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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 MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), the MA Asian Studies (research) or the MA History (research).
Please, contact Dr. G.R. van den Berg or Dr. M.F. Favereau, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of one of the above-mentioned Research Masters.


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.



Mode of instruction

  • Research seminar

Course Load

Total: 280 hrs.

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: (2-3 hrs per week) 36

  • Time for studying the compulsory general literature (ca. 475 pages, ca 12 pages per hour): 40

  • Time for studying the compulsory weekly literature, from week 3: (average 45 pages per week, ca. 12 pages per hour) 40

  • Time to prepare comments/questions: 5

  • Time to write AQCI: 5

  • Time to prepare research presentation: 5

  • Time to write research paper (including reading and research): 149

Assessment method

  • AQCI & participation: 20%

  • Paper (8000 words): 60%

  • Research presentations: 20%



Reading list

  • Thomas Allsen, Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001.

  • Michal Biran, “The Mongol Transformation: From the Steppe to Eurasian Empire”, Medieval Encounters, 10, 1-3 (2004): pp. 339-361.

  • Nicola di Cosmo, State Formation and Periodization in Inner Asian History, Journal of World History, 1999, Vol. 10 (1), pp. 1-40.

  • A.G. Hopkins, “The History of Globalization – and the Globalization of History?”, in Hopkins (ed.), Globalization in World History (London, 2002): pp.11-47.

  • Joseph Fletcher, “The Mongols: Ecological and Social Perspectives”, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 46 (1986): pp. 11-50.

  • Morris Rossabi, The Mongols. A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012.

This is the general reading list. Further readings will be announced via Blackboard.


Registration via uSis


Dr. G.R. van den Berg
Dr. M.F. Favereau