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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Globalisation Before Modernity? The World of the Silk Roads, 900-1400 (HIST10490)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryDiscover a Global Middle Ages that stretched from China to Morocco, from the Mediterranean across the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, the world of the Silk Roads. Between 900 and 1400 merchants span commercial webs along which travelled people, commodities and ideas, socially and culturally as well as politically and economically integrating the "Old World" more closely than ever before: Indonesians settled in Madagascar, Mongol Khans ruled the largest land empire in history, and pandemic ravaged three continents. So is this an example of "globalisation" before European dominated modernity, and how does the world of the Silk Roads relate to ours today?
Course description In popular imagination the Middle Ages are inherently European. Seen from a global perspective, however, Europe in 900 sat on the margins of a world that was centred in the Middle East and China, and spanned by interconnecting commercial webs across Asia and the Indian Ocean - the world of the Silk Roads. The next five centuries saw unprecedented social, political and economic integration between the continents of the "Old World", with rapid urbanisation from the Atlantic to the Pacific, huge movements of people, commodities and ideas, and the largest land empire in history. By the mid fourteenth century, however, this world entered a profound crisis of economic collapse and deadly pandemic. From the ashes a new, "modern" world would emerge, increasingly dominated by European states.

This Special Subject explores the world of the Silk Roads, and the revolutionary rise of commercial capitalism that created them. Students will tour Afro-Eurasia's regions, and read travel accounts, letters, geographies, inscriptions and histories translated from languages including Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Greek, Latin and Persian. We'll pose big questions about pre-modern politics and economics, the role of climate in history, the invention of race, gender dynamics and more, and engage with postcolonial perspectives, World Systems Analysis, and contemporary medieval "theory" in Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah, to help us answer them. Ultimately we'll ask whether the world of the Silk Roads represents a period of globalisation before European dominated modernity, and how this relates to our rapidly changing world today.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  15
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 400 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 44, Summative Assessment Hours 3, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 8, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 345 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 40 %, Coursework 40 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Two presentations, one per semester (10% each)
Semester 1: 4,000-word essay on a chosen region (20%)
Semester 2: 4,000-word essay on a chosen theme (20%)
Three-hour exam (40%)
Feedback Students are expected to discuss their coursework with the Course Organiser at least once prior to submission, and are encouraged to do so more often. Meetings can take place with the Course Organiser during their published office hours or by appointment. Students will also receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)3:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Define and describe a medieval Afro-Eurasian world which de-centres Europe.
  2. Understand the relationship between analysing historical processes at different scales.
  3. Recognise the methodological issues in combining sources of different types, and from different regions and language communities.
  4. Engage with key debates in scholarship, especially postcolonial critiques of Orientalism and Eurocentrism, and their applicability to the historiography of the Silk Roads.
Reading List
1. Abu-Lughod, Janet, Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350 (1989).
2. Amin, Samir, Eurocentrism (1989).
3. Beaujard, Philippe, The Worlds of the Indian Ocean: A Global History, Vols. I-II (2019).
4. Bessard, Fanny, Caliphs and Merchants: Cities and Economies of Power in the Near East (700-950) (2020).
5. Elvin, Mark, The Pattern of the Chinese Past (1973).
6. Favereau, Marie, The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World (2021).
7. Franklin, Kate, Everyday Cosmopolitanisms: Living the Silk Road in Medieval Armenia (2021).
8. Goldberg, Jessica, Trade and Institutions in the Medieval Mediterranean: The Geniza Merchants and their Business World (2016).
9. Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History (2015).
10. Lopez, Robert S., The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, 950-1350 (1971).
11. Said, Edward, Orientalism (1978).
12. Watson, Andrew M., Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World: The Diffusion of Crops and Farming Techniques (1983).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills A global, non-Eurocentric outlook on history over the long term
Developed research skills combining theoretical understandings and empirical enquiry using different source types
Ability to communicate understanding of non-European history critically and with sensitivity
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Nik Matheou
Tel: (0131 6)50 2368
Course secretaryMiss Annabel Samson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3783
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