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The Overview of World History in the 13th Century and Its Major Events

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The 13th century was one of the most important centuries for the growth and stabilization of modern civilization that was facilitated through various major political, economic, and social events. This century was defined by the growth of religions like Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism throughout Asia and Christianity in Europe which would give rise to some of the most powerful Empires like the Delhi Sultanate and the Byzantine Empire. The expansion of trade and the creation of new trade routes would facilitate the spread of new ideas while also having the downfall of facilitating invasions like those of the Mongols and the spread of diseases in later centuries like the black plague. Technological Innovations like the inventions of paper would instill a desire to learn that would result in the creations of major learning centers such as the house of wisdom in Baghdad and would help solidify the power of New world powers that would arise. Although there are many events that shape the 13th century there are three main events or ideas social, political, and economic, in the regions of East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the middle east, Americas, Europe, and Africa that shaped the overall structure of this time.

To begin, during the 13th century, East Asia was as epicenter of change and growth. One of the major political events was the revival of the civil service this caused the bureaucracy in china to move to more of a meritocracy based on Confucian principles. This exam also created a sense of unity within the government itself since all leader would have to be well versed in Confucian principle therefore providing political stability. The growth of new trade routes such as the silk roads and Indian ocean trade routes had an enormous impact on economy allowing not only for religion to spread but new technology, goods, and ideas that would provide major benefits for the economy. The importation of champa rice in China from Vietnam which could mature early, resist droughts and flood could be harvested 3 times a year contributed to a huge spike in population which led to significant economic growth. Trade was later also facilitated by the extension of the grand canal in china and along with providing economic growth because it allowed for cross country trade, it also provided a method of cultural unity and stabilization with the connection of such a large area. Considering social event, the expansion of Confucianism through the civil service exam brought forth a new societal class called the scholar gentry. These scholar gentry we extremely well versed in Confucian principals and provided a unified government soon outnumbering the Aristocrats. As a result of the spread and overwhelming support for Confucianism, strongly supported by the government, society shifted towards Confucian traditions like the expectation that women would defer to men shown by the increase in foot binding which limited a women’s ability to move and elevated their social status showing how important deference to men was.

From East Asia, we now move to South Asia which was defined politically by the emergence of the Delhi sultanate established by Islamic forces conquering the city of Delhi in India and reining for over 300 years. These new strong, unified, Islamic forces helped repel the Mongol and kept them from directly invading India although they were overthrown in the 14th century by Mughals that traced their ancestry to the Mongols. The establishment of the Delhi also led to economic Changes with the Implementation of the Jizya which was a tax on non-muslims putting heavy economic strain of the large community of people following the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Officials in the Delhi Sultanate also began showing the power of the economy through architecture. Exchanging Information, technology, and culture with the Middle East through major trade routes, developments in algebra and geometry allowed Sultans to erect magnificent building like Qatub Minar which was a huge display of cultural and economic power to other states. The new, rapid introduction of Islam also led to huge social impacts in the areas ruled by the Delhi Sultanate. Huge groups now not only converted to Islam for the purpose of upward social mobility but now to simply to avoid paying the high tax just for not following the correct religion. While this helped expand the Islamic religion, the rulers of the Delhi sultanate could not maintain their rule. Another big social movement in South Asia was the Bhakti Movement. The movement which promoted the connection of a single diety, did not discriminate women and people of low class which ultimately resulted in the rise of feminism represented by figures such as Mira Bai.

Now to the final division of Asia, Southeast Asia. The major political event of South Asia was the battle against invaders, specifically the Mongols, led by Ghengis Khan, attempting to conquer Major cities and implant their rule. The Mongols, conquering over 12 million square miles allowed the territories which were ruled and united by the Mongol Empire to enter into a time of peace called ‘Pax magnolia’. The mass, successful conquering by the Mongols Led to the connection of the silk road across continents. This new connection of trade routes had the overwhelming effect of boosting the economies of the states involved. The connection of the trade route also facilitated the exchange of goods, cultures, technology etc. across the continent. The result was the spread of Irrigation and drainage techniques along with Champa rice spreading from the Khemer empire in Asia to Europe and along with overall economic growth along with population growth and a surplus of food this also help spread religion. When merchants who traded in the Indian ocean trade routes or the silk road went to another culture or territory, they had the effect of sharing their religions and culture with the people they traded with. This ultimately led not only to the spread of religions, mainly Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism to spread but also caused the formation of schisms in religions. The prime example of this were the Sufi Muslims who combined aspects of Islam including upward social mobility and tolerance for other faiths with aspects of Hinduism including the worshipping of their local deities to crate religions that were more favorable and spread even easier through missionary work because of desirability.

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Now we have to the privilege to talk about the beginnings of one of the greatest economic powers, The Americas. There were four major civilizations including the Maya, the Inca, and the Aztecs and while each civilization was different, they each had certain was of maintaining political control. In the Mayan civilization the rulers organized its rule into separate city-states each ruled by a different king and the Inca did something similar organizing its empire into provinces each which a separate government. This allowed the Mayan and the Incan Governments to retain proper control over conquered people. Each of these civilizations also had of way of keeping conquered people in line, both the Maya and the Aztecs collected a tribute which is a payment from the conquered people to the conqueror and the Incas instituted the Mit’a system for men in between the ages of 15 ang 50 and although these system helped the government keep power it also caused resentment and hatred from conquered people, especially the Mayans who sometimes called for human Tributes, and created disunity within the conquered areas. Another huge aspect of these civilizations were the Inventions that boosted the economy especially in agriculture. The Aztecs were able to create a system of aqueducts that provided water from Tenochtitlan to the city. The Aztecs also placed floating gardens called chinampas on lake Texcoco to maximize on their farming land also digging an irrigation system and draining parts of the river for even more land. The Incan civilization developed a system of terraces for the cultivation of crops using the Waru system of raised water beds to guide rainwater, prevent drought, and prevent flooding. Each of these unique systems helped boost the economy by increasing food production and preventing natural disasters from wiping out the majority of the food supply. In Social aspects, each civilization was massively centered around religion. The Mayans would please the Gods by providing human sacrifices and tried to map out when to perform religious ceremonies through astronomy. The Incan used a system of animism honoring the sun god Inti and used intense form of Ancestor veneration in belief of the rulers connection to the gods. Finally, the Aztecs used religion to create a theocratic society having a both political and religious ruler at the top of the social hierarchy called the great speaker who was the representative of the Gods. The major institution of religions in these civilizations provided a common societal goal of pleasing the Gods and helped connect the people with the rulers.

Next we have the country that was the center of the slave trading across many continents and trading routes, Africa. Politically, Africa was divided into kin-based networks where families would govern themselves and a chief which is the male head of a network of families disputed conflicts between neighbors in a village. A group of villages became districts and the group of chiefs worked together to solve the districts problems and although this worked out for some while, competition for resources increased making it harder to govern these Kin-based networks and they eventually dissolved. After the kind-based network dissolved, a group of seven states loosely connected by kinship ties, arose called the Hausa kingdoms. Lack of a centralized authority allowed these states to form prosperous city-states around the Trans-Saharan trade routes but with no centralization they were also very susceptible to Invasion and conquering. Centered around major trade routes including the Trans-Saharan and the Indian ocean trade route, the exchange of goods brought much wealth to the Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Zimbabwe. Merchants in Ghana would sell ivory to muslim merchants in exchange for salt, copper, cloth, and tools. After Mansa Musa passed through, the Gold trade and mining flourished there. Zimbabwe unlike Mali and Ghana not only relied on land based trade but also used ports in costal cities like Mombasa, Kilwa, and Mogadishu to gain access to East Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia in the Indian Ocean trade making them one of the wealthiest states in Africa. The focus on trade also had some social impacts. In East Africa, merchants trading on the trans-Saharan trade routes combines bantu and Arabic to form Swahili and the spread of Christian culture via trade routes created the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia which combined aspects of African religion such as Ancestor veneration, and belief in spirits to for a unique kind of Christianity apart from exposure to the Orthodox church of Eastern Europe or the Roman Catholic Church. Another Social impact of spread was the Indian Ocean Slave trade between East Africa and the Middle East. The history of owning a large number of slaves signifying a higher social status meant that it was hard to stop the trade since slaves provided a huge amount of labor for plantations. This would ultimately carry on through the Atlantic slave trade and result in the fight for African American rights in later centuries.

The second to last division of the world that will be analyzed will be Europe. One major political event in Europe during the 13th century was the development of Feudalism which was a decentralized political organization based on a system of exchanges of land for loyalty. This ensured that the Monarch would always have power over knights and lord who owed the monarch services and offered peasants security from bandits, rival landowners, and invaders like Vikings somewhat causing citizens to trust in the government more, solidifying their power. Another huge political event that took place was the signing of the Magna Carta. In this document King John gave the citizens many rights including the right to not be sentenced without a cause and the right to a trial by a jury. This document promoted peace within the country and set an expel for later document like the Constitution of the United States of America. Once major Economic event that took place was the implementation of the three-field system of farming where crop rotation between three fields were used. This allowed not only for consistent fertile land, but also a larger crop yield therefore a population boom. Another major economic event in Europe was the development of technology like windmills and new types of plows. While the windmills reduced the cost of energy in Europe, the new, lighter plows worked better in the light soil of Southern Europe further helping the agriculture industry produce more food and benefiting the economy. The Invention of the Horse collar which is a harness fitted around a horse’s neck in order to operate a plow or wagon also made preparing fields and harvesting even more efficient. Furthermore, La Reconquista and the great schism of Christianity had major social Impacts in Europe. La Reconquista which was the attempt by Christians to take back Spain after it was by Muslims provided unity across the mainly Christian country of Europe towards a common goal and purpose. While La Reconquista promoted Unity, the Great Schism promoted disunity among Christians in Europe between the members of the Roman catholic Church and the Orthodox Christian church distancing people who were Orthodox from the Mainly dominant Roman Catholic Church.

Last but not least we have the Middle East. During this century there were huge political powershifts surrounding the trade routes in the Middle East. The Mamluk Sultanate was established in Egypt after they seized control of the government and held a monopoly over the cotton and sugar trade from the Middle East to Europe. The Abbasid Caliphate was also challenged by the Seljuk Turks whose leader called himself Sultan reducing the power of the highest ranking Caliph in the Abbasid Caliphate to chief Sunni Religious authority. The Mongols later conquered the rest of the Abbasid Caliphate ending Seljuk rule. One huge Social event in the Middle East was the establishment of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. This Islamic house of learning not only represented the power Islam had on the middle East but also showed how much Islam had spread in the last century throughout Afro-Eurasia.

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The Overview of World History in the 13th Century and Its Major Events. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from
“The Overview of World History in the 13th Century and Its Major Events.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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