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The Black Sea, Russia, and eastern Europe exported slaves throughout the medieval period. Most had been born free but were enslaved through capture or occasionally through sale by relatives. During the eighth through tenth centuries, slaves were traded from eastern Europe and the Baltic to elite households in Byzantium and the Islamic world via the Dniepr and Volga river systems, the Carolingian empire, and Venice. In the thirteenth century, the structure of this slave trade changed as a result of the Mongol invasion of eastern Europe, Italian colonization of the Black Sea, the success of the Mamluk state, and the crusading activities of the Teutonic Knights in the Baltic. People enslaved in the Baltic now tended to be traded westward rather than eastward; people enslaved in eastern Europe and the Caucasus tended to pass through the Black Sea into Italian, Mamluk, or Ottoman hands; and people enslaved in the Balkans were trafficked primarily by Venetians or Ottomans. Many aspects of this trade deserve further study, however, such as political marginality and decentralization as factors that enabled slaving; violations of the principle that slaves should come from a different religious background than their owners; and the logistics of local slave trades.
General readers still lack awareness of the prevalence of slavery between the classical period and the post-1420 wider Atlantic World. This phenomenon is not just temporal but geographic, in that Asia, the Indian Ocean World, Amerindian societies and Oceania still receive far less scholarly attention than their populations warrant. This situation exists despite the rapid growth of interest in the general subject of slavery in recent decades. The Islamic conquests and the Mongol expansions generated large numbers of captives, but in fact no society in the Medieval millennium was without enslaved people. While no consensus on the definition of slavery is possible – in this era it assumed a wide spectrum of dependencies - the existence of slave markets across the known world indicates that buyers and sellers shared enough of a common understanding of the practice to sustain a vibrant slave trade. Despite this traffic and major military disruptions, many enslaved people derived their status via birth even though the sources suggest that probably most slaves were female. They also exercised some agency. Prejudice against black people is apparent but the ebb and flow of empires ensured that any group could be a slave, just as any could be a slave owner.
The reign of al-Mustansir represents a continuum to al-Nasir's in terms of the stability of a caliphal state centered on the region of Iraq and Khuzistan. With the primary focus of Mongol invasions on Russia and Eastern Europe, the Abbasids thrive with affinity to the Ayyubids and Rum Seljuks. The Abbasid construction of the Mustansiriyya madrasa marks a new type of patronage for a project that diverged from previously endowed structures, such as caravanserais and Sufi lodges. The inclusion of all four Sunni sects of jurisprudence changed the idea of the madrasa while the generous support for students indicated Abbasid affluence. New waves in the arts (the Baghdad school of manuscript painting) and architectural decorative forms (the girih and the muqarnas) flourish alongside developments in Arabic calligraphy with the famous Yaqut al-Musta'simi. A situation of Mongol belligerence and Abbasid disarray in the reign of the last caliph, al-Musta'sim, accelerates the pace to the conquest of Baghdad in 1258. A shadow Abbasid caliphate lives on in Mamluk Egypt until the Ottoman conquest in 1517.
All major continental empires proclaimed their desire to rule 'the entire world', investing considerable human and material resources in expanding their territory. Each, however, eventually had to stop expansion and come to terms with a shift to defensive strategy. This volume explores the factors that facilitated Eurasian empires' expansion and contraction: from ideology to ecology, economic and military considerations to changing composition of the imperial elites. Built around a common set of questions, a team of leading specialists systematically compare a broad set of Eurasian empires - from Achaemenid Iran, the Romans, Qin and Han China, via the Caliphate, the Byzantines and the Mongols to the Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals, Russians, and Ming and Qing China. The result is a state-of-the art analysis of the major imperial enterprises in Eurasian history from antiquity to the early modern that discerns both commonalities and differences in the empires' spatial trajectories.
This chapter describes and analyzes the medieval Mongol origins of the dynasty of the Great Mughals that ruled much of the subcontinent in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. It was the successful development of the institution of the corporate Turko-Mongol clan and the Mongol imperial heritage that went with it that allowed the Great Mughals to overcome the normal limitations of nomad tribes in a way their Afghan opponents and medieval predecessors could not.
In the medieval period, the twofold frontier of mobile wealth, nomadic and maritime, largely developed under the aegis of Islam. This chapter analyses the establishment of Indo-Islamic conquest states by post-nomadic Turks, Mongols, Afghans, and others. Mass conversion to Islam only occurred in the Indus borderlands under the impact of widespread nomadic destruction over extended periods of time. In the post-nomadic states of the subcontinent there was no nomadic destruction but instead a fusion of frontier and settled society and little or no conversion to Islam. In the same centuries, the rise of Islam in the littoral regions and island archipelagos of the Indian Ocean took place in the context of the steadily expanding trade and increased dynamism of the medieval centuries – largely beyond the pale of settled Hindu society.
Islam travelled across the Asian expanse along land and maritime routes, as Muslims engaged in trade, proselytism, and conquest. While the territory and influence of Islamic political authority expanded, collapsed, and reached further once again, between the seventh and sixteenth centuries the realities and attributes of any given Islamic society varied greatly. This chapter provides a bird's-eye view of the expansive movement of Muslims out of Arabia and into Asia, as Islam crossed the Oxus/Amu Darya river (Uzbekistan), following two main paths. First was the military expansion of the Arab Muslim Empire, which reached its territorial apogee under the Abbasid, spreading as far as Transoxiana and Northwest India. Second was the movement of pilgrims, scholars, soldiers, and mystics – whose identities melted one into the other – across continental and maritime Asia, along the centuries-old Silk Road and the Indian Ocean networks. These trajectories allow us to see Asia as a historically cohesive space of Islamized interaction, where Muslims imagined themselves as part of a religious community, the umma.
This chapter offers an overview of Chinese warfare, c. 1500–1800, with an emphasis upon the way in which state-sponsored violence was deployed to counter the multitude of strategic threats faced by the Ming and Qing dynasties. It highlights the role of violence in maintaining and extending the power and legitimacy of the imperial Chinese state. For even if Chinese dynasties were wont to extol Confucian values of benevolence and pacifism, the harsh reality was that state-sponsored violence was generally the key to maintaining authority, both domestically and in the broader East Asian world. The chapter shows how recent secondary studies have explored many dimensions of China’s martial culture and how these studies in turn illuminate the array of military challenges that faced all Chinese dynasties. It offers a typology of military threats and situates them specifically within the late imperial Chinese context. Central to this analysis is the massive size and ethnic diversity of the empire, which posed unique challenges to the rulers and their military establishments. The chapter also offers suggestions for future work and comparative studies.
This chapter explores the visual sources for violence and warfare created over the millennium from 500 to 1500 in the lands where Islam became a major presence. It divides the copious evidence into three chronological blocks (early, middle and late) to highlight the different visual sources that predominate in each period (architectural decoration, portable objects and illustrated manuscripts). The many scenes of violence depicted on these buildings and objects reflect the unsettled times and places where they were made and the constant occurrence of battles and warfare, some of it with sophisticated weaponry. But these vignettes of warfare and fighting also reflect a more positive view of violence, designed to invoke the prowess and heroism of the object’s owner. This triumphal theme extends to nature and the animal kingdom, as man dominates and tames the often-inhospitable landscape and the wild beasts in it. Many incidents also allude to the legendary and literary past, particularly in Iran, and metaphorically tie the object’s owner (and the viewer) to epic heroes. These many scenes of violence are thus multivalent and require decoding.
In his London years, Pound had ambivalent feelings about the marginal status of the country of his origin, the United States. On the one hand, he had a strong desire to position himself in the centre of Western civilization; on the other hand, he could not help being conscious of his origin in the margin – the frontier – of that civilization. For example, at the beginning of ‘What I Feel about Walt Whitman,’ published in 1909, he wrote, ‘From this side of Atlantic I am for the first time able to read Whitman, and from the vantage of my education and … my world citizenship’ (SP 145), but in his poem ‘A Pact’, published in 1916, he addressed to his imaginary Whitman, ‘We have one sap and one root – / Let there be commerce between us’ (PT 269).
This chapter considers the changes wrought by the Mongol invasions. It first examines briefly the development of Muslim politics and literature in the pre-Mongol period, demonstrating how until the middle of the thirteenth century textual production focused largely on the Seljuq court. It then looks at the impact of Mongol rule, concentrating in particular on the political and religious consequences - the crisis of legitimacy caused by the Seljuq collapse and, the position of the Mongols before and after their conversion, and the persecution of Christians that intensified under Mongol rule. As a result, political discourse was infused with a new concern with unbelief, absent in the Seljuq period.
The Introduction lays out the state of the art of scholarship on history and religious change in medieval Anatolia, arguing that historians’ preoccupation with the Seljuq and Ottoman periods has led to neglect of the rich source material for the Mongol period. It considers approaches by previous scholars such as Vryonis, Köprūlü, Ocak and Kafadar.
This chapter examines the interest in the apocalypse and the Mahdi, the Muslim saviour expected at the end of time, found in works of the Mongol period. While the Mongols were themselves seen by many Muslims as one of the signs of the apocalypse, in fact apocalyptic and Mahdist discourse was adopted by the Mongols on their conversion to Islam to justify their rule. In addition, both Seljuq sultans and Mongol governors of Anatolia sought to assert legitimacy in the face of the political crises of the period by identifying themselves as Mahdis, while the requirement for the Mahdi to impose perfect sharia law led to increase in persecution of Christians, contributing to the process of Islamisation. Yet interest in apocalyptic is reflected only in texts of limited circulation destined for an elite audience; contrary to what is argued in much of the existing literature, there is no evidence that it was either widespread more popularly, especially among the Turkmen, or that is was associated with Shiism.
From a Christian, Greek- and Armenian-speaking land to a predominantly Muslim and Turkish speaking one, the Islamisation of medieval Anatolia would lay the groundwork for the emergence of the Ottoman Empire as a world power and ultimately the modern Republic of Turkey. Bringing together previously unpublished sources in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, Peacock offers a new understanding of the crucial but neglected period in Anatolian history, that of Mongol domination, between c. 1240 and 1380. This represents a decisive phase in the process of Islamisation, with the popularisation of Sufism and the development of new forms of literature to spread Islam. This book integrates the study of Anatolia with that of the broader Islamic world, shedding new light on this crucial turning point in the history of the Middle East.
This is a study of an apocalyptic Latin letter (incipit “Ad flagellum humani generis”), surviving in manuscripts from the mid-thirteenth to fourteenth centuries, that describes an apparent aggressive invasion of an ascetic army in the distant East, led by a figure claiming to be Christ and bearing a new volume of scripture. This article offers the first comprehensive study of the letter's manuscript tradition and presents a new critical edition of the text. It argues that this letter was composed in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem sometime in the years 1235–36 as a response to intelligence brought by eastern Christian envoys (quite possibly from Georgia or Greater Armenia) concerning the second wave of Mongol invasions in Transcaucasia. These envoys had spent some time in the presence of a Mongol army, possibly that of the general Chormaghan, receiving an edict that probably demanded their submission and stated the Mongols’ divine right to universal domination. This edict, accompanied by other information, was ultimately translated into Latin for the benefit of the authorities of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. These authorities interpreted both the edict and the oral and/or written intelligence that the eastern Christian envoys delivered within the intellectual framework of Latin Christianity. This particular interpretation was then written into a letter that was sent to Western Europe, where it circulated probably quite widely for around a century. Crusade theorists’ need for intelligence about the Middle and Far East, together with the vogue of apocalyptic prophecy in the later Middle Ages, encouraged the continued copying of the text.
This paper examines two contrasting cases of ethnic-group political activism in China – the Uighurs in Xinjiang and the Mongols in Inner Mongolia – to explain the former's political activism and the latter's lack thereof. Given similar challenges and pressures, how can we explain the divergent patterns in these two groups’ political behavior? This paper forwards the argument that domestic factors alone are not sufficient to account for differences in the groups’ political behavior. Instead, international factors have to be included to offer a fuller and satisfactory explanation. The paper illustrates how three types of international factors – big power support, external cultural ties, and Uighur diaspora community activism – have provided opportunities and resources to make the Uighur political activism sustainable. In Inner Mongolia, its quest for self-determination reached the highest fervor in the early half of the twentieth century, particularly with the support of imperial Japan. However, since the end of WWII, Inner Mongolia has not received any consistent international support and, as a result, has been more substantially incorporated into China's geopolitical body.
Khubilai khan's ceremonious adoption of Chinese dynastic forms in 1272 began the period of greatest Mongolian adaptation to Chinese influences on the patterns of government. This chapter attempts to suggest the kinds of issues in social history that give the Yüan dynasty its interest and importance in the minds of historians today. The uncertainty about the size and distribution of the Chinese population in Yüan society remains subject to speculation and debate. The chapter shows that the Yüan government went beyond all precedent in its effort to classify and register its subjects according to status and occupation, in order to serve its social management objectives. The fourfold ethnically defined system of social classes: Mongols, Western Asians, Han jen, and Nan jen, did not eliminate the preexisting Chinese elite or attempt to reduce all Chinese to one debased economic level, neither did it ensure superior economic status for all Mongols and Western Asians.