Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia

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New articles (updated July 2016)

Abstract: The Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe, and especially its sudden withdrawal from Hungary in 1242 CE, has generated much speculation and an array of controversial theories. None of them, however, considered multifaceted environmental drivers and the coupled analysis of historical reports and natural archives. Here we investigate annually resolved, absolutely dated and spatially explicit paleoclimatic evidence between 1230 and 1250 CE. Documentary sources and tree-ring chronologies reveal warm and dry summers from 1238–1241, followed by cold and wet conditions in early-1242. Marshy terrain across the Hungarian plain most likely reduced pastureland and decreased mobility, as well as the military effectiveness of the Mongol cavalry, while despoliation and depopulation ostensibly contributed to widespread famine. These circumstances arguably contributed to the determination of the Mongols to abandon Hungary and return to Russia. While overcoming deterministic and reductionist arguments, our 'environmental hypothesis' demonstrates the importance of minor climatic fluctuations on major historical events.

Special double issue, The Mongols and Post-Mongol Asia: Studies in Honour of David O. Morgan, with the participation of most of the leading scholars in the field, has been published recently. The detailed TOC can be found here.

Festschrift for Thomas T. Allsen in Celebration of His 75th Birthday with the papers of Christopher P. Atwood, Michal Biran, Stephen F. Dale, Devin Deweese, Nicola Di Cosmo, Mihaly Dobrovits, Ruth Dunnell, Elizabeth Endicott, Peter B. Golden, Charles J. Halperin, Kim Hodong, Roman K. Kovalev, Liu Xinru, Ruth I. Meserve, Svat Soucek, Victor Spinei, Oleksandr Symonenko, Istvan Zimonyi.

More about this new issue of AEMA and its table of content can be found here.

  • Hope, M., "The “Nawrūz King”: the rebellion of Amir Nawrūz in Khurasan (688–694/ 1289–94) and its implications for the Ilkhan polity at the end of the thirteenth century," BSOAS 78:3 (October 2015), pp. 451-473. DOI:

Abstract: In 688/1289 Nawrūz Aqa, a leading Mongol magnate, began a rebellion in Khurasan to resist the Ilkhan Arghun's attempts to centralize power and loosen the Mongol aristocracy's grip on provincial government. The rebellion of Nawrūz was significantly different from any Mongol uprising that had occurred in the Ilkhanate to that date: it was distinguished by the successful fusion of Chinggisid and Islamic traditions of political and spiritual authority to support Nawrūz's challenge against the Hülegüid monarchy. This new hybrid political philosophy allowed Nawrūz to mobilize both the sedentary and nomadic populations of Khurasan to overhaul the power structure of the Ilkhanate. The present study of the early career and rebellion of Amīr Nawrūz will reveal how his movement forced the Turco-Mongolian leadership to reconfigure its political, social and religious relationships, among themselves and with the sedentary Muslim population they ruled.

Abstract: In the medieval Middle East, the Sufi experience was not only a male enterprise. Women also participated in the development of this mystical representation of Islam in different ways. Despite the existence of scholarly studies on Sufism in medieval Anatolia, the role played by women in this period has generally been overlooked. Only recently have studies started to highlight the relevance that some of these Sufi ladies had in spreading Sufism in the Middle East. Accounts of women’s deeds are especially abundant in hagiographic literature produced in the seventh/thirteenth and eighth/fourteenth centuries. However, it has been generally downgraded as historically unreliable for consisting of biased ‘inside accounts’ of the lives of Sufi shaykhs and their followers. This article has a twofold goal: first, to investigate what information hagiographies provide about the role of women in medieval Anatolia; and second, to try to vindicate the option of using hagiographic literature as a relevant source of information in researching aspects of cultural history that cannot be found in other source materials.

  • Fenner, J., Tumen, D., & Khatanbaatar, D., "Food Fit for a Khan: Stable Isotope Analysis of the Elite Mongol Empire Cemetery at Tavan Tolgoi, Mongolia," Journal of Archaeological Science 46 (June 2014), pp. 231-244. DOI:

Abstract: The creation and expansion of the Mongol Empire during the thirteenth century A.D. brought with it many changes, both for the conquered peoples and for the conquerors themselves. Ruling elite Mongols in foreign lands imposed new customs onto their new subjects, but also adopted some of the characteristics of the cultures they ruled; these are topics of sustained and continuing research interest. Equally interesting but less well researched is what impact the Empire had on Mongols remaining in the Mongolian homeland. Historical sources suggest that the fruits of Empire would have flowed not only to remote Mongol capitals of the Empire but also back to Mongolia proper. Here we use dietary stable isotope analysis to assess whether the Empire brought large changes to the diet of either ruling elites or more common people in the Mongolian homeland. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios are measured in bone collagen from human and faunal remains from Tavan Tolgoi, a ruling elite cemetery in eastern Mongolia, and compared with ratios from lesser ranked people at the cemetery of Tsagaan chuluut. These are also compared with ratios from the Bronze Age cemetery of Ulaanzuukh, a post-Empire set of human remains, and modern and archaeological human and faunal remains from the wider region. The Tavan Tolgoi isotope ratios do differ from those of Tsagaan chuluut and Ulannzuukh. Comparison with isotope data from the wider region, however, suggests that the differences may be due to differing environmental conditions rather than dietary differences. (Taken from here).

Abstract of the book: From the Sasanian to the Safavid Empire, and from Qajar Iran to the current Islamic Republic, the history of Iran is one which has been colored by a rich tradition of myths and narratives and shaped by its wealth of philosophers, cultural theorists and political thinkers. Perceptions of Iran dissects the construction of Iranian identity, to reveal how nationalism has been continually re-formulated and how self-perceptions have been carried by Iran's literary past, in particular the mystical love poetry of Rumi, Sa'adi and Hafez. It traces a long history of encounters with the Western world and tracks Iranian thought from Herodotus' representation of Cyrus to the Constitutional Movement of the early twentieth century. This book ties together the diverse threads of Iranian intellectual activity that have underpinned social and political movements, spanning Kermani's writing on ancient Persian history and liberal nationalism, through to the strident anti-Westernism of figures such as Sayed Jamal Al-Afghani and Ayatollah Khomeini (taken from the webpage of the Tauris Publishing House).