The Mongols were first mentioned in Chinese texts from c. 600-900 A.D. The narrative “Secret History of the Mongols” is the closest source resembling a primary document that remains for the Mongols. This narrative is a mythical account of the formation of the people that would become known as the Mongols. The original narrative ends with the death of Chinggis. The story of Ogodei’s (Chinggis’ son) was later added to the narrative.
The nomadic people of Mongolia were eventually united under Chinggis (Genghis). But before they were united, these nomadic people raised mostly sheep and horses. Occasionally they raised oxen, goats, and camels. The herds provided the nomads with some sustenance: meat and milk. Also the animals provided the nomads with wool and hides for protection from the elements. When food became scarce they sometimes had to resort to eating their horses. This was not an easy life and even with taking extreme measures the people could not even come close to sustaining themselves. To make up the difference they raided other settlements, or traded for grain, fish, metal, and other practical resources. This harsh life made the Mongols into the warriors they are remembered for.
The nomads divided themselves into clans. Each clan had a distinct structure, set of customs, and developed rules dictating rules of succession. The different clans did share the belief in blood bonds and blood feuds. The blood bonds and blood feuds dictated clan member allegiances and reinforced the highly regarded concept of family. The adherence of the clans to blood bonds and blood feuds also correlates to how the Mongols ruled their empire.
In taking his first steps to create the Mongol Empire, Chinggis absorbed his first clan in c. 1203. Following in c. 1206 an assembly of princes, princesses and military commanders named him supreme ruler and gave him the title of Chinggis Khan. Chinggis Khan was not without enemies. Ala al-Din Muhammad ibn Tekish, shah of Khwarizm and some of the outlying nomadic tribes fought against Chinggis. Chinggis wanted to make an alliance with ibn Tekish to prevent conflict. Ibn Tekish agreed at first, but then killed a group of merchant Mongol envoys. These series of events started a seven year war, lasting from c. 1218-1225, which left Khwarizm in ruins.
The Mongol clans included the Tatars, Kereyid, Naiman, Onggud, and Ughar societies. The clans only occupied a small territory in the northeast part of the country known today as Mongolia. The tribal federation with law and regulations was enacted to keep peace between the clans. Chingiss also made an injunction that specified that his descendants not favor one religion over another. Princes and princesses were given enslaved craftsmen, revenue from cities, and sometimes even the cities themselves. Every adult male was groomed into a warrior.
By the time of Chinggis’ death in c. 1227, the Mongols occupied the land from Manchuria to the Caspian; Siberian forest to the Hindu Kush. Batu, Chinggis’ grandson, absorbed the area known as the Golden Horde, which covered the territory of the Pontiac and Caspian steppes. The Mongol conquests led to the establishment for the largest adjoining land empire in world history.