Age of Empires Background 


Three key cultures played a major role in changing the world between 400 and 1400 CE: the Franks, the Mongols and the Turks. All 3 were invaders who unified a people and brought political stability.


Franks-Western Europe
As we have learned, after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Franks brought stability to and unified Western Europe. They helped establish Christianity and encouraged education throughout the area. The barbarian invasions weakened the Frankish rule and feudalism developed. [Reminder: In the east, the Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) remained. Their capital was Constantinople.]

Mongols-Eastern Europe and Asia
The Mongols were a faction of the Huns that spread eastward. They invaded China and Persia, under their leader Genghis Khan. By the 13th century, the Mongols had invaded and established dominance in Central Asia, China, Persia, Tibet, Iraq, much of Asia Minor and all of southern Russia.

The Mongols conquered and united most of present day China and Korea for approximately 80 years during the 13th and 14th centuries. Genghis Khan's grandson, Kublai Khan, ruled an empire in China. He ruled harshly, but united China together. This dynasty strengthened trade in China by exporting porcelain and silk. Growing opposition to the rule of the foreigners led to the overthrow of the Mongols. Korea and China reverted back to dynasties in their respective countries.

The Mongols attempted to conquer Japan but were unsuccessful. Japan’s system of feudalism persisted and, over time, led to an isolated society that continued to the 19th century.

After the Ottoman Empire took control of India, the Mongols invaded. The splintered kingdom was taken over by a descendent of the Mongols, now called Mughals. Under Mughal rule Indian culture flourished.


Middle East and Africa-Ottoman Turks

In the Middle East, the Islamic peoples united religiously in an effort to spread the Muslim faith. They pushed into Africa, and Persia. They attempted to expand into Western Europe but were stopped by the Franks. The Ottoman Turks gained control of the Islamic empire and united them politically. This Turkish Empire was able to expand into India and Europe, eventually conquering the Byzantine Empire in 1453. Constantinople was the ultimate goal for the Turks since its physical position was very favorable economically, militarily and strategically.

Two major religions played a role in changing the world between 400 and 1400 CE: Christianity and Islam.

As we know, Christianity was spread throughout Europe by the Roman Empire. Western Europe was dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, where the Pope assumed authority as the head of the former empire. However, in the east the Byzantine emperors considered themselves head of both the church and the empire. This led to a split in the church and the development of the Eastern Orthodox Church. 


The religion of Islam developed in the Middle East, where Mohammed preached to the nomadic Bedouins. He unified much of the Arabian Peninsula under Islam. The religion of Islam was carried to distant places through traders and merchants.

Muslims made contributions in anatomy, physiology and pharmacology, and in medicine with the creation of a medical textbook. Islamic advances in astronomy aided their development of a calendar and improvement of the astrolabe.

They helped establish chemistry as a distinct branch of science and trigonometry as a distinct branch of mathematics. Muslims produced world maps and, later, served as navigators for European explorers.

Islamic achievements spread when Muslim rulers conquered most of the Middle East and parts of southern Europe, and from the trade that grew as a result of the Crusades.


Trade routes and the development of trade centers played a role in changing the world between 400 and 1400CE.

Expansion of Trade Markets and expansion of ideas.

Markets grew with the development of cities and empires. The increased demand of goods and services by larger populations led to the growth of markets. Trade routes connecting Africa, Asia and Europe not only provided the exchange of technology, but also helped spread religious ideas.

The spread of technology took place when caravans from the East brought products such as glass, paper, the magnetic compass and gunpowder along the Silk Road. Caravans from the West brought gold, precious metals and stones, ivory and textiles. Islam expanded as Muslim traders travelled along the Silk Road to Asia and along trade routes connected to African kingdoms. They exchanged goods such as ornamental weapons and utensils.

Christianity spread into Europe from the Middle East along the trade routes established by the Roman Empire, mainly through the network of roads built by the Romans. It also penetrated China through the Silk Road, the major trade route connecting Europe and Asia.

Buddhism spread throughout the eastern half of Asia through trade routes that evolved over time, including the Silk Road.

When regions and/or countries specialize, they trade to obtain goods and services they want but do not or cannot produce. As societies grew and trade expanded, interdependence increased. For example, the availability of productive resources such as tea and spices in Asia, tobacco, cotton, coffee, gold and ivory and gold in Africa, led these regions to specialize. They traded for goods they did not have and wanted. This exchange promoted global interdependence.


The Silk Road
The Silk Road was a trade route that carried goods and ideas across Asia to the Mediterranean area.


Trade Centers
Europe: Constantinople in the Byzantine Empire sat at the end of the Silk Road and where the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea met. This gave the Byzantines control over the trade of people in the Black Sea and all of the people along the Mediterranean shores of Europe and Africa.

Western Africa: Timbuktu became a trade center in the trade of gold from the north and salt from the south.

Trade was central to the economic and cultural development of the West African kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. Their wealth was primarily from the gold they mined, which attracted traders from Europe and the Middle East. These traders brought goods (e.g., salt, tools, cloth), and introduced Islam to the West African empires. Timbuktu became a leading commercial and cultural setting. It attracted scholars from many places due to its long and rich history of learning in religion, mathematics, music, law and literature.

The trans-Saharan slave trade contributed to the development of powerful African states on the southern fringes of the Sahara and in the East African interior. Rulers who sold slaves grew wealthy.

Asia: The strong empire of the Mughals in northern India enabled art, architecture and culture to flourish. The Khyber Pass served as an important trade route. China’s great commercial and cultural centers grew as a result of its link to the western world through the Silk Road where culture and goods were exchanged.


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