Tuesday 22 August 2017

Norman England

In September 1066, William of Normandy invaded England, in a campaign which was popularly known as Norman Conquest of England. He decisively defeated and killed Harold Godwinson, King of England at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066. After further military efforts William was crowned king on Christmas Day 1066, in London.

Clifford's Tower, York

After William of Normandy became the King of England in 1066, he remained in England after his coronation and tried to reconcile the native magnates. He made arrangements for the governance in early 1067 before returning to Normandy. Then the king returned to Normandy late in 1068. Several unsuccessful rebellions followed, but by 1075 William's hold on England was mostly secure, allowing him to spend the majority of the rest of his reign on the continent.

Statue of William the Conqueror

Early in 1069, Edgar the Ætheling rose in revolt and attacked York. York was captured by the combined forces of Edgar and Sweyn, King of Denmark. But Edgar, having lost much of his support, fled to Scotland. While at Winchester in 1070, William met with three papal legates – John Minutus, Peter, and Ermenfrid of Sion – who had been sent by Pope Alexander. The legates ceremonially crowned William during the Easter court. In 1071 William defeated the last rebellion of the north.

Pope Alexander II

In 1072 William invaded Scotland, defeating Malcolm, King of Scotland who had recently invaded the north of England. William and Malcolm agreed to peace by signing the Treaty of Aberneth. William then turned his attention to the continent, returning to Normandy in early 1073 to deal with the invasion of Maine by Fulk le Rechin, the Count of Anjou. William died on 9 September 1087. On his death, the custody of England was given to William's second surviving son, also called William.

Malcolm III of Scotland

As part of his efforts to secure England, William ordered many castles, keeps, and mottes built – among them the central keep of the Tower of London, the White Tower. These fortifications allowed Normans to retreat into safety when threatened with rebellion and allowed garrisons to be protected while they occupied the countryside. The early castles were simple earth and timber constructions, later replaced with stone structures.

Tower of London, White Tower

William II succeeded his father William the conqueror to become king of England in 1087 CE. He reigned till 1100 with powers over Normandy and influence in Scotland. He was less successful in extending control into Wales. Less than two years after becoming king, William II lost his father William I's adviser and confidant, the Italian-Norman Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury.

William II of England

In 1091 he repulsed an invasion by King Malcolm III of Scotland, forcing Malcolm to pay homage. In 1092 he built Carlisle Castle, taking control of Cumberland and Westmorland, which had previously been claimed by the Scots. At the Battle of Alnwick, on 13 November 1093, Malcolm was ambushed by Norman forces led by Robert de Mowbray. Malcolm and his son Edward were killed. On 2 August 1100, William was killed by an arrow through the lung.

Carlisle Castle

William II was succeeded by Henry I who became king in 1100 CE and ruled until his death in 1135 CE. Robert(Henry's brother), who invaded in 1101, disputed Henry's control of England; this military campaign ended in a negotiated settlement that confirmed Henry as king. The peace was short-lived, and Henry invaded the Duchy of Normandy in 1105 and 1106, finally defeating Robert at the Battle of Tinchebray. 

Henry I of England

Henry's control of Normandy was challenged by Louis VI of France, Baldwin VII of Flanders and Fulk V of Anjou, who promoted the rival claims of Robert's son, William Clito, and supported a major rebellion in the Duchy between 1116 and 1119. Following Henry's victory at the Battle of Brémule, a favourable peace settlement was agreed with Louis in 1120.

Battle of Bremule

Henry declared his daughter, Matilda, his heir and married her to Geoffrey of Anjou of House Plantagenet. Henry died on 1 December 1135 after a week of illness. Despite his plans for Matilda, the King was succeeded by his nephew, Stephen of Blois, resulting in a period of civil war known as the Anarchy.


The Anarchy was a civil war in England and Normandy between 1135 and 1153, which resulted in a widespread breakdown in law and order. The conflict was a succession crisis precipitated by the accidental death of William Adelin, the only legitimate son of Henry I, in 1120. Henry's attempts to install his daughter, the Empress Matilda, as his successor were unsuccessful and on Henry's death in 1135, his nephew Stephen of Blois seized the throne with the help of Stephen's brother, Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester.

Battle of Lincoln, The Anarchy

During the Anarchy period, Matilda and her own son stood for direct descent by heredity from Henry I, and she bided her time in France. In the autumn of 1139, she invaded England with her illegitimate half-brother Robert of Gloucester. Her husband, Geoffroy V of Anjou, conquered Normandy. Stephen was captured, and his government fell. Matilda was proclaimed queen but was soon at odds with her subjects and was expelled from London.

Geoffroy of Anjou

Empress Matilda and Geoffroy's son, Henry, resumed the invasion; he was already Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy and Duke of Aquitaine when he landed in England. When Stephen's son and heir apparent Eustace died in 1153, the king reached an accommodation with Henry of Anjou (who became Henry II) to succeed Stephen and in which peace between them was guaranteed. The Plantagenet family held the English throne from 1154, with the accession of Henry II, until 1485, when Richard III died.

Henry II of England

Tuesday 15 August 2017

Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan

Mongol Empire emerged from the unification of Mongol Tribes in East Asia under leadership of Genghis Khan and was the one of the largest empire in history, spanning from Levant and Arabia till the Sea of Japan(East Sea) and from Siberia in the North till Indian Subcontinent to the South. The empire lasted from 1206 CE to its peak in 1260 CE and its disintegration in 1368 CE.

Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, Mongolia

The area around Mongolia been controlled by the Liao dynasty since the 10th century. In 1125, the Jin dynasty founded by the Jurchens overthrew the Liao dynasty and attempted to gain control over former Liao territory in Mongolia. The Mongolian plateau was occupied mainly by five powerful tribal confederations (khanlig): Keraites, Khamag Mongol, Naiman, Mergid, and Tatar. The Jin emperors, following a policy of divide and rule, encouraged disputes among the tribes.

Mongolian Plateau

Genghis Khan,
born Temüjin, married Börte of the Onggirat tribe when he was around 16 in order to cement alliances between their two tribes. Börte would be Temüjin's only empress, though he married several times. War ensued, and Temujin and the forces loyal to him prevailed, destroying all the remaining rival tribes from 1203 to 1205 and bringing them under his sway. In 1206, Temujin was crowned as the khagan of the Yekhe Mongol Ulus (Great Mongol State) at a kurultai (general assembly/council). It was there that he assumed the title of Genghis Khan (universal leader) marking the start of the Mongol Empire.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan introduced many innovative ways of organizing his army, dividing it into decimal subsections of arbans (10 people), zuuns (100), Mingghans (1000), and tumens (10,000). The Kheshig, or the imperial guard, was founded and divided into day (khorchin torghuds) and night guards (khevtuul). Genghis rewarded those who had been loyal to him and placed them in high positions, placing them as heads of army units and households, even though many of his allies had been from very low-rank clans.

Mongol Warrior

Genghis quickly came into conflict with the Jin dynasty of the Jurchens and the Western Xia of the Tanguts in northern China. He also had to deal with two other powers, Tibet and Khara Khitai. In 1211, after the conquest of Western Xia, he managed to force the emperor of Xi Xia to submit to vassal status. 

Battle between Mongol warriors and the Chinese

In 1211, after the conquest of Western Xia, Genghis Khan planned to conquer the Jin dynasty. Wanyan Jiujin, the field commander of the Jin army, made a tactical mistake in not attacking the Mongols at the first opportunity. At this engagement fought at Yehuling, the Mongols massacred hundreds of thousands of Jin troops. In 1215, Genghis besieged, captured, and sacked the Jin capital of Zhongdu (modern-day Beijing). This forced the Jin ruler, Emperor Xuanzong, to move his capital south to Kaifeng, abandoning the northern half of his empire to the Mongols. Jin Empire ended the siege of Caizhou.

Genghis Khan entering Beijing.

By 1218, as a result of defeat of Qara Khitai, the Mongol Empire and its control extended as far west as Lake Balkhash, which bordered Khwarazmia, a Muslim state that reached the Caspian Sea to the west and Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea to the south. 

Lake Balkhash

In the early 13th century, the Khwarazmian dynasty in Central Asia was governed by Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad. Genghis Khan planned one of his largest invasion campaigns by organizing together around 100,000 soldiers (10 tumens), his most capable generals and some of his sons. He left a commander and number of troops in China, designated his successors to be his family members and likely appointed Ögedei to be his immediate successor and then went out to Khwarazmia. The empire was defeated in 1220 CE. 

Khwarazmia Empire

After the defeat of the Khwarazmian Empire in 1220, Genghis Khan gathered his forces in Persia and Armenia to return to the Mongolian steppes. Mongol army was split into two forces. Genghis Khan led the main army on a raid through Afghanistan and northern India towards Mongolia, while another 20,000 (two tumen) contingent marched through the Caucasus and into Russia under generals Jebe and Subutai. They pushed deep into Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Mongols destroyed the kingdom of Georgia. 

Mongol Horse Archers

In 1226, immediately after returning from the west, Genghis Khan began a retaliatory attack on the Tanguts(Western Xia Empire). His armies quickly took Heisui, Ganzhou, and Suzhou. One of the Tangut generals challenged the Mongols to a battle near Helan Mountains but was defeated. In November, Genghis laid siege to the Tangut city Lingzhou and crossed the Yellow River, defeating the Tangut relief army.

Mongol "Great Khans" coin

In 1227, Genghis Khan's army attacked and destroyed the Tangut(Western Xia) capital of Ning Hia and continued to advance to Deshun province in quick succession in the spring. At Deshun, the Tangut general Ma Jianlong put up a fierce resistance for several days and personally led charges against the invaders outside the city gate. Ma Jianlong later died from wounds received from arrows in battle. The new Tangut emperor quickly surrendered to the Mongols, and the rest of the Tanguts officially surrendered soon after. Khan had the imperial family executed.

Statue of Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan died in August 1227, during the fall of Yinchuan, which is the capital of Western Xia. The exact cause of his death remains a mystery, and is variously attributed to being killed in action against the Western Xia, illness, falling from his horse, or wounds sustained in hunting or battle. Genghis Khan asked to be buried without markings, according to the customs of his tribe.

Mongol Empire at time of Death of Genghis Khan

The Mausoleum of Genghis Khan is a temple devoted to the worship of Genghis Khan. It is located along a river in Kandehuo Enclosure, Xinjie Town, Inner Mongolia, People's Republic of China. The mausoleum is a cenotaph, where the coffin contains no body but only headdresses and accessories, because the actual Tomb of Genghis Khan has never been discovered.

Mausoleum of Genghis Khan

Genghis named his third son, the charismatic Ögedei, as his heir. The regency was originally held by Ögedei's younger brother Tolui until Ögedei's formal election at the kurultai in 1229.

Ögedei Khan

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Mamluk Dynasty - Delhi Sultanate

The Delhi Sultanate was a Muslim kingdom based mostly in Delhi that stretched over large parts of the Indian subcontinent for 320 years (1206–1526). Five Dynasties ruled over Delhi over this period starting from Mamluk(Slave) Dynasty. Four of these dynasties were of Turkic Origin and the last one was of Afghan Origin. The sultanate is noted for being one of the few states to repel an attack by the Mongol Empire.

Tomb of Sultan Ghari

Muhammad Ghori, Sultan of Ghurid Empire, was assassinated in 1206 CE and his Indian kingdom passed into the hands of his slave, and general Qutub-ud-din Aibak. He is known to be the founder of the Mamluk Dynasty. Aibak's tenure as a Ghurid dynasty administrator lasted from 1192 to 1206, a period during which he led invasions into the Gangetic heartland of India and established control over some of the new areas.

Muhammad Ghori

Qutb al-Din Aibak, started construction of the Qutub Minar's first storey around 1192. In 1220, Aibak's successor and son-in-law Iltutmish completed a further three storeys. In 1369, a lightning strike destroyed the top storey. Firoz Shah Tughlaq, of the Tughlaq Dynasty, replaced the damaged storey, and added one more. Aibak died of injuries received during an accident in a game of chaugan. He was buried in Lahore near Anarkali Bazaar.

Qutub Minar, Delhi

Qutb ud-Din Aibak was succeeded by Aram Shah who ruled after his death for about an year. An elite group of forty nobles conspired against Aram Shah and invited Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, then Governor of Badaun, to replace Aram. Iltutmish defeated Aram in the plain of Jud near Delhi in 1211 to become the third Sultan of Mamluk dynasty. In 1221, Under his reign the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan appeared for the first time on the banks of the Indus River. He reigned till 1236 and was buried in the Qutb complex in Mehrauli.

Iltutmish's Mausoleum

The death of Iltutmish was followed by years of political instability at Delhi. During this period, four descendants of Iltutmish were put on the throne and murdered. Iltutmish's eldest son, Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, had died in 1229 while governing Bengal as his father's deputy. Rukn ud din Firuz, the fourth sultan ruled for a little over six months, after Iltutmish's death in April 1236 he was viewed as being unfit to rule and was murdered in November 1236.

Rani Mahal(Palace of Queen), Kalinjar Fort

Sultana Razia al-Din referred to in history as Razia Sultan, daughter of Iltutmish sat on Throne of Delhi in November 1236. As the first female Muslim ruler in India, she initially managed to impress the nobles and administratively handled the Sultanate well. But her half-brother Muiz-ud-din Bahram, usurped the throne with the help of the Chihalgani and defeated the combined forces of the Sultana and her husband. They both fell into the hands of Jats and were robbed and killed on October 14, 1240.

Tomb of Razia Sultan

Muiz-ud-din Bahram became the sixth Sultan of Delhi and reigned from 1240 to May 15, 1242. During his reign, the Chihalgani became disorderly and constantly bickered among each other. It was during this period of unrest that the Mongols invaded the Punjab and sacked Lahore. Muiz-ud-din Bahram was too weak to take any action against them, and the Chihalgani besieged him in the White Fort of Delhi and put him to death in 1242. After his death, he was succeeded by his nephew Ala ud din Masud, a son of his half-brother Rukn ud din Firuz.

Coins of Muiz-ud-din Bahram

Muiz-ud-din Bahram was succeeded by Ala-ud-din Masud who reigned from 1242 to 1246. He was effectively a puppet for the Chihalgani and did not actually have much power or influence in the government. Instead, he became infamous for his fondness of entertainment and wine. By 1246, the chiefs had become upset with Ala-ud-din Masud's increasing hunger for more power and replaced him with his cousin Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, who was another grandson of Iltutmish.  The Mongols plundered Lahore in 1246.


Nasir ud din Mahmud became the eighth sultan of Mamluk Dynasty of Delhi Sultanate and reigned from 1246 to 1266 CE. He was also the nephew of Razia Sultan. As a ruler, Mahmud was known to be very religious, spending most of his time in prayer and was renowned for aiding the poor and the distressed. It was his Deputy Sultan, Ghiyath-ud-din Balban, who primarily dealt with state affairs.

Coin of Nasir ud din Mahmud

Nasir ud din Mahmud was succeeded by Ghiyas ud din Balban to become he ninth Sultan of Mamluk Dynasty of Delhi Sultanate. He was on throne from 1266 until 1287 CE. Balban was the greatest of the Mamluk Kings. In 1247, Balban suppressed a rising of the Chandela Chief of Kalinjar. He then built military outposts, gave land to soldiers and Afghans to settle. He garrisoned forts at key locations, cleared forests and ensured safe roads. He also unsuccessfully laid siege to the fortress of Ranthambore, but did recapture Gwalior from the Rajputs. He broke up the 'Chahalgani'.

Balban's Tomb

Muiz ud din Qaiqabad (reigned 1287– 14 October 1290) was the tenth sultan of the Mamluk dynasty (Slave dynasty). He was the son of Bughra Khan the Independent sultan of Bengal, as well as grandson of previous Sultan Ghiyas ud din Balban (reigned 1266–87). Being still young at the time, he ignored all state affairs. After four years, he suffered a paralytic stroke and was later murdered in 1290 by a Khilji chief. His three-year-old son Kayumars nominally succeeded him, but the Slave dynasty had ended with the rise of the Khiljis.

The old gate of Lakhnauti

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Great Jin Dynasty of China

The Great Jin Dynasty of China was one of the last dynasties of China to predate the Mongol Invasion in the 13th century. The dynasty lasted from 1114 CE when Aguda(later Emperor Taizu of Jin) united the Jurchen tribes under his rule and rebelled against the Liao dynasty until Mongol conquest of Jin in 1234 CE.

Between 1115 and 1123, the Jin and Song dynasties negotiated and formed the Alliance Conducted at Sea against the Liao dynasty. Under the conditions of the alliance, the Song dynasty would attack the Liao dynasty from the south, while in return, the Jin dynasty would hand over control of the Liao dynasty's Sixteen Prefectures to them. By the time of death of the first Emperor Taizu in 1123 CE, the Jin dynasty had conquered most of the Liao dynasty's territories and emerged as a major power in northern China.

Emperor Taizu of Jin

After the death of Taizu of Jin, the first emperor of Jin, Taizong of Jin became the emperor in 1123 CE. In 1125, Jin forces attacked the Khitan-led Liao dynasty and succeeded in capturing Emperor Tianzuo, the last Liao ruler, thereby ending the Liao dynasty's existence. In same year under Taizong, the Jin dynasty broke its alliance with the Song dynasty and invaded north China. In August 1126, captured Emperors Huizong and Qinzong of the Song dynasty. He died in Mingde Palace in 1135 and was buried in the He Mausoleum.

Emperor Taizong of Jin

Xizong of Jin succeeded Taizong to become the third emperor of the Jin Dynasty and ruled from 1135 CE to 1150 CE. In 1137, Emperor Xizong abolished the Qi kingdom, a vassal state of the Jin dynasty ruled by Liu Yu. In 1139, the Jin and Song dynasties arrived at a treaty, however, in 1140, Emperor Xizong decided to wage war against the Song dynasty. But in 1141, Jin general Wanyan Zongbi and his army were defeated by Song forces leading to Jin dynasty agreeing to negotiate for peace again with the Song dynasty.

Jade ornament with flower design, Jin dynasty, Shanghai Museum

Wanyan Liang
succeeded Xizong to become the fourth emperor of Jin Dynasty in 1150 CE. In 1161, after the Jin dynasty lost the Battle of Caishi against the Southern Song dynasty, his subordinates rebelled against him and assassinated him. Wanyan Liang was succeeded by Emperor Shizong of Jin who ruled from 1161 CE to 1189 CE.

Wanyan Liang

Emperor Shizong of Jin was succeeded by Emperor Zhangzong(1168 CE – 29 December 1208 CE) who reigned from 1189 CE to 1208 CE. He established Confucian temples in all prefectures and counties of his empire. When, in 1206, the troops of the Southern Song chancellor Han Tuozhou invaded the Jin dynasty, trying to reunify China from the south, Emperor Zhangzong's armies defeated the invaders.

The Chengling Pagoda of Zhengding, Hebei Province

Wanyan Yongji became the seventh emperor of Jin Dynasty in 1208 and ruled untill 1213 CE. Starting from the early 13th century, the dynasty began to feel the pressure of Mongols from the north. Genghis Khan first led the Mongols into Western Xia territory in 1205 and ravaged it four years later. In 1211 about 50,000 Mongol horsemen invaded the Jin Empire and began absorbing Khitan and Jurchen rebels. The Jin army had a half million men with 150,000 cavalry but they abandoned Datong.

Genghis Khan

Xuanzong of Jin became the eighth emperor of Jin Dynasty in 1213 CE and ruled until 1224 CE. He abandoned the central capital and moved the government to the "southern capital" Kaifeng, making it the official seat of the Jin dynasty's power. In 1216, a hawkish faction in the Jin imperial court persuaded Emperor Xuanzong to attack the Song dynasty, but in 1219 they were defeated at the same place by the Yangtze River where Wanyan Liang had been defeated in 1161. He was succeeded by his second son, Wanyan Shouxu (Emperor Aizong).

Yangtze River

By 1220, the Jin dynasty now faced a two front war with Mongols(North) and Southern Song Dynasty that they could not afford. Emperor Aizong (reign 15 January 1224 – 9 February 1234) won a succession struggle against his brother and then quickly ended the war and went back to the capital. He made peace with the Tanguts of Western Xia, who had been allied with the Mongols. Genghis Khan died in 1227. His successor, Ögedei Khan, invaded the Jin dynasty again in 1232 with assistance from the Southern Song dynasty.

Ögedei Khan

When the Mongols besieged Kaifeng in 1233, Emperor Aizong fled south to the city of Caizhou. On 9 February 1234, the allied forces of the Mongols and Southern Song dynasty besieged Caizhou and conquered the city. Emperor Aizong did not wish to be remembered in history as the emperor who witnessed the fall of the Jin dynasty, so he passed his throne to his general Wanyan Chenglin (Wanyan Chengyi's brother), and then committed suicide by hanging himself. 

Jin dynasty fresco

When Wanyan Chenglin(Emperor Mo of Jin) received news of Emperor Aizong's death, he gathered his followers and held a ceremony for the late emperor. He was the emperor of Jin Dynasty for a single day(9th Feb 1234). By the time the ceremony ended, Caizhou had been overrun by Mongol forces. Wanyan Chenglin was killed in action. His death marked the end of the Jin dynasty.The territory of the Jin dynasty was to be divided between the Mongols and the Song dynasty. However, due to lingering territorial disputes, the Song dynasty and the Mongols eventually went to war with one another over these territories.

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