Week 4: Khubilai and the Mongol Sword

This week we begin a look at Khubilai, the last of the Genghis Khan line that could, even fictitiously, lay claim to the title of Great Khan. As I mentioned in class, we don’t have the convenient division of narrative with Khubilai’s life that we had with Temujin/Genghis Khan. Roughly, I’ve tried to focus the readings of this class period on Khubilai’s early life through his campaigns under his brother (Mongke) to conquer the Chinese. Next week, we’ll focus more on the person of Khubilai and his role as Chinese emperor and not just Mongol Khan.



  1. John Man, Chapters 1, 3 and 4, from Kubilai Khan: from Xanadu to Superpower. In this reading, we’ll go from Khubilai’s minority, the machinations of his mother to his first attempts to acquire and  understand his Chinese holdings. Here we’ll first see the future Khan try to balance his credibility among other elite Mongols while also exploiting the Jin and Song civilizations to maximum benefit.
  2. Morris Rossabi, Chapter 2 from Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times. Reading from another of Rossabi’s books, we see a different viewpoint on Khubilai in his chapter titled, “Khubilai Emerges.”
  3. Jack Weatherford, Chapter 6, from Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire. This is a chapter that covers more than the first two readings, but we’ll cover the second half of this chapter next week. Aside from Chabi, Khubilai Khan’s wife, there aren’t many women after the time of Khubilai who wield the kind of power over the empire that we saw in the cases of Hoelun, Borte, Toregene and, Sorgaghtani.

Also, here’s a link to information about the Netflix Marco Polo television series that I mentioned in class. I did discover, however, there will be no third season of the series.

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