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Mongol khatuns, or queens, were active participants in governance and politics. With the rise and expansion of the Mongol Empire (1206-1368) royal women continued to fulfill roles as political actors. Regardless of the geographic location of Mongol expansion, or the cultural and religious customs that were adopted, the Mongols did not change their expectations regarding royal women’s duties to the state. Chapter One explores aspects of traditional nomadic Mongol society that allowed women to have access to power. Marriage practices and women’s involvement in governance and politics during the early period of expansion and consolidation of power are especially examined. Chapter Two discusses the Il-Khanate and the Golden Horde, where the Mongols governed larger Muslim and Christian populations, and eventually converted to Islam themselves. In this case, royal women served as representatives of both Christian and Muslim religious communities, influenced foreign perceptions of the Mongols, and also actively engaged in imperial politics. Chapter Three examines the role of women in the Yuan Khanate, with the expansion of the Mongols into China, where Chinese and Confucian attitudes were adopted in some cases to bolster the legitimacy of their rule. However, policies that would have restricted the political activities of imperial women were not adopted, and Mongol customs in this regard continued to be observed. Despite the influence of the non-Mongol cultural and religious practices that came to prevail in various khanates, the Mongols continued to follow their traditional norms regarding royal women’s influence and access to political spheres of the empire. The result was that the Mongol khatuns served as vital contributors to the growth and stability, as well as the instability, of the empire.


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  • Advisor
    • Timothy May, Victoria Hightower, Michael Proulx

  • Department
    • History

  • Date submitted

    18 July 2022

  • Keywords