Genghis Khan and His Empire, 1150-1300
Value: two units
Dr Evrim Binbas
Taught through weekly two-hour seminars and supervisions of dissertation through a series of 1-to-1 meetings
Assessment:Taught unit: 3-hour exam (50%), best two of three coursework essays (30%), museum/exhibition report (10%), oral presentation (10%); dissertation unit: 10,000-word dissertation (100%)
This course examines the life of Genghis Khan and the history of the Mongol Empire that he founded in Eurasia between 1150 and 1300. The Mongol Empire was the largest contiguous land empire in world history stretching from China to Poland, and from Indonesia to Syria. The military power projected by the Mongol armies was unforeseen up to that point in world history, and the social and cultural impact of the Mongol social and political institutions deeply and permanently transformed the societies that came under the rule of the Mongol khans. Although the public perception of the Mongol Empire is such that it was equated with the barbarian invasions of late antiquity, the truth is that this remarkable state formation story happened under the full gaze of contemporary historians writing both in Mongolian and in the languages spoken by the subjects of the Mongol Empire. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the formation and eventual dissolution of the Mongol Empire at the end of the thirteenth century is one of the best documented imperial state formation stories in pre-modern history. In this course, students will first walk in the footsteps of Genghis Khan from his childhood to his rise to eminence in steppe society, and then they will analyse his conquests through the lens of indigenous Mongol sources, including the celebrated Mongol chronicle The Secret History of the Mongols, and the sources written by those who were defeated by Genghis Khan in the course of his remarkable conquests. Finally, they will analyse the gradual evolution of the Mongol Empire from an empire into a commonwealth in which separate Mongol states were loosely tied together around the name of Genghis Khan and his lineage. The course offers an extraordinary variety of readings in English translation that were originally written in Chinese, Mongolian, Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Armenian, Latin, and Old French, and presents a fascinating first-hand insight into Genghis Khan’s life and time.