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Warhorse and post-nomadic empire in Asia, c. 1000–1800

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2007

Jos Gommans
Kern Institute: Department of Indian and Tibetan Studies, Leiden University, PO Box 9515, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands E-mail:


Until the nineteenth century the warhorse played a central role in the political organization of the great empires that bordered on the pastoral heartlands of Central Eurasia. Actually, the survival of the often (semi-)nomadic rulers of these frontier-empires hinged on the continued production, trade and use of Central Eurasian warhorses. This forestalled the full sedentarization of these rulers and conditioned the emergence of a post-nomadic political culture and organization in which Central Eurasian institutions like ordo, nökör and yurt continued to provide a forceful paradigm to mobilize, organize and enumerate cavalry armies. But as the specific ecological circumstances created different conditions for the breeding and trade of warhorses, they also gave rise to different interpretations of the nomadic paradigm. This is demonstrated in the case of the Mughal rulers in India and the Manchu-Qing rulers in China, who both shared a common Central Eurasian heritage and ruled the richest sedentary economies of their time.

© 2007 London School of Economics and Political Science

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