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Arts and Culture in Area Studies: Culture and Conquest: the impact of the Mongols and their descendants


Admission requirements

Admission to the Research Master Area Studies or the Research Master History. Please, contact Dr. J.J.L.Gommans or Dr. G.R. van den Berg, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of the Research Master Area Studies or the Research Master History.


In the thirteenth century, the Mongols created a vast empire that covered large parts of Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Their swift conquests shook the Old World to its very foundations and changed its outlook entirely. In many contemporary sources the Mongols are depicted as ruthless barbarians. At the same time, however, the Mongols heralded a new era of globalization by creating unprecedented opportunities for cultural transmission and exchange. Hence by stimulating the circulation of people, commodities, knowledge and ideas, they made a significant contribution to almost all the medieval civilizations surrounding the arid zones of Central Eurasia. In this course, we will look at the immediate and long-term impact of the Mongols and their descendants (e.g. the Timurids and Mughals) on the course of Eurasian history. How we should evaluate their political and cultural legacy in the light of both contemporary sources and the more recent historiography? How the various settled societies of Eurasia resisted and/or accommodated this sudden outburst of both relentless violence and refreshing creativity? Finally, how the Mongols themselves fashioned their legacy and to what extent they were able to construct their own image and memory in e.g. art, literature and history-writing? All these questions will be discussed with experts from various disciplinary and area backgrounds and as such the course aims to provide a truly comparative and connective Eurasian perspective.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide a comparative and connective Eurasian perspective of the history of Asia, the Middle East and Europe, taking the Mongol Empire as a premodern example of globalization.


See course-schedule

Mode of instruction

research seminar

Assessment method

Paper (8000 words); presentations



Reading list

Thomas Allsen, Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia, Cambridge 2001

Christopher Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road – A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present, Princeton 2009

Further readings will be announced via Blackboard


See enrolment-procedure

Contact information

Dr. J.J.L.Gommans or Dr. G.R. van den Berg