The huge Tartar invasion penetrated even to Silesia in Eastern Germany, where the Asiatics defeated a German army at Liegnitz (1241). But so great was the invader’s loss that they retreated, nor did their leaders ever again seek to penetrate the “land of the iron-clad men.” The real “yellow peril” of Europe, her submersion under the flood of Asia’s millions, was perhaps possible at Liegnitz. It has never been so since. In the construction of impenetrable armor the inventive genius of the West had already begun to rise superior to the barbaric fury of the East. The arts of civilization were soon to soar immeasurably above mere numerical superiority.
In Asia the Tartar power probably reached its greatest height under Kublai Khan, the Emperor of China whom Marco Polo visited. And it is worth our modern notice that Kublai failed in an attempt to conquer Japan. Russia fell a victim to the Tartar hordes; Japan repelled them.
While Europe and Asia were thus in turmoil throughout most of this era, England, secure in her island isolation, was making rapid progress on the career of union and free government whereon John had so unintentionally started her. The age thus adds to its other claims to distinction that of having seen the beginnings of constitutional government. England’s Magna Charta was paralleled by the “Golden Bull” of Hungary, a charter granted by the crusading King, Andrew, to his tumultuous subjects. In England the long reign of the weak Henry III, son of John, took more and more from the power of the crown. He was opposed by Simon of Montfort, who, to secure the affections and support of the common people, summoned their representatives to meet in a parliament with the knights and bishops. His “Mad Parliament" of 1258 contained the first shadow of a government by the people; his later assemblies were still more democratic. Considered in this light one likes to remember that Montfort’s first assembly won its title of “mad” by passing such excellent laws that none of those in power would submit to them.
Following Henry III, Edward I came to the throne, a man of broad views and legal mind. He confirmed and legalized the rights already attained by his subjects, and centralized the authority of all Great Britain in his own hands by conquering both Wales and Scotland. The struggles of Sir William Wallace and his devoted followers to throw off the English yoke ended only in disaster.
Edward, the most enlightened and perhaps the most brilliant sovereign of the thirteenth century, endeavored to protect the Jews, but was finally compelled, by the clamor of his subjects, to expel the unfortunate race from his domains. He, however, permitted the exiles to take their wealth with them; and the scarcity thus created was one of the contributing causes which compelled him to promise his parliaments