chapter  1
23 Pages

Latin Christendom and its neighbours in the early thirteenth century

In the middle of the thirteenth century the rapidly growing Mongol world-empire and the expansionist Christian West were undoubtedly on a collision course. The grim new power which had arisen on the borders of the Latin world did not follow up the assault of 1241-1242 owed less to Western strength than to conditions within the Mongol empire. In the Near East, the Mongols' principal antagonists were the Muslim Mamluks of Egypt and Syria, who from 1262 were in friendly contact with the rival Mongol power on the Volga, and Hulegu and his successors turned to Christian European states as potential allies. The real success-story of Western commercial expansionism, in fact, was not so much the penetration of Eastern Asia as the opening-up of the more localized trade of the Black Sea region, which became an Italian, and largely a Genoese, preserve right down until the Ottoman conquest of Kaffa in 1475.