This course is an introduction to the history of the world area traditionally known as Central Eurasia, which stretches from the Arctic up to the Indian Subcontinent and from Central Europe to northwestern China and the Sea of Japan. The focus is on the ethnolinguistic origins and the socio-economic and political-religious structure of the most prominent nations of this area--speakers of Indo-European, Uralic, Turkic, Mongolic, Tibeto-Burman, Tungusic, and Puyo-Koguryoic languages—and their political and intellectual achievements. The course will cover the period from the migrations of the early Indo-Europeans up to the present day, but will focus on the period from late Antiquity through the Renaissance. While the conquests of the nomadic empires (for example, the careers of Attila the Hun and Chinggis Khan) are covered, the emphasis is on correcting the distorted received view of Central Eurasians as, essentially, ‘barbarians’ rather than bearers of an advanced, complex culture (with many subcultures and regional variants) that made important contributions to the culture of Eurasia and the world as a whole.
Requirements: Attending class regularly, participating in the discussion, and doing the assignments well and on time. Besides the readings (Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road, plus additional readings assigned in class), the assignments are: one short research paper (on a topic determined after consultation with the instructor), to be presented in class; one short research article (developed from the class presentation); and two quizzes.