Seljuq Turks took over the government during its last couple hundred years, and by 1200, the Abbasid caliphate was deteriorating. The Mongol Siege of Baghdad in 1258 put an end to the caliphate. The Ilkhanate of Persia then took over, which was a descendant of the Mongol Empire, which was then taken over by the Timurid empire, another descendant of the Mongol Empire. 


The northern part of the Song Dynasty had been invaded, so by 1200, only the Southern Song Dynasty remained. This dynasty supported economic ventures, and Buddhism appealed and changed in doctrine when introduced to China. The Mongols took over in 1279 and establisehd the Yuan Dynasty in which they tried to erase all Chinese traditions. In 1368, Emperor Hongwu led an army against the Yuan and declared the Ming Dynasty, which sought to revive the lost Chinese traditions. This dynasty initially supported economic ventures but then stopped. 

India & Southeast Asia:

In 1206, the Turkic peoples of Afghanistan established the Muslim Delhi Sultanate in North India. It failed to convert the largely Hindu North Indian population, so it relied on alliances with local Hindu rulers for political stability. South India was ruled by the Chola Dynasty, but after it fell, two brothers formerly part of the Delhi Sultanate established the Kingdom of Vijayanagar. Both kingdoms of South India were politically decentralized but relied on a common belief in Hinduism to unify the population. South India also fostered the growth of the Indian Ocean trade network and profited by taxing the trade. Hinduism and temples played a much larger role in South Indian society and many devotional cults were made to specific Hindu gods. Meanwhile, the kingdoms of Southeast Asia were shaped by Indian beliefs and religions and they also profited by controlling trade passing through the region. 

Central Asia:

Central Asia saw the growth  of a new Mongol empire, a huge military empire created by Genghis Khan. He fiercely trained and dsiciplined his military and eventually conquered the entire realm from Eastern Europe to China. Because his empire was politically unstable, his empire split into 4 Khanates, governed by his children and grandchildren, after his death. While the Mongols left little cultural imprint on the world, they fostered the transfer of many cultural innovations throughout Afro-Eurasia because the Pax Mongolica (Mongolian Peace) allowed merchants to safely travel from Europe to China without fear of robbery. After the Khanates collapsed, Tamerlane looked on Genghis Khan's model and created his own conquering empire (much smaller than the Mongol Empire), which quickly collapsed after his death but laid the foundation for the Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman empires. 


A prince named Sundiata overthrew local West African kingdoms to create the Mali Empire, an empire spanning much of West Africa that dominated the Gold trade. This empire profited by taxing trans-Saharan trade as it traded gold and ivory for goods like salt, books, and many other things. Many Islamic merchants came to West Africa, which fostered the growth of Islam in Africa as many merchants converted to Islam to forge better relations with the Islamic merchants, but they still kept their indigenous African traditions. In 1324, Mali King Mansa Musa went on the hajj and was inspired by Islamic culture in Mecca, so he came back to Mali and built mosques and Islamic schools and spread Islam. Furthermore, the Swahili city-states of East Africa benefited from trade and also drew Islamic influence from Muslim merchants. In general, African society was kinship and family-based, and slavery was common. 


From 1200-1450, Western Europe was transitioning from a decentralized feudal structure to a more centralized state, causing the economy to boom as more peasants were freed and went to the urban centers to join crafts or guilds to trade. The Catholic church gained power, which led to more religious education and rivalries between Christians and Muslims. Furthermore, travelers like Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo spread knowledge about the rest of Afro-Eurasia, which encouraged more people to travel long distances and trade. In the mid 1300s, the Black Death arose, causing the European population to decline, but it somewhat recovered afterward. 


The Aztec empire arose in Mesoamerica, which was a triple alliance of the Mexica, Texcoco, and Tlacopan Empires. The Aztecs relied on tributes from neighboring states and made custom tribute lists based on the goods available in each state. Religion was really important as people practiced bloodletting to make blood flow and bring rain down as well as human sacrifices. The Inca empire arose in the Andes mountains of present-day Peru, and it relied on a strong military to conquer the neighboring states. It had a vast road system, and all industry was nationalized as independent merchants wree prohibited. Religion was also really important here as people worshipped the sun god (Inti) and believed the ruler descended from the sun. In the Navajo and Pueblo tribes of America, people built buildings of stone and adobe and cultivated maize, squash, and sunflowers. In the Iroquois tribes of the Americas, people traded a lot and used rivers for navigation, and they built large mounds for ceremonial purposes, the largest being at Cahokia.  

Australia & Oceania:

The Aboriginal people lived in Australia and were largely nomadic and occasionally traded with each other and with New Guinea. Their religion was based on local geography, so it didn't have any appeal to outsiders. The Polynesian Islands were home to many people that lived mostly through agriculture and trade with other islands. Sometimes, local chiefs would launch campaigns onto other islands. Religion was also relatively minor here, but it had a war god and an agriculture god. 

General Summary:

From 1200-1450, the empires of the world were becoming more cosmopolitan as trade was increasing. Europe became more centralized, which allowed it to trade with other kingdoms and gain the modern technologies which allowed it to dominate the world for the next 5 centuries. Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and China also benefited from the trans-Saharan, Indian Ocean, and Silk Road trade routes. Furthermore, religion helped unify many kingdoms as did Hinduism in South India, Islam in the Dar al-Islam, Confucianism in Song and Ming China, Catholicism in Western Europe, and the local religions in the Americas, Australia, and Oceania.