Episode 1: Subotai the Valiant: Genghis Khan’s Master Strategist

Veteran and military historian Dr Angelo Caravaggio joins Paul and Beatrice to discuss Subotai, the brains behind Genghis Khan’s vision of conquest, and the one who should be in receipt of many of the strategic credits given to Khan.

The credit for successful military campaigns often goes to the senior commander, when in fact, the brilliance of the operation and the planning happened at much lower levels of the organisation. This is the case with Subotai (1175 – 1248), Genghis Khan’s leading general.

Many of the concepts that we talk about today at military colleges about strategy and tactics – speed, manoeuvre, surprise, the deep battle, the battle of annihilation, even the concept of Mission Command – were all practiced by the Mongols under Subotai. Without Subotai, the Mongols would not have defeated Korea, China, Poland, Persia, Russia or Hungary. This does not, however, make him a hero to worship; he had the majority of the population of Afghanistan killed, the entire population of towns that would not yield were massacred, in one case right down to the cats and dogs.

Dr Angelo developed a keen interest in Subotai and holds his degrees from the Royal Military College of Canada and the Wilfrid Laurier University. He has been teaching at the Canadian Forces College for 13 years, specialising in leadership, defence and security.

Further reading

Gabriel, Richard A.: Subotai the Valiant: Genghis Khan’s Greatest General (Oklahoma, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004)

May, Timothy: “Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Empire (1206 to 1368)”, in Slappy, Sean: “Command And Control Began With Subotai Bahadur, The Thirteenth Century Mongol General” (Marine Corps Command and Staff Coll Quantico VA, 2010), available at https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA600354.pdf .

Tim Brinkhof, ‘How the 1223 Mongol invasion of Europe still impacts us today’, Bigthink, 10 April 2023, at https://bigthink.com/the-past/mongol-invasion-europe/.

M I Ivanin, On the Art of War and the Conquest of the Mongol-Tartars and Medium Asia Peoples under Genghis Khan, Book on Demand Ltd, 2015 (in Russian).


Paul O’Neill

Senior Research Fellow

Military Sciences

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Beatrice Heuser

Senior Associate Fellow

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