1.  Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Empire:  be sure to know what things he did that made him an effective military leader.  Be ready to discuss how Mongol rule affected Russia and China (or if it did).

2.  China’s Treasure Fleet and the European Voyages of Discovery:  read up on China’s Treasure Fleet and be ready to explain why the fleet was created, where it went and what, if any, the long term affects of its voyages were.  Then, do the same thing for the European Voyages of Discovery covered in the slides (Chapters 11-13).

3.  Bubonic Plague:  study the various short term and long term changes the Black Death caused.  Be ready to explain these changes in terms of society, economics and politics (power structures).

4.  The Columbian Exchange:  Study all of the slides on this and be prepared to explain what it was, what kinds of things were exchanged (there’s a lot more to this than food!) and how these exchanges changed the New World and the Old World.  Don’t forget the fatally important role disease played for both worlds!

Pastoral Peoples

World History I, Chapter 11

Pastoral Peoples

Pastoral societies were peoples who focused on raising livestock, usually because the lands they lived in were poor for farming. Horses, goats, sheep, llamas, yaks, cattle, camels and reindeer are the most common livestock these people built their entire culture around.

In many cases, these peoples’ civilizations rose and fell without much notice to the rest of the world, in part because they tended to occur in areas that were not widely populated, so the pastoral peoples themselves were often somewhat cut off from other societies. In a few cases, though, certain pastoral groups changed the world.

Family Groups

Because they lived fairly insular lives away from most other peoples, they tended to have very closely-knit groups.

Women usually had more personal freedom and equality in pastoral societies because they often did much of the same work the men did.

Most pastoral societies moved around at least a little according to the seasons, if they were not almost completely nomadic. Because they relied on their animals for food and other items, they had to continually take their herds to and from feeding grounds which varied in location according to the season.

Trading and Raiding

Even though they kept to themselves, typically, they did rely on trade with local farmers since most pastoral people could not adequately live on just the food their animals provided. Trade networks were important, therefore.

Some pastoral societies became adept at not only trading but raiding others. It was pastoral groups who invented iron stirrups for saddles and compact bows that could be fired while on horseback, among other types of armor and weapons. These inventions made some groups such as the Mongols and Huns into truly fierce conquerors.

The Arabs were an excellent example of a pastoral group that became so good at warfare they eventually built their own empire. Once a camel saddle was created that would actually stay in place, the Arabs were able to fight from atop their camels, giving them a higher perch – and thus an advantage- than anyone on horseback.

The Mongol Empire

The Mongols were the most successful of the pastoral empires. At one point the Mongul Empire stretched from Eastern Europe all the way to the Pacific coast of Asia- the largest ever in history.

Even though it was huge, the empire didn’t leave anything lasting such as a language, or a new religion.

AKA Genghis Khan

The empire began with its greatest leader, TEMUJIN, more commonly known to us as Chinggis Khan (which means universal ruler)

Worlds of the Fifteenth Century

World History I

Changing Ways of Life

The fifteenth century saw some enormous changes in cultures worldwide.

Some cultures such as those found in most of Australia and in the far northern reaches of North America, were still hunter/gatherers, not because they were failing to progress, but because the land was providing everything they needed in abundance, so there was probably no impetus for change.

Pastoral societies continued on during this century, also, particularly in the middle east, Asia, and Africa, as before. But these types of cultures were in the minority by 1500, as agriculture continued to improve.


In China, the MING dynasty arose, spanning from 1368-1644. It ruled over a China that had been decimated by Mongol rule and then by Bubonic Plague.

The Ming emperors rebuilt the roads, canals and fields destroyed by the Mongols, rebuilt the government and reinstated the examination system for government workers.

Emperor Yongle even ordered the creation of an encyclopedia of 11,000 volumes, containing basically everything China knew up to that point.

Yongle also moved the capital of China to Beijing, creating a palace complex within it known as the Forbidden City, (see at right) for himself and future emperors.

This reconstruction ushered in an era of peace in China that allowed it to become the most prosperous civilization in the world by 1500.

The Chinese Treasure Fleet

Yongle also ordered a huge fleet of ships to be built that were then sent on various voyages to explore the rest of the world. The first voyage, captained by a eunuch named Zheng He, had more than 300 ships and was manned by more than 27,000 Chinese.

They traveled throughout Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and probably as far as North America. In some cases they brought back rulers who paid tribute to the emperor and in return were given gifts as and welcomed as trade partners.

When Yongle died, however, this immense fleet was left idle and eventually disappeared. Part of the reason for this was that China considered itself to be self-sufficient didn’t see the need to partner with other people.

It certainly believed its own culture to be far superior to others, and so once Yongle died, subsequent emperors saw no point in connecting with the outside world, inferior as it was to the Chinese.

Western Europe on the Rise

Like China, Western Europe had been decimated by plague, but it had at least been able to escape deprivation by the Mongol hordes. It still had many years of rebuilding before population and infrastructure returned to the pre-plague levels.

Where China continued to be one massive state, in West

World History II

Early Modern Era 1450-1750

Age of Empires

The Early Modern Era, from 1450-1750 is also known as the Age of Empires.

Although empires had existed previously, such as the Aztec and Inca empires, this section focuses on empires created by European and Asian societies

The age begins with the exploration of the New World of the Americas by the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese

Great Age of Exploration

European nations looked across the Atlantic for lands that had abundant natural resources and trade goods.

The original object was not to colonize, merely to explore, but colonization followed soon after as it became apparent that great wealth could be obtained in the New World

Voyages were funded and colonies founded for three reasons….God, Glory, and Gold

“We came here to serve God and the King

…and also to get rich”

European Advantages

European explorers had improved mapmaking, navigational tools, ship design, and weapons, including gunpower and other innovations from China and the Near East.

The Spanish brought horses with them, allowing them to quickly subdue native peoples who had never seen this animal.

Another advantage was that some native civilizations had factions within them that were willing to ally with the newcomers to help destroy the existing native power structures.

The Great Dying

The biggest advantage the Europeans had over the native people was one they weren’t aware of: Europeans brought with them various germs and diseases the native people had never been exposed to and thus had no resistance against.

New World natives were exposed to smallpox, measles, typhus, yellow fever, malaria and influenza, as well as diseases carried by the livestock the Europeans brought with them.

These diseases decimated the native population by as much as 90%.

A contemporary wood cutting of native Americans dying

from smallpox, circa 1500

The Great Dying

Within 50 years of Columbus’ landing in the Caribbean, the local Caribe Indians vanished entirely.

Central Mexico’s population before the Spanish arrived had been between 10-20 million. In less than one hundred years it had dropped to about one million.

According to some accounts, the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock found a ready-made village with empty huts and some crops in the field…with the bones of the dead scattered everywhere.

“By God’s visitation, a wonderful plague!”

The Columbian Exchange

Besides diseases, Europeans brought crops such as wheat, rice, sugarcane, grapes and other vegetables and fruits, and livestock such as horses, cattle, goats, pigs and she