Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia

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New books (updated November 2016)

  • R. Khakimov, M. Favereau et al. (eds.), The Golden Horde in World History (Kazan: Sh. Marjani Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of the Tatarstan Republic, 2016). In Russian. ISBN: 978-5-94981-229-7.

Kazan 16

A collected volume of the papers on the Jochid Ulus (The Golden Horde) in the historical perspective.
Among the authors: Michel Balard, Michal Biran, István Vásáry, Charles J. Halperin, Ilya Saytzev, Nikolai Kradin, Mark Kramarovsky, Alexander Mayorov, Ilnur Mirgaleev, Pavel Petrov, Roman Pochekaev, Yuri Seleznev, Victor Spinei, Marie Favereau Doumenjou, Roman Hautala, Zhao Zhucheng, Uli Schamiloglu and others.

The History of Central Asia: The Age of Islam and the Mongols: Volume 3

Between the ninth and the fifteenth centuries, Central Asia was a major political, economic and cultural hub on the Eurasian continent. In the first half of the thirteenth century it was also the pre-eminent centre of power in the largest land-based empire the world has ever seen. This third volume of Christoph Baumer's extensively praised and lavishly illustrated new history of the region is above all a story of invasion, when tumultuous and often brutal conquest profoundly shaped the later history of the globe. The author explores the rise of Islam and the remarkable victories of the Arab armies which - inspired by their vital, austere and egalitarian desert faith - established important new dynasties like the Seljuks, Karakhanids and Ghaznavids. A golden age of artistic, literary and scientific innovation came to a sudden end when, between 1219 and 1260, Genghiz Khan and his successors overran the Chorasmian-Abbasid lands. Dr Baumer shows that the Mongol conquests, while shattering to their enemies, nevertheless resulted in much greater mercantile and cultural contact between Central Asia and Western Europe.
For more information see the website of the publisher.
  • Manfred Zimmer, Sophia G. Vashalomidze, Sophia G., Jürgen Tubach (eds.), Caucasus during the Mongol Period – Der Kaukasus in der Mongolenzeit (Wiesbaden, Dr. Ludwig Reichert, 2012).

The anthology takes a comparative approach to reconstructing the perceptions that the Armenians and Georgians developed of their Mongol conquerors in the 13th and 14th centuries. The focus lies on the perception of the historical outcomes of nomadic / sedentary interactions from the perspective of both the mundane and the clerical nobility. The Caucasus and its immediate sphere of influence as a whole will serve as the regional framework for our anthology.
The broad scope of historical sequences regarding the Mongol conquest of Armenia and Georgia and the Mongol domination in and over Armenia and Georgia will be dealt with, whereby the local idiosyncrasies of these events are of particular interest.
This anthology is suitable for Scientists of Oriental-, Asian- and Caucasus Studies.

See more on the website of the publisher.

  • Stefano Carboni, The Wonders of Creation and the Singularities of Painting: A Study of the Ilkhanid London Qazvīnī (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015).

The Wonders of Creation and the Singularities of Painting : A Study of the Ilkhanid London Qazvini

"The subject of this book is the so-called London Qazvīnī, an early 14th-century illustrated Arabic copy of al-Qazvīnī’s The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existing Things, which was acquired by the British Library in 1983 (Or. 14140). As is commonly the case for copies of this text, the London Qazvīnī is lavishly illustrated, with 368 extant paintings out of the estimated original ca. 520.

Its large format, ambitious illustrative cycle and the fine quality of many of the illustrations suggest that the atelier where it was produced must have been well-established and able to attract craftsmen from different parts of the Ilkhanid area. It also suggests that its patron was wealthy and curious about scientific, encyclopedic and 'ajā’ib literature, and keen to experiment with the illustration of new texts like this work, which had been composed by the author only two or three decades earlier. The only centre that was capable of gathering such artistic influences ranging from Anatolia to Mesopotamia appears to have been Mosul."...

For more information see here.

Food and Environment in Early and Medieval China

...Food and Environment in Early and Medieval China traces the development of the food systems that coincided with China's emergence as an empire. Before extensive trade and cultural exchange with Europe was established, Chinese farmers and agriculturalists developed systems that used resources in sustainable and efficient ways, permitting intensive and productive techniques to survive over millennia. Fields, gardens, semiwild lands, managed forests, and specialized agricultural landscapes all became part of an integrated network that produced maximum nutrients with minimal input—though not without some environmental cost. E. N. Anderson examines premodern China's vast, active network of trade and contact, such as the routes from Central Asia to Eurasia and the slow introduction of Western foods and medicines under the Mongol Empire. Bringing together a number of new findings from archaeology, history, and field studies of environmental management, Food and Environment in Early and Medieval China provides an updated picture of language relationships, cultural innovations, and intercultural exchanges... (text from the website of the publisher)

  • Aigle, Denise. The Mongol Empire between Myth and Reality: Studies in Anthropological History (Leiden: Brill, 2015).

In The Mongol Empire between Myth and Reality, Denise Aigle presents the Mongol empire as a moment of contact between political ideologies, religions, cultures and languages, and, in terms of reciprocal representations, between the Far East, the Muslim East, and the Latin West. The first part is devoted to “The memoria of the Mongols in historical and literary sources” in which she examines how the Mongol rulers were perceived by the peoples with whom they were in contact. In “Shamanism and Islam” she studies the perception of shamanism by Muslim authors and their attempts to integrate Genghis Khan and his successors into an Islamic framework. The last sections deal with geopolitical questions involving the Ilkhans, the Mamluks, and the Latin West. Genghis Khan’s successors claimed the protection of “Eternal Heaven” to justify their conquests even after their Islamization.

More about the book see Brill Publishing House webpage.

  • Amitai, Reuven and Michal Biran (eds.) Nomads as Agents of Cultural Change: The Mongols and Their Eurasian Predecessors (Honolulu: Hawaii University Press, 2015).

Nomads as Agents of Cultural Change: The Mongols and Their Eurasian Predecessors

Since the first millennium BCE, nomads of the Eurasian steppe have played a key role in world history and the development of adjacent sedentary regions, especially China, India, the Middle East, and Eastern and Central Europe. Although their more settled neighbors often saw them as an ongoing threat and imminent danger—“barbarians,” in fact—their impact on sedentary cultures was far more complex than the raiding, pillaging, and devastation with which they have long been associated in the popular imagination. The nomads were also facilitators and catalysts of social, demographic, economic, and cultural change, and nomadic culture had a significant influence on that of sedentary Eurasian civilizations, especially in cases when the nomads conquered and ruled over them. Not simply passive conveyors of ideas, beliefs, technologies, and physical artifacts, nomads were frequently active contributors to the process of cultural exchange and change. Their active choices and initiatives helped set the cultural and intellectual agenda of the lands they ruled and beyond. 

This volume brings together a distinguished group of scholars from different disciplines and cultural specializations to explore how nomads played the role of “agents of cultural change.” The beginning chapters examine this phenomenon in both east and west Asia in ancient and early medieval times, while the bulk of the book is devoted to the far flung Mongol empire of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This comparative approach, encompassing both a lengthy time span and a vast region, enables a clearer understanding of the key role that Eurasian pastoral nomads played in the history of the Old World. It conveys a sense of the complex and engaging cultural dynamic that existed between nomads and their agricultural and urban neighbors, and highlights the non-military impact of nomadic culture on Eurasian history.

Nomads As Agents of Cultural Change illuminates and complicates nomadic roles as active promoters of cultural exchange within a vast and varied region. It makes available important original scholarship on the new turn in the study of the Mongol empire and on relations between the nomadic and sedentary worlds.

More about the book see Hawaii University Press webpage.

  • Pfeiffer, J. (ed.), Politics, Patronage and the Transmission of Knowledge in 13th - 15th Century Tabriz (Brill, 2013).


In Politics, Patronage and the Transmission of Knowledge in 13th – 15th Century Tabriz, an international group of specialists from different disciplines investigate the role of Tabriz as one of the foremost centres of learning, cultural productivity, and politics in post-Mongol Iran and the Middle East. While standard accounts of Islamicate history have long presented the 13th to 15th centuries as the bottom of the decline paradigm of old, the present volume demonstrates the vibrancy and originality of the intellectual and cultural production of this period by focusing on Tabriz among other capitals of the region. The volume particularly explores the transmission of knowledge and institutional and cultural patronage in the post-Mongol period.

Contributors include Reuven Amitai, Nourane Ben Azzouna, Sheila Blair, Devin DeWeese, Joachim Gierlichs, Birgitt Hoffmann, Domenico Ingenito, Robert Morrison, Ertuğrul Ökten, Judith Pfeiffer, Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, F. Jamil Ragep, and Patrick Wing.

More about the book see Brill Publishing House webpage.

  • Rossabi, M. (ed.), Eurasian Influences on Yuan China (Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, 2013).


This book documents the extraordinarily significant transfers and cultural diffusion between the Mongol Yuan Dynasty of China and Central and West Asia, which had a broad impact on Eurasian history in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Yuan era witnessed perhaps the greatest inter-civilisational contacts in world history and has thus begun to attract the attention of both scholars and the general public. This volume offers tangible evidence of the Western and Central Asian influences, via the Mongols, on Chinese, and to a certain extent Korean, medicine, astronomy, navigation, and even foreign relations. Turkic peoples and other Muslims played particularly vital roles in such transmissions. These inter-civilisational relations led to the first precise Western knowledge of East and South Asia and stimulated Europeans to discover new routes to the East. The authors of these essays, specialists in their respective fields, shine a light on these vital exchanges, which anyone interested in the origins of global history will find fascinating.

Contributors include Michael C. Brose, John Chaffee, Ma Juan, Ralph Kauz, George Lane, Angela Schottenhammer, Nancy S. Steinhardt, Hyunhee Park, Morris Rossabi and Liu Yingsheng.

More about the book see ISEAS Publishing webpage.

  • Durand-Guédy, D. (ed.), Turko-Mongol Rulers, Cities and City Life (Brill, 2013).


For nearly a millennium, a large part of Asia was ruled by Turkic or Mongol dynasties of nomadic origin. What was the attitude of these dynasties towards the many cities they controlled, some of which were of considerable size? To what extent did they live like their subjects? How did they evolve? Turko-Mongol Rulers, Cities and City-life aims to broaden the perspective on the issue of location of rule in this particular context by bringing together specialists in various periods, from pre-Chingissid Eurasia to nineteenth-century Iran, and of various disciplines (history, archaeology, history of art).

Contributors include: Michal Biran, David Durand-Guédy, Kurt Franz, Peter Golden, Minoru Inaba, Nobuaki Kondo, Yuri Karev, Tomoko Masuya, Charles Melville, Jürgen Paul and Andrew Peacock.

More about the book see Brill Publishing House webpage.

  • Potts, D.T., Nomadism in Iran: From Antiquity to the Modern Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

 Cover for Nomadism in Iran

This book examines the development of nomadism in Iran over the course of three millennia. Evidence of nomadism in prehistory is examined and found insufficient to justify claims of its great antiquity. The background of the earliest nomadic groups, identified as Persian tribes by Herodotus, is examined within the context of the migration of Iranian speakers onto the Iranian plateau in the late second or early first millennium B.C. Thereafter, evidence of nomadic groups in Late Antiquity and early Islamic times is reviewed. Major nomadic incursions from the medieval period onwards changed the demographic character of Iran to the extent that, by the nineteenth century, Western visitors estimated that the nomadic sector accounted for 25–50% of Iran’s population. Fundamental social changes resulting from enforced sedentarization and schooling, as well as integration into the market economy, altered Iran’s nomadic groups in the twentieth century. The trajectory of change among Iran’s nomadic groups has been profound and anything but linear, and archaeologists who make facile assumptions about the permanence of nomadic adaptation to the Iranian landscape are ignorant both of the extra-territorial origin of many of Iran’s nomadic groups, and the vicissitudes they have undergone throughout history.

More about the book see webpages of the Oxford University Press and the Oxford Scholarship Online.

  • Lübke, Ch., Miftakhova, I. von Scheliha, W.  eds., Geschichte der Slavia Asiatica. Quellenkundliche Probleme (Leipzig: Universitätsverlag, 2013).

 Geschichte der Slavia Asiatica. Quellenkundliche Probleme

The term Slavia Asiatica describes regions whose medieval history was characterized by various forms of contact between Slavic and mostly Turkic peoples from Asia over a long period. From an overall European perspective, Slavia Asiatica refers to fluent “passage” between Europe and Asia. Mutual relations and transcultural exchange among the peoples who came in contact with each other formed the specific structure of Slavia Asiatica.
The volume comprises nine chapters written by scholars from Germany, the Russian Federation and the USA. They discuss some of the fundamental problems in analyzing the various sources of Slavia Asiatica’s history from the perspectives of different academic disciplines (History, Archeology, Slavistics, Byzantine Studies, Turkology, and Art History).

Contributors include: Nijaz Ch. Chalitov, Nailja N. Chalitova, Sergej Gizer, Pavel V. Lukin, Sebastian Kolditz, Ilmira Miftakhova, Yulia Mikhailova, Wolfram von Scheliha, Andrej Shabashov and Jurij. V. Zelenskij.

More about the book see: Leipziger Universitätsverlag.

  • Ward, R. et al, Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2014).

 Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq

Accompanying a major scholarly exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery, this book explores one of the most beautiful and enigmatic objects of the Courtauld Gallery's collection: a brass container richly inlaid with gold and silver, imitating a lady's textile or leather bag, and probably made in Mosul in northern Iraq around 1300. No other object of this kind is known. Decorated all round with courtly figures and on top with an elaborate banqueting scene featuring an enthroned couple, it has long been recognised as a masterpiece of Arab metalwork. Yet, despite the superb quality of its design and craftsmanship and its status as a unique object, this exceptional metalwork has never been fully explored.

Encompassing a variety of multidisciplinary essays by distinguished historians and art historians – on subjects ranging from music at the Mongol court, Mosul and Mongol governorship and Mongol marriage customs to the role of women under the Il-Khanids – this publication aims to explore the origins, function and iconography of this splendid luxury object as well as the cultural context in which it was made and used. It will bring together other images of enthroned Mongols with female consorts, as well as scenes of hunters, revellers and musicians in a variety of media, including illustrated manuscripts, ceramics, textiles and metalwork. By presenting the bag alongside carefully selected contemporary material, it will provide an insight into courtly life under the Mongols in the newly conquered areas of their empire, and it will also provide an unrivalled opportunity to investigate the inlaid brass tradition in Mosul after the Mongol Conquest. Objects made before and after this seismic event will be reproduced side by side to demonstrate how the Mosul metalworkers adapted their work for their new patrons.

Contributors include: James Allan, Anna Contadini, Teresa Fitzherbert, Robert Hillenbrand, Charles Melville, Julian Raby, Judith Pfeiffer and Rachel Ward.