Mongol horseman and islamic helmet

Central Asia

Central Asia has been dominated by two great powers: the Mongols and Islam.

The Mongols

The Mongols were a nomadic people accustomed to the harsh conditions of the plains (steppes) of Central Asia. They did not build towns or cultivate crops, as they moved around constantly with their herds of horses and goats. They fought for territory against other nomadic tribes.

By 1206 all of these warring tribes had been united under Ghengis Khan. The Mongol Horde spread across Asia, conquering all before it: China, Persia and Russia.

Their cavalrymen were lightly armoured but fast and mobile; their main weapon the bow and arrow, which they could shoot from the back of a fast moving horse. Scarcely any armour survives from the period of the 13th century, but later armours give an insight into this equipment.


The rise of Islam, both as a religion and a world power, was an extraordinary phenomenon. The Hijri era, still used throughout the Islamic world, began with the Hijri (flight or migration) of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in AD 622.

Victory at the Battle of Badr (AD 624) established Muhammad’s ascendency over western Arabia, and by the time of his death in AD 632 his authority was supreme in most of Arabia.


A special exhibition in the White Tower at the Tower of London, commemorating the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt.

23 October 2015

Tower of London

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Did you know?

Guardian angels?

The kings of the Maurya Empire (now India) were guarded by women, who were trained in the use of the sword and the bow.