Document-Based Question: Explain how the Mongol conquest of the thirteenth century and its aftermath changed patterns of enslavement across Eurasia.

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a historically defensible thesis or claim that establishes a line of reasoning.
  • Describe a broader historical context relevant to the prompt.
  • Support an argument in response to the prompt using at least six documents.
  • Use at least one additional piece of specific historical evidence (beyond that found in the documents) relevant to an argument about the prompt.
  • For at least three documents, explain how or why the document’s point of view, purpose, historical situation, and/or audience is relevant to an argument.
  • Use evidence to corroborate, qualify, or modify an argument that addresses the prompt.

Document 1

Source: William of Rubruck, Franciscan friar sent by King Louis IX of France as a missionary to the Mongols, description of his journey to Möngke Khan’s court addressed to Louis IX after his return in 1255.

We met with a woman from Metz in Lorraine who had been captured in Hungary and was called Paquette, and she made as big a feast for us as she could. She belonged to the court of the lady who had been a Christian whom I have mentioned before, and she told us of the unheard-of privations she had endured before she came to the court. But now things were going fairly well for her, for she had a young Russian husband by whom she had three lovely little boys, and he was skilled in making houses which is a profitable craft among them. Moreover she told us that there was at Caracorum a certain master goldsmith called William, a Parisian by birth, whose surname is Buchier and his father’s name Laurent Buchier, and he thinks he still has a brother on the Grand Pont called Roger Buchier. She also told me that he had a young man whom he had brought up, who was as a son to him and who was an excellent interpreter. But Mangu Chan had handed over to the said master three hundred iascot, that is three thousand marks [of silver], and fifty workmen to carry out special work and so she was afraid he would not be able to send his son to me.

Document 2

Source: Khubilai Khan Hunting, 1280, a painting on silk by the artist Liu Guandao who lived during the Yüan dynasty in China. The black figure wearing a red robe in the upper right corner of the painting has a tattoo on his cheek of the Chinese character ya 丫— meaning “servant” or “subordinate.”

Liu Guandao, Khubilai Khan Hunting, 1280
Liu Guandao, Khubilai Khan Hunting, 1280 (Yüan dynasty). Scroll painting on silk.

Document 3

Source: A history of Armenia written by the Armenian monk Kirakos Gandzakets’i between 1240 and 1267. Kirakos himself was taken captive during the Mongol invasion of Armenia in 1236 but escaped after several months. Here he describes his experience.

As soon as the land was destroyed by the Tatars and Molar-noyin had come to their borders, the inhabitants of that village applied to Vanakan’s cave.[1] It became filled with men, women, and children. Then the Tatars came and besieged them in the cave, while those folk inside had neither provisions nor water. It was summertime and extremely hot and they were scorched by the sun, as if in a prison. The children were parched with thirst and close to death. From outside the enemies shouted, “Why do you want to die? Come out to us, we shall give you overseers and leave you in your places.” They repeated this a second and third time with pledges… [Molar-noyin] made us travel around with him for many days, harassed and harried, on foot and even barefoot… Then they took me from my companions to serve their secretarial needs, writing and reading letters.

[1] Vanakan was a monk and Kirakos’s teacher.

Document 4

Source: Travel account by Ibn Battuta, an Islamic scholar and judge who was born in Tangiers, Morocco but spent much of his life traveling. In this passage he describes the household of the third khātūn (principal wife) of Özbeg Khan of the Golden Horde, whose court he visited in 1332.

Account of the third khātūn. Her name is Bayalūn…[1] She is the daughter of the king of Constantinople the Great, the Sultan Takfūr.[2] We visited this khātūn and found her sitting on an adorned throne with silver feet. In front of her about one hundred Greek, Turkish, and Nubian slave women were standing and sitting. The eunuchs were at her head, and the chamberlains, Greek men, were in front of her. She asked about our condition and our arrival and the distance of our homelands.

[1] Here the author added some details about the spelling of her name.

[2] Here one of the titles of the Byzantine emperor is given instead of his name, Andronikos III Palaiologos.

Document 5

Source: The opening of a brief biography of Sultan Baybars, the ruler of the Mamluk kingdom located in what is now Egypt and Syria between 1260 and 1277. From a biographical dictionary written by Ibn Taghri Birdi, a fifteenth-century historian who lived in Mamluk Cairo. 

He was born at the end of the 620s[1] approximately in the desert of Kipchak, and he was taken from his village as a child and offered for sale in Damascus. He grew up there with al-ʿImad al-Sa’igh, according to what is said. Then the commander ʿAla’ al-Din Aydakin al-Bunduqdari al-Salihi purchased him, and Baybars stayed in Aydakin’s possession until the king al-Salih arrested the said Aydakin and confiscated [his wealth]. Al-Salih took Baybars when he confiscated him from Aydakin, and that was in the month of Shawwal in the year 644.[2] King al-Salih Najm al-Din freed him, and he joined the Jamdariyya political faction.

[1] This date is given according the Islamic calendar calculated from the date of the Prophet Muhammad’s hijra to Medina. The decade 620-629 is equivalent to 1223-1232 C.E.

[2] February 1247 C.E.

Document 6

Source: Contract for the sale of a Tatar slave, Nasca, by her brother, Apanas, in 1360 in the port city of Tana in the Golden Horde. This contract was drawn up by a Venetian notary, Benedetto Bianco, for the benefit of the Venetian man who bought Nasca.

Apanas, son of the late Costa, from the casale of Bosonzi of the Empire of Gazaria[1], presently an inhabitant of Tana, asked that a manifest charter of promise and security be made of one of his sisters with the noble man Lord Marco Contareno, son of the late Lord Fantino [of the parish] of the Holy Apostles[2], born from the race of Tatars as above, about 13 years old, Nasca by name, present and consenting, along with Fredericho son of the late Limon from the said place of Bosonzi in the Empire of Gazaria, with full power and ability to keep the aforementioned at work in everything as a slave, yet he may not presume or be able to sell her, promising to warrant her to him in everything as above, for a price of 200 good ducats of Tana, with a penalty of 5 libri of gold.

[1] The Empire of Gazaria was a region within the Golden Horde.

[2] A parish church located in Venice.

Document 7

Source: The will of Marco Polo, the Venetian traveler who spent seventeen years serving in the administration of Khubilai Khan in Yüan China before his eventual return to Venice. He made this will in Venice in 1323, shortly before his death.

It is the gift of divine inspiration as well as the judgment of a provident mind that every man should be concerned to set his estate in order before the judgment of death arrives, lest his estate remain in disorder. Wherefore I, Marco Polo of the parish of St. John Chrysostom,[1] while daily feebler on account of bodily infirmity, yet sound in mind by the grace of God and unimpaired in senses and judgment, fearing lest I die intestate and my estate remain in disorder, have sent for Giovanni Giustiniani, priest of St. Proculo and notary, and have instructed him to draw up this my testament in complete form… I absolve Peter, my slave, of the race of the Tartars, from every bond of servitude, so that God may absolve my soul from all sin and guilt. I also remit him everything that he gained by work at his own house, and in addition I leave him 100 lire of Venetian money.

[1] A parish church located in Venice.