The Mongol Empire Increased Technological Diffusion Across Afro-Eurasia
Revolutionary technologies spread west from China through the Mongol Empire. These technologies reshaped the world in the 15th and 16th centuries. Knowledge and culture also spread throughout the Mongol Empire.
The Mongols increased the diffusion of technology, knowledge, and culture across Eurasia. This diffusion resulted from the increased movement of Mongol leaders, military units, traders, diplomats, and political advisors across the Mongol Empire. The largest beneficiary of the increased transfer during this period was Europe, which the technologies to develop their societies and engage in global conquest in later generations.
Significant technologies transferred through Mongol territories
Gunpowder originated in China as early as the 9th century. Knowledge of how to produce and weaponize gunpowder spread with Mongol conquests during the 13th century. Gunpowder reached the Middle East between 1240 and 1280. Its first significant mention in Europe was in Opus Majus, a book on science by Roger Bacon written for Catholic Pope Clement IV in 1267.
Along with gunpowder, the Mongols introduced guns into the western world. The first gunpowder weapons were developed in China in the 12th century. These early guns were a cross between a run and a cannon. Records record the Mongols using these in both the Middle East and Eastern Europe in the 13th century.
Various printing practices developed in China moved west with the Mongols. It first spread to Central Asia, where the Uyghurs used it to print in their language. After the Mongols conquered Persia in the middle of the 13th century, the Mongols brought printing presses to print paper money. Johannes Gutenberg was the first European to experiment with the printing press in the 1440s. By 1500, printing presses were in operation throughout Western Europe.
Significant knowledge and cultural transfer through the Mongol territories
The Mongols spread medical knowledge from various civilizations across Eurasia.
- Mongol knowledge of medicine brought together different cultures’ medical knowledge, including the Chinese, Korean, Tibetan, Indian, Uyghur, and Islamic.
- As they moved across Eurasia, the Mongols brought a team of doctors with them. Usually foreign, these doctors spread their medical and gained new knowledge with those with whom they interacted.
- The Mongols also made significant contributions to medical knowledge. The Mongols were the first people to establish a link between diet and health. And because they were a warrior culture, they developed innovative treatments for broken bones and war wounds. Yuan Dynasty leader Kublai Khan founded an institution in China to study Western medicine.
- Persian historian and Mongol political advisor Rashid al-Din (1247-1318) published the first known book on Chinese medicine outside China in 1313.
Uyghur Script was a common form of communication across the Silk Road, especially during the era of Mongol rule when Uyghur became the official script of the Mongol Empire. The Mongols adopted the Uyghur script around the 12th century and selected well-educated Uyghurs as civil servants (people to run the daily operations of the government), scribes (those who could read and write), and administrators to most of Central Asia.