Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

10.6: Administrative Reform in the Mongol Empire

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Learning Objective

    • Choose the best summary of Möngke’s achievements

    Key Points

    • After Ögedei’s death, Genghis Khan’s descendants Güyük and Batu Khan fought about who would rule until Batu Khan’s death, at which point Genghis’ grandson Möngke took control.
    • Möngke was generally a popular ruler. He generously met all Güyük’s outstanding debts, an unprecedented move.
    • Möngke also forbade extravagant spending, imposed taxes (which incited some rebellions), and punished the unauthorized plundering of civilians. He established the Department of Monetary Affairs and standardized a system of measurement.
    • Möngke conducted a census of the Mongol Empire and its land.



    A block of steel, gold, or other metal oblong in shape and used for currency.

    Department of Monetary Affairs

    Möngke established this body to control the issuance of paper money in order to eliminate the overissue of currency that had been a problem since Ögedei’s reign.

    From Ögedei’s death in 1241 CE until 1246 CE the Mongol Empire was ruled under the regency of Ögedei’s widow, Töregene Khatun. She set the stage for the ascension of her son, Güyük, as Great Khan, and he would take control in 1246. He and Ögedei’s nephew Batu Khan (both grandsons of Genghis Khan) fought bitterly for power; Güyük died in 1248 on the way to confront Batu.

    Another nephew of Ögedei’s (and so a third grandson of Genghis Khan’s), Möngke, then took the throne in 1251 with Batu’s approval. In 1255, well into Möngke’s reign, Batu had repaired his relationship with the Great Khan and so finally felt secure enough to prepare invasions westward into Europe. Fortunately for the Europeans, however, he died before his plans could be implemented.

    The Mongol Empire Under Möngke

    Möngke’s rule established some of the most consistent monetary and administrative policies since Genghis Khan. In the mercantile department he:

    • Forbade extravagant spending and limited gifts to the princes.
    • Made merchants subject to taxes.
    • Prohibited the demanding of goods and services from civilian populations by merchants.
    • Punished the unauthorized plundering of civilians by generals and princes (including his own son).

    In 1253, Möngke established the Department of Monetary Affairs to control the issuance of paper money. This new department contributed to better econimic stability including:

    • Limiting the overissue of currency, which  had been a problem since Ögedei’s reign.
    • Standardizing a system of measurement based on the silver ingot.
    • Paying out all debts drawn by high-rank Mongol elites to important foreign and local merchants.

    Möngke recognized that if he did not meet his predecessor’s, Güyük’s, financial obligations, it would make merchants reluctant to continue business with the Mongols. Like many other rules around the world at this time, his hope was to take advantage of the budding commercial revolution in Europe and the Middle East. Ata-Malik Juvaini, a 13th-century Persian historian, commented on the virtue of this move, saying, “And from what book of history has it been read or heard…that a king paid the debt of another king? ”

    The Mongol Empire’s administration followed a trend that was occurring in the Western Europe, in which kings and emperors were finding efficient ways to manage their administrative and legals systems and fund crusades, conquests, and wars. From 1252–1259, Möngke conducted a census of the Mongol Empire including Iran, Afghanistan, Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Central Asia and North China. The new census counted not only households but also the number of men aged 15–60 and the number of fields, livestock, vineyards, and orchards.

    Möngke also tried to create a fixed poll tax collected by imperial agents, which could be forwarded to the needy units. He taxed the wealthiest people most severely. But the census and taxation sparked popular riots and resistance in the western districts and in the more independent regions under the Mongol umbrella. These rebellions were ultimately put down, and Möngke would continue to rule.

    Expansion and Khanates

    At the death of Genghis Khan in 1226, the empire was already large enough that one ruler could not oversee the administrative aspects of each region. Genghis realized this and created appanages, or khanates, for his sons, daughters, and grandsons to rule over in order to keep a consistent rule of law. Möngke’s administrative policies extended to these regions during his reign, often causing local unrest due to Mongol occupation and taxation. Some khanates were more closely linked to centralized Mongol policies than others, depending on their location, who oversaw them, and the amount of resistance in each region.

    Painting of the Battle of Mohi in 1241. Möngke might have been present at this battle, which took place in the kingdom of Hungary, during one of the many Mongol invasions and attacks that expanded the Mongol Empire.

    It should also be noted that the vast religious and cultural traditions of these khanates, including Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Orthodoxy, and Buddhism, were often at odds with the khanate rulers and their demands. Some of the most essential khanates to exist under Möngke’s administrative years included:

    • The Golden Horde, which contained the Rus’ principalities and large chunks of modern-day Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, Belarus, and Romania. Many Russian princes capitulated with Mongol rule and a relatively stable alliance existed in the 1250s in some principalities.
    • Chagatai Khanate was a Turkic region which was ruled over by Chagatai, Odegei’s second son, until 1242 at his death. This region was clearly Islamic and functioned as an outlying region of the central Mongol government until 1259, when Möngke died.
    • Ilkhanate was the major southwestern khanate of the Mongol Empire and encompassed parts of modern-day Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey and the heartland of Persian culture. Möngke’s brother, Hulagu, ruled over this region and his descendants continued to oversee this khanate into the 14th century.

    Möngke’s Death

    Möngke died while conducting war in China on August 11, 1259. He was possibly a victim of cholera or dysentery, however there is no confirmed record of the cause of his death. His son Asutai conducted him back to Mongolia to be buried. The ruler’s death sparked the four-year Toluid Civil War between his two younger brothers, Kublai and Ariq Böke, and also spurred on the division of the Mongol Empire.


    CC licensed content, Shared previously

    10.6: Administrative Reform in the Mongol Empire is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?