13th Century, 1201 to 1300 AD
Around this time in the mountainous Andes region in South America, the
Inca ruler, Manco Capac, oversees the construction of the city-state of
King John of England grants the town of Cambridge a charter.
Maori islanders have settled in what someday will be called New
Europeans are beginning to learn Arabic numerals - as opposed to Roman
numerals - and the zero.
The Fourth Crusade is underway, Pope Innocent III responding to the
failure of the Third Crusade to recover Jerusalem. Crusaders
have attacked the Christian city of Zara, on the Dalmatian coast, with
the Venetians, on whom they are dependent for transportation. The Pope
excommunicates those crusaders who have attacked Zara.
People called jesters begin to entertain in the courts of Europe's
kings. They are impoverished or are of sub-normal intelligence. They
are beginning an art form in Europe for people who enjoy watching
people make fools of themselves.
In Western Africa, the empire of Ghana has lost control over the gold
trade and has been in decline. One of Ghana's subject people, the
Sosso, overrun Ghana's capital city, Kumbi.
Another crusade fails to work out as planned. Constantinople has
revolted against the presence of the Crusaders, and the Crusaders have
retaliated, seizing the city in a three-day orgy of rape and the
plundering of palaces and Eastern Orthodox convents and churches. Fire
has destroyed much of the city. Constantinople's emperor has fled.
Helping the Crusaders are the Venetians with whom the Crusaders have
made an agreement to share the booty. Pope Innocent III is delighted by
the news of the fall of Constantinople to Roman Christianity. When he
hears of the atrocities that have attended the victory he is shocked,
but he continues to approve of the conquest. Soon in Constantinople,
Latin (Roman) prelates will replace Greek (Eastern Orthodox) prelates.
The schism between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity
is complete. Jerusalem continues to be in the hands of Muslims.
On marshland at a dam on the Amstel River, people have started the
village that will one day be Amsterdam.
A Japanese, Eisai (1141-1215), has returned from China. He is a
reformer, a Zen Buddhist, and has been driven from the city of Kyoto to
Kamakura (later Tokyo). At Kamakura he has gained the patronage of the
military government. In 1205 he completes the first temple, Kenninji,
dedicated solely to Zen Buddhism. Zen is to become the choice of the
practitioners of warfare - the samurai.
Philip Augustus of France (Philip II) occupies the fiefs of Normandy
and Anjou, expanding his family's territory from around Paris and
Orléans (the Ile de France).
Sedentary Turks, living in the Turfan depression (about 150 kilimeters
southeast of what today is Urumqi, in China) are overrun by Mongols.
Thousands of children with a few adults and clerics, fired up by
preaching against heretics, start for Jerusalem to rescue the Holy Land
from Muslims. They are deficient in money and organization but believe
that as children they are favored by God and could work miracles that
adults cannot. Before the year is over it ends in disaster. Many
children die or are sold into slavery.
King John of England wanted his fiefs in Normandy and Anjou back. He
allies himself with Emperor Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor. But Philip
Augustus of France defeats them at the Battle of Bovines.
Genghis Khan and his army overrun Beijing. They ravage the countryside,
gathering information and booty. Then they pull back to northern
Frustrated by the growing power of the kings of England, English nobles
join together and force King John to sign a document they hope will
protect them from imprisonment or loss of property without a trial by a
jury of their peers.
The Church's Fourth Lateran Council meets in Rome to enact legislation
as to what is heresy and what is not. The Council decides that all
Catholics are to confess their sins at least once a year, that clergy
is to remain celibate, sober and to refrain from gambling, hunting,
engaging in trade, going to taverns or wearing bright or ornate
clothing. The Council decrees that marriage will be a Church affair and
that Jews will wear a yellow label.
The Fifth Crusade has begun. It was planned by Pope Innocent III, who
died in 1226. Its purpose, to rescue Jerusalem from the Muslims. But it
is not the popular movement that previous crusades were. It begins with
small-scale military operations against powers that be in Syria. Muslim
opposition to the new crusade is divided, giving the crusade a better
chance of success.
Genghis Khan wanted trade on his western frontier. Instead his envoys
were killed. He is now moving his army westward and over-running
prosperous cities such as Bukhara and Samarkand.
The Fifth Crusade ends without success.
Genghis Khan has pushed into Persia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, defeating
Christian knights and capturing a Genoese trading fortress in the
Crimea. He has invaded Russia, and on his way back home in 1223 he
routes a Slavic army at the battle of Kalka River.
Philip Augustus of France dies. He has greatly expanded his family's
territory. The French monarchy has become a maritime and commercial
power, and Paris has become a fortified city with a university that
attracts students from various other lands.
The manufacture of cotton cloth has begun in Spain.
Genghis Khan, at the age of 65, falls off his horse while fighting
against the Tangut in northwestern China. And he dies. (August 18).
A Japanese who has been studying in China brings back to Japan the
Chuan school of Buddhism, to be known as Zen.
The Sixth Crusade begins, led by the excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II, who is being ignored by Pope Gregory IX. Frederick wants
control over Jerusalem, which he believes he has inherited through
Frederick signs a ten-year truce and an alliance with the Sultan of
Egypt, al-Kamil, who is struggling against Muslim opponents. Al-Kamil
recognizes Frederick as King of Jerusalem and cedes to him Bethlehem
and Nazareth, but Frederick is not allowed to rebuild the walls of
Jerusalem, destroyed by Saladin in 1187.
Fearing confused responses to reading the Bible, church leaders at
Toulouse forbid common people to read it.
The institution known as the Inquisition begins. Pope Gregory IX is
taking responsibility for orthodoxy away from bishops and putting
inquisitors under jurisdiction of the papacy.
The son of Ghenghis Khan, Ogedei, has sent an army into Korea to police
defiance of an agreement with them, and the Koreans start a rebellion
against Mongol rule.
Coal is mined for the first time at a place in England called Newcastle.
Ogedei completes this conquest of northern China.
Paradise eludes at least a part of Africa. In western Africa the Sosso
ruler, Sumaguru Kante, has been raiding and conquering people. Sundjata
Keita, who survived one of Sumaguru's raids a decade earlier, is
leading a guerrilla war against Sumaguru and defeats him. Sumaguru is
dead. Sundjata takes control of all the Soninke people recently
conquered by the Sosso.
Ogedei's army, without Odogei, has pushed into Russia and overruns the
cities of Vladimir, Kolmna and Moscow.
Ogedei's army destroys Kiev, and deeper into Europe, at Liegnitz,
although outnumbered, the Mongols destroy a German army of heavily
At the Neva River the prince of Novogrod defeats an invasion from
Sweden. He acquires the name Alexander Nevsky (of the Neva).
Sundjata Keita annexes Ghana. He takes control of the gold trade routes
and rules a new empire: Mali.
Ogedei's army, without Ogedei, reaches Vienna. It withdraws because
Ogedei has died and they need to participate in choosing a new leader.
While withdrawing to their stronghold in Russia, in the Crimea the
Mongols set up trade with sea-going Italian merchants, exchanging many
of their European war-captives for manufactured goods. It is the
beginning of routine business between the Mongols and the Italians -
from Venice and Genoa - and their selling of slaves to the Mamluk
Sultan of Egypt, who has a slave army.
In Estonia, Alexander Nevsky defeats the Teutonic Knights, to be seen
as stopping a Germanic drive into Russia.
The city of Avignon is concerned about cleanliness. It is decreed that
streets shall be widened, that people shall not discard into the street
refuse, bath water, "dirt" and "human filth." It is decreed that Jews
and whores are forbidden to touch bread or fruit for sale in market
The Mexica people (Aztecs) settle onto an infertile hilly region named
for grasshoppers today the Chapultapec region of Mexico City.
A town on Africa's east coast, Mombasa, has become overwhelmingly
Muslim, and a Muslim dynasty has been established at Kilwa, an offshore
island. Kilwa controls trade, including at Sofala, a point of departure
for gold, iron and slaves.
The Mexica people, to be known also as Aztecs, have moved from northern
to central Mexico.
Egypt has white slaves who have converted to Islam. They were guards
for Sultan as-Salih. These are the Mamluks. The sultan has died and the
Mamluks have taken power. Their move is legitimized as their leader,
Aybak, marries the deceased sultan's wife.
Mongke makes official the worship of his grandfather, Genghis Khan,
while people continue to be free to worship as they please. Under
Mongke, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity flourish.
Jews in England are forbidden to live in towns that do not already have
a Jewish comununity.
A boy chasing a ball falls and drowns in a Jewish cesspool. His body is
found twenty-six days later. Some Christians believe that the boy was
killed in Jewish ritual. One hundred Jews are executed.
The Mongols are on their way to Baghdad. At a mountain stronghold near
the Caspian Sea the Mongols force the surrender of the Imam of a Shia
Muslim community, the Nizari Ismailis, to be known by Europeans as the
Assassins. The Assassins believe their Imam was chosen by God and
therefore infallible. They had spread their rule through terror from a
chain of mountainous safe havens. But in the Mongols they meet a force
they cannot intimidate, and it is the beginning of their end.
An army that includes Christians and Shia, led by Mongke's brother,
Hulegu, attacks Baghdad, the spiritual capital of the Sunni Muslims.
The Abbasid caliphate there comes to an end.
Hulegu's army enters Damascus, and Christians there greet the Mongol
army with joy. Meanwhile, Mongke has led an army into China's Sichuan
province, and there he dies in battle.
A Mamluk army defeats the Mongols near Nazareth. Taking revenge on the
Christian Crusaders for having allied themselves with the Mongols, the
Mamluks destroy Crusader strongholds, leaving the Crusaders at Acre,
Tyre and Tripoli.
Nicolo and his brother Maffeo, father and uncle of the now six-year-old
Marco Polo, begin their first trip to the East, during which they will
In the wars between the King of England and barons, Jews are considered
instruments of the king's oppressions. Jewish communities are attacked
and many inhabitants killed. The King of England has been borrowing
money from Jews, but he has switched to Italian bankers, reducing his
dependence on Jews. And now the king restricts Jews from holding land
and Jewish children from inheriting their parents' money. When a Jew
dies his money is to be confiscated by the royal government.
Count Rudolf, a wealthy German noble, is elected by German princes to
be Holy Roman Emperor. As Rudolf I, he gives a new prominence to the
Habsburg family. They elect him because he doesn't appear ambitious or
a threat. He is a mediocrity.
Another grandson of Genghis Khan, to be known as Kubilai Khan, is
conquering in the Far East. He has sent a force from Korea to Japan,
but a typhoon makes his stay there impossible. The Japanese believe
that God is on their side and give credit to God's wind (Kami kaze).
King Edward I of England forbids Jews to lend money on interest.
Kubilai Khan completes a sixteen year drive to conquer China.
The Archbishop of Paris declares as heresy the works of Thomas Aquinas,
and this is repeated in England by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Tribes in Austria had been warring over the lands of the late Duke
Friedrich, whose family, the Babenbergers, had controlled Austria for
300 years. Duke Friedrich had died childless. By
1278, Rudolf I, Holy Roman Emperor and Habsburg, gains
control over what had been the Babenberger dynasty, beginning Habsburg
control over Austria to the second decade of the 20th century.
A number of Jews in England have been dragged to their death behind
cart horses, and now many Jews are arrested and hanged for secretly
The Mamluks defeat a Mongol advance into Syria.
An Italian, Salvino D'Armate creates wearable eye glasses, but it will
be a while before use of them will spread.
Peterhouse, the first college, is founded at Cambridge, England.
King Edward I of England expels all Jews (between 4 and 16 thousand).
Many go to France and Germany.
The Crusaders give up the last of their territory in the Middle East,
on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, driven out by the Mamluks, who
capture the city of Acre. Crusaders have been in the Middle East almost
200 years. Many of these years were peaceful and with amicable
relations with Muslims. There was trade, and the crusaders learned from
the Muslims. This, including a lot of death, is the sum of the results
of an effort to save the Holy Land for Christianity. Added are those of
mixed offspring the Crusaders leave behind, a legacy to appear in the
blond hair and blue eyes of some in modern times in Lebanon, Syria and
The League of the Three Forest Cantons forms for mutual defense - a
beginning of Switzerland.
Marco Polo is back in Venice following his journey as far as China.
People do not believe him when he describes the Chinese as using paper
A conflict over power and wealth erupts between the king of France and
the Pope. King Philip IV of France has continued to tax Church
property, taxes that were originally intended to finance the last
Crusade. Pope Boniface issues the bull Clericis laicos, which asserts
the Church's authority and rights vis-à-vis secular heads of state.
Philip threatens to prevent the Church from collecting taxes and tithes
within France. Pope Boniface backs down. England's king, Edward I, wins
a concession from the Pope similar to the one that the Pope makes for
A succession of Islamic sultans have been ruling in Delhi. The latest
is Jalal-ud-din, sultan since 1290 and now seventy-six and peace
loving. Ala-ud-Khalji, his son in law, nephew and military leader kills
him and makes himself sultan, continuing the Khalji family dynasty.
William Wallace launches a series of attacks on English troops while
fighting for self-determination for Scots.
The Mexica (Aztecs) have been driven from the Chapultepec area of what
today is Mexico City, but they are allowed to settle in a barren area
about 12 kilometers south of Chapultepec.
Agriculture had been growing, but a Little Ice Age has begun, and is to
last 400 years, bringing wetter weather and a shorter growing season in
the northern climates. Farm expansion in Western Europe has come to an
end. Cattle raising has declined, reducing the amount of protein in
diets and reducing manure for fertilizer, contributing to a decline in
crop yields. Herring, a major food source, is beginning to disappear.
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