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

Undergraduate Course: Universal Khans: Life & Society in the Mongol World Empire, 1200-1400 (HIST10494)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryExplore the most transformative events of the Middle Ages: the world empire built by Chinggis Khan and his successors. Find out what life and society were really like beyond the stereotypes, in an empire that brought together continents, and engendered movement and interconnection at greater scales than ever before. From rising trade to the prominence of women, groundbreaking scholarship on the deadliest pandemic in recorded history, and more besides, we'll explore the empire of the universal khans both on its own terms, and for its place in the making of the modern world.
Course description The Mongol conquests and creation of the largest land empire in history are the most famous and transformative events of the Middle Ages, and simultaneously the least contextualised. Popularly evoking "barbarian" nomadic hordes emerging from nowhere to inflict brutal violence on settled populations, Chinggis Khan and the Mongols are often seen in extremely negative terms - especially in lands once subject to their rule, from Russia across the Islamicate to China. At the same time, popular histories as well as scholars from a range of disciplines have seen the roots of globalised modernity in the unprecedented intercontinental connections the Mongol world empire enabled. So how can we make sense of this contradictory image, and understand what life and society were really like under the rule of the universal khans?

This course asks exactly this question, using the dynamic field of Mongol studies to do so. We begin by placing Chinggis Khan and the Mongols firmly in their context, premodern Inner Asia and nomadic statecraft, and engage with cutting-edge historical, archaeological and anthropological scholarship. Following seminars look at the world empire itself, both as a whole and in each region, drawing on a range of sources in translation from Armenian, Chinese, Mongolian and Persian. With this understanding we can engage with some key historical debates, including the movement of goods and global connections brought about by the "Mongol Peace", the transfer of culture and pandemic-inducing pathogens in the "Mongol Exchange", and the prominent place of women in Mongol society. In our final sessions, then, we'll first look at the conquests of Timur, "Tamerlane", and the Timurid Renaissance in Samarqand, to explore the seeming end of nomadic state-builders as major agents of global history. Finally we'll zoom back out to ask what all this tells us about the place of the Mongol world empire in the making of the modern world.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  50
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 80 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:

3,000-word Essay (50%)
1,500-word Historiography Review (30%)
Discussion Board (20%)
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.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Critically engage with theoretical literature to discuss nomadic lifeways and the place of nomads in global history.
  2. Show familiarity with primary sources from a range of linguistic traditions, and understand the methodological issues in their individual and combined use.
  3. Organise a body of historiography around a particular topic or theme, and identify the key trends and debates.
  4. Contextualise the Mongol world empire in Inner Asian history, and understand how it engendered social and cultural change across Eurasia.
  5. Engage with debates over alternative, anti-Eurocentric lineages of modernity.
Reading List
Allsen, Thomas A., Mongol Imperialism. The Policies of the Great Qan Mongke in China, Russia, and the Islamic Lands (1989).

Atwood, Christopher P., (trans.), The Rise of the Mongols. Five Chinese Sources (2021).

Atwood, Christopher P., (trans.), The Secret History of the Mongols (2023).

Biran, Michal, Jonathan Brack & Francesca Fiaschetti (eds.), Along the Silk Roads in Mongol Eurasia. Generals, Merchants, and Intellectuals (2020).

Endicott-West, Elizabeth, Mongolian Rule in China. Local Administration in the Yuan Dynasty (1989).

Favereau, Marie, The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World (2021).

Hetum the Historian, Flower of the Histories of the East. History of the Tatars, Robert Bedrosian (trans.) (2021).

May, Timothy, Bayarsaikhan Dashdondog, and Christopher P. Atwood (eds.), New Approaches to Ilkhanid History (2021).

May, Timothy & Michael Hope (eds.), The Mongol World (2022).

Rashid al-Din Tabib, Compendium of Chronicles. A History of the Mongols, William M. Thackston (trans.) (1998).

Sneath, David, The Headless State: Aristocratic Orders, Kinship Society, and Misrepresentations of Nomadic Inner Asia (2007).

Zarakol, Ayse, Before the West. The Rise and Fall of Eastern World Orders (2022).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Engage with narrative sources from different regional and linguistic traditions
Understand how to organise historiography around key debates and trends
Engage with debates over alternative, non-Eurocentric lineages of modernity
Understand the integrated nature of late medieval Eurasian history
Think critically about nomadic lifeways and nomads as agents of change
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Nik Matheou
Tel: (0131 6)50 2368
Course secretaryMrs Shannon McMillan
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