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Mongolia's Middle Ages
CEUS-R 361/561
Christopher Atwood

This course carries CASE S&H designation


Asked about Mongolia, the average person knows only about the world empire built by Genghis Khan. Recent visitors to Mongolia may have heard about the 1990 democratic transition, the previous Communist rule, and Russo-Chinese rivalries. But what happened in between the fall of the Mongol empire in 1368 and the twentieth century? This class “fills in the gaps” in our common knowledge of Mongolia.

In fact traditional Mongolia was made in these “Middle Ages.” The “Second Conversion” to Buddhism after 1575, the aristocratic society established under Batu-Möngke Dayan Khan (c. 1480-1518), and Manchu-Chinese rule in Mongolia formed the ancien regime against which twentieth-century revolutionaries revolted. Likewise, Buriats and Kalmyks were profoundly transformed by Russian rule from 1605 to 1771. Mongolia’s traditions of epics, oral poetry, and folk tales assumed their modern form from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. The great Oirat confederacies, first of Esen who captured the Chinese emperor in 1449, and then of the seventeenth-eighteenth century Zunghars, Kalmyks, and the Upper Mongols, first rose to dominate Inner Asia from Tibet to Crimea but then were virtually destroyed by foreign attacks and insurrections of their former Kazakh and Tibetan subjects. Mongolia’s Middle Ages treats all of these topics and more in a combination of lecture and discussion.

Assignments and Grades (Undergraduate):
Assignments for the class consist of three map quizzes (15%), a quiz on terms (5%), a midterm (20%), and a final (45%). Attendance and participation count for 15%. The midterm will consist of a take-home essay, while the final will be two take-home essays. There is no paper.

Graduate Requirements:
Graduate students have additional required reading, which will be discussed during four extra sessions of the class (time and place TBA). Undergraduates are welcome also to do this reading and attend the discussion sessions if they chose. Graduates will have no choice on the questions for the midterms and finals. In addition graduates will write a 15-20 page research paper, due on April 26. For graduates the percentages are: attendance and participation 10%; quizzes 10%, quiz
on terms 3%; midterm 12%, paper 35%, and a final 30%.

Basic Textbook:
The basic textbook for the class is Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Conquest, by myself. It is on reserve at the library and also available for purchase at TIS and the IU Bookstore. Readings for the articles are listed in the book. In a few cases, large articles are spread out between two or three weeks’ readings. In that case, I have included a reminder of the section to be read in its appropriate place.

A number of the articles cover events either before or after the period dealt with in our class. I do expect you to read those portions covering the period before AD 1368 (when our class picks up), but only as background. You will not be responsible for any particular event or fact from the period before 1368, but you should read to understand how the background of the empire influenced the Mongolian peoples after 1368. Our class covers the period up to roughly 1860, and I do not require that you read sections of articles dealing with periods after that, although you may find it interesting to see how the legacy of “Mongolia’s Middle Ages” was in its turn built on, repudiated, or neglected in the modern period.


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