Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia

Geoffrey Humble

Geoffrey Humble

Geoffrey Humble

University of Birmingham

Project: Ögödei's Networking:

As part of the ERC Mongol project I will map out the networks around Ögödei's reign in the Yuanshi, investigating their role in and influence on the establishment of Chinggisid rule in northern China. This involves completing a detailed diagram of the arrangement of liezhuan and their primary subjects, enabling the tracing of more peripheral figures – mostly recorded as ancestors of subjects active under later emperors – characterising links made in the text, mapping these spatially and over time, and revealing the operation of patrimonial networks in and around the court. By interrogating the liezhuan I will reveal complexes of motifs applied to individuals in the Ögödeid court relating to skills and attributes, ethnonyms and lineages, peer-to-peer ties, succession in office and the geographical arrangement of office-holding networks. Special attention will be paid to transliteration of Turco-Mongol names and deployment of Turco-Mongol vocabulary, and style-names and education as possible markers of specifically ‘Turco-Mongol’ or ‘Chinese’ cultural placement.

Alongside mapping the establishment of formal administration under Ögödei the analysis of this data will lay out networks active in the rivalries of the Güyük-Möngke period, allowing a reassessment of the balance of familial, cultural, office-holding and commercial links involved, the performance and maintenance of these ties, and the implications for imperial politics over the longer term.

Personal Information: 

I am a PhD student, supervised by Professor Naomi Standen at the University of Birmingham. My research maps the portrayal in the Yuanshi of networks and individuals linked to key figures in the period between Chinggis Qan’s death and the reigns of Güyük and Möngke. By exploring the use of value-laden narrative to place people and groups in relation to overlapping and sometimes opposed cultural spaces, it weighs the implications of textual constructions for reading expressions of political legitimacy in the historiography of medieval Eurasia.

My research interests

include Central and Inner Asian languages and cultural practices across medieval and early modern Eurasia. I am particularly interested in the expression of ‘nomad’ and ‘sedentary’ aspects of identity in Chinese, Persian and Chaghatay historiography and prosopography, especially in the Yuanshi, Tārīkh-e Jahāngušāī, Jāmi’ut-Tawārīkh, Secret History of the Mongols and the Bāburnāma. I am also interested in translation, ghost stories, scripts and palaeography.

  • "Being Imperial in the East I: Place, Power and Practice"; "Being Imperial in the East II: Frontiers, Groups and Centres in East Asian Empire"; "Being Related: Comparative Approaches to Kinship, Marriage and Status" - sessions at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 7-10 July 2014 (organizer).
  • "Marrying into Empire? Merit, Kinship, and Hereditary Office in the History of the Yuan Dynasty." International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 7-10 July 2014
  • "Centre, Periphery, Politics and Authority: Seeking Non-Chinggisid Court Networks in the Early Empire" Mobility and Transformations: Economic and Cultural Exchange in Mongol Eurasia, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 29 June  - 1 July 2014
  • "East Asian Readings of Inner Asian Lives? Editors, Ancestors and Status in Yuanshi Biographies" 12th Biennial Conference of Asian Studies in Israel (ASI12), Haifa, Monday 26th April 2014.
  • "Conquerors’ Qualities? Reading Elements of ‘Mongol’ Identities and Social Capital in Yuanshi Biographical Narratives" Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Philadelphia, Friday 28th March 2014