Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia

New in the Field (books, May 2018)


1. Giovanni Maria Martini. Alā’ al-Dawla al-Simnānī Between Spiritual Authority and Political Power: A Persian Lord and Intellectual in the Heart of the Ilkhanate. With a Critical Edition of al-Wārid alšārid al-ṭārid šubhat al-mārid and its Persian version Zayn al-mu‘taqad li-zayn al-mu‘taqid (Leiden: Brill, 2017).

Abstract: In ʿAlāʾ al-Dawla al-Simnānī between Spiritual Authority and Political Power: A Persian Lord and Intellectual in the Heart of the Ilkhanate, Giovanni Maria Martini investigates the personality of a major figure in the socio-political and cultural landscape of Mongol Iran. In pursuing this objective, the author follows parallel paths: Chapter 1 provides the most updated reconstruction of Simnānī’s (d. 736/1336) biography, which, thanks to its unique features, emerges as a cross-section of Iranian society and as a microhistory of the complex relationships between a Sufi master, Persian elites and Mongol rulers during the Ilkhanid period; Chapter 2 contains a study on the phenomenon of Arabic-Persian diglossia in Simnānī’s written work, arguing for its socio-religious function; in Chapters 3 to 6 the critical editions of two important, interrelated treatises by Simnānī are presented; finally, Chapter 7 offers the first full-length annotated translation of a long work by Simnānī ever to appear in a Western language.

2. David O. Morgan and Sarah Stewart (eds.), The Coming of the Mongols (London: I.B. Tauris, 2018), with the contributions of Michal Biran, C.E. Bosworth, Homa Katouzian, David O. Morgan, Alka Patel and Christine van Ruymbeke.

Abstract: The Mongol invasions in the first half of the thirteenth century led to profound and shattering changes to the historical trajectory of Islamic West Asia. As this new volume in The Idea of Iran series suggests, sudden conquest from the east was preceded by events closer to home which laid the groundwork for the later Mongol success. In the mid-twelfth century the Seljuq empire rapidly unravelled, its vast provinces fragmenting into a patchwork of mostly short-lived principalities and kingdoms. In time, new powers emerged, such as the pagan Qara-Khitai in Central Asia; the Khwarazmshahs in Khwarazm, Khorosan and much of central Iran; and the Ghurids to the southeast. Yet all were blown away by the Mongols, who faced no resistance from a sufficiently muscular imperial competitor and whose influx was viewed by contemporaries as cataclysmic. Distinguished scholars including David O Morgan and the late C E Bosworth here discuss the dynasties that preceded the invasion - and aspects of their literature, poetry and science - as well as the conquerors themselves and their rule in Iran from 1219 to 1256.

3. David Christian, A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, Volume II: Inner Eurasia from the Mongol Empire to Today, 1260 – 2000 (Oxford, UK: John Wiley and Sons Ltd., 2018).

Abstract: Beginning with the breakup of the Mongol Empire in the mid-thirteenth century, Volume II of this comprehensive work covers the remarkable history of Inner Eurasia, from 1260 up to modern times, completing the story begun in Volume I. Volume II describes how agriculture spread through Inner Eurasia, providing the foundations for new agricultural states, including the Russian Empire. It focuses on the idea of mobilization the distinctive ways in which elite groups mobilized resources from their populations, and how those methods were shaped by the region s distinctive ecology, which differed greatly from that of Outer Eurasia, the southern half of Eurasia and the part of Eurasia most studied by historians. This work also examines how fossil fuels created a bonanza of energy that helped shape the history of the Communist world during much of the twentieth century.

Filled with figures, maps, and tables to help give readers a fuller understanding of what has transpired over 750 years in this distinctive world region, A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia: Volume II: Inner Eurasia from the Mongol Empire to Today, 1260-2000 is a magisterial but accessible account of this area s past, that will offer readers new insights into the history of an often misunderstood part of the world.

4. George Lane, The Mongols: A Short History (London: I.B. Tauris, 2018).

Abstract: The Mongol Empire was the mightiest land empire the world has ever seen. At its height it was twice the size of its Roman equivalent. For a remarkable century and a half it commanded a population of 100 million people, while the rule of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan marched undefeated from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea. George Lane argues that the Mongols were not only subjugators who swept all before them but one of the great organising forces of world history. His book traces the rise of the Great Khan in 1206 to the dissolution of the empire in 1368 by the Ming Dynasty. He discusses the unification of the Turko-Mongol tribes under Chinggis' leadership; the establishment of a vigorous imperium whose Pax Mongolica held mastery over the Central Asian steppes; imaginative policies of religious pluralism; and the rich legacy of the Toluid Empire of Yuan China and Ilkhanate Iran. Offering a bold and sympathetic understanding of Mongol history, the author shows that commercial expansion, cultural assimilation and dynamic political growth were as crucial to Mongol success as desire for conquest.

5. Timothy Brook, Michael van Walt van Praag and Miek Boltjes (eds.), Sacred Mandates: Asian International Relations since Chinggis Khan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), with the contributions of John Ardussi, Nicola Di Cosmo, Pamella Crosley, Dalizhabu, Kim Hodong, Matthew Kapstein, Liam Kelley, Kirk Larsen, Koichi Matsuda, Alex McKay, Lhamsuren Munkh-Erdene, Nobuaki Murakami, Hiroki Oka, Shogo Suzuki, Geoff Wade, Wang Yuan-kang.

Abstract: Contemporary discussions of international relations in Asia tend to be tethered in the present, unmoored from the historical contexts that give them meaning. Sacred Mandates, edited by Timothy Brook, Michael van Walt van Praag, and Miek Boltjes, redresses this oversight by examining the complex history of inter-polity relations in Inner and East Asia from the thirteenth century to the twentieth, in order to help us understand and develop policies to address challenges in the region today.
This book argues that understanding the diversity of past legal orders helps explain the forms of contemporary conflict, as well as the conflicting historical narratives that animate tensions. Rather than proceed sequentially by way of dynasties, the editors identify three “worlds”—Chingssid Mongol, Tibetan Buddhist, and Confucian Sinic—that represent different forms of civilization authority and legal order. This novel framework enables us to escape the modern tendency to view the international system solely as the interaction of independent states, and instead detect the effects of the complicated history at play between and within regions. Contributors from a wide range of disciplines cover a host of topics: the development of international law, sovereignty, state formation, ruler legitimacy, and imperial expansion, as well as the role of spiritual authority on state behavior, the impact of modernization, and the challenges for peace processes. The culmination of five years of collaborative research, Sacred Mandates will be the definitive historical guide to international and intrastate relations in Asia, of interest to policymakers and scholars alike, for years to come.