First Live Session April 18, 2024

This six-week course includes live two-hour sessions with the instructor each week from 4:00 - 6:00pm Eastern U.S. time. Sessions consist of lecture and Q&A.

Week 1

The Middle East in 1218

This week sets the scene, introducing the major powers and cultures present in the Middle East prior to the Mongol invasions. This was already a turbulent period marked by: the arrival of a new crusade from Western Christendom, infighting among Saladin’s heirs, and a rapid expansion in transcontinental trade. This week’s session ends with the arrival of rumours reporting the first assaults of the Mongol Empire far to the east.

Week 2

The First Wave and Its Impact (1218-1229)

In 1218 a major Mongol army led by Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan) broke upon the Khwarazmian sultanate (a large empire encompassing Persia and its peripheries). This week we follow the first Mongol advance into the Middle East and its dramatic impact on regional geopolitics. This week will also serve to provide an introduction to Mongol civilization looking at their: culture, systems of governance, way-of-life, religious beliefs and gender roles.

Week 3

The Second Wave and Resistance (1230-1250)

In 1230 the next wave of Mongol invaders broke upon the Middle East, driving their empire’s frontier further west and overthrowing any who stood in their path. This week we follow this renewed offensive whilst examining those powers who still held out in the hope of maintaining their independence. We will also explore the process of invasion as experienced both by the Mongols themselves, its impact on trade, and the many people who came under their rule.

Week 4

Facing Total Overthrow: The Third Wave (1250-1260)

This week we explore the third, final, and largest wave of Mongol invasions into the Middle East during this era. For a moment it seemed that the entire region might fall in the face of the Mongols’ ongoing conquests, and this week will cover cataclysmic events such as the overthrow of the Assassins (1256-7) and the siege of Baghdad (1258). We will also consider the Mongol Empire as a whole, discussing the growing rivalries between the major branches of the Mongol imperial dynasty and their implications for the continued expansion of the Mongol Empire.

Week 5

A Changing World (1260-1281)

The centrepoint for this week’s talk will be the determined -and successful- resistance offered by the Mamluk Empire to the Mongols and its impact on the broader Middle East. We will chart the effect of the escalating war between these two powers on the region’s other societies including the Byzantine Empire and the collapsing Crusader States. We will also discuss the experiences of the many peoples now living under Mongol rule including the diffusion of new technologies and establishment of new trade routes across the vast Mongol Empire.

Week 6

Stalemate and New Horizons (1281-1323)

During the years 1281-1323 the Mongol and Mamluk war persisted across northern Syria, resulting in stalemate. This was a crucial period for both empires with the Mamluks rising to become a major power, and the Mongols (in the Middle East) converting to Islam whilst becoming preoccupied by their internal disputes. This week considers the impact of these events, both on the Middle East and the wider world. It discusses in particular how the evolutions of this era shaped future events for centuries to come, playing a role in developments as significant as: the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the spread of gunpowder, and the explosion of the Black Death.

Note: This course is not accredited by Dr. Morton's employer, Nottingham Trent University. It is for personal educational purposes only and does not result in any qualification.

  • Start Learning

    The first live session is at 4:00pm Eastern U.S. time (9:00pm GMT) on Thursday, April 18, 2024

  • Access

    Course materials are available for three months from the first course session.

Meet your Instructor

Nicholas Morton

Dr. Nicholas Morton is an Associate Professor in History at Nottingham Trent University (UK). He is the author or editor of many works on Medieval Middle Eastern history. His most recent book is: The Mongol Storm: Making and Breaking Empires in the Medieval Near East (Basic Books, 2022). Other books include: The Crusader States and their Neighbours: A Military History, 1099-1187 (Oxford University Press, 2020) and The Field of Blood: The Battle for Aleppo and the Remaking of the Medieval Middle East (Basic Books, 2018). He also runs a You Tube channel with videos covering the history of the Medieval Middle East (handle: @MedievalNearEast).