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Culture and Conquest: the Impact of the Mongols and their Descendants (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant Research MA. Students from other departments are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


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 should we evaluate their political and cultural legacy in the light of both contemporary sources and the more recent historiography? How did the various settled societies of Eurasia resist and/or accommodate this sudden outburst of both relentless violence and refreshing creativity?

Finally, how did the Mongols themselves fashion their legacy and to what extent were they 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

Students acquire:

  • The ability to independently identify and select sources

  • The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question

  • The ability to analyze and evaluate literature and sources for the purpose of producing an original scholarly argument

  • The ability to interpret a corpus of sources

  • Knowledge and comprehension of global history and its historiography specifically: 1) empirical research from a comparative and connective perspective; 2) comprehension of how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalization (in particular during the period 1200-1940)

Specific 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.

  • It intends to provide analytical tools to evaluate the literature on the topic, to build scholarly arguments and to develop original research questions in connection with the current historiography.

  • Special attention will be devoted to cross-cultural approaches. Contemporary debates will be identified and discussed, including the most recent issues regarding the Pax Mongolica, the Silk Roads, the Tatar yoke, pre-modern imperialism, political and national uses of historical figures such as Chinggis Qan, Qubilai, Timur and Babur.

Extra course objectives for Research Master Students:

  • The ability to interpret a potentially complex corpus of sources

  • The ability to identify new approaches within existing academic debates

  • Knowledge of the interdisciplinary aspects of the specialisation


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

The deadline in MyTimetable is set for administrative purposes only. The actual date(s) will be communicated by the lecturer(s) in Brightspace.

Mode of instruction


Attendance is compulsory for all sessions. Students must prepare well and contribute to in-class discussion. If a student cannot attend because of illness or misadventure, they should promptly inform the convener. Extra assignments may be set to make up for missed class time, at the convener’s discretion. Absence without notification may result in lower grades or exclusion from assessment components and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Academic integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

ChatGPT: What is possible and what is allowed? Dos and Don'ts.

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Comments to lectures and discussion, active participation 10%
AQCI (deadline 1 March & 1 May ) 20%
Research presentation 10%
Paper (deadline at the end of the term, mid-June) or an alternative assignment, to be discussed in class 60%

This exercise is based on an attentive reading of the course manual (Thomas Allsen, Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001) taken as a starting point for the current approach of the Mongol agency in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The student is asked to identify the author’s main arguments and to connect them to his own scholarly knowledge. A first set of potential research questions should be addressed.

The student writes an academic paper in which the capacity to interpret and synthesize scholarly and specialized literature relevant to the topic is displayed. The use of primary sources is obligatory.

This paper shows:

  • The ability to independently identify and select sources

  • The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question

  • The ability to analyze and evaluate literature and sources for the purpose of producing an original scholarly argument

  • The ability to interpret a corpus of sources

  • The ability to give a clear written report on the research results in English or Dutch,

  • The ability to independently identify and select sources and literature* Presentation, comments and participation show

  • The ability to give a clear oral report on the research results in English or Dutch The ability to provide constructive academic feedback

  • The ability to engage actively with other students (participation)

  • The ability to engage with constructive academic feedback (participation)

The paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (60%). In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.

A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the assessment results, a review will be organized.

Reading list

Reading list: selected readings

  • 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.

  • Michael Hope, Power, Politics and Tradition in the Mongol Empire and the Ilkhanate of Iran, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2016

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

  • Peter Jackson, The Mongols in the Islamic World. From Conquest to Conversion, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press 2017)

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

Further readings will be announced via Brightspace.

For the Research MA students additional reading will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ fields of interest. Extra sessions will be organized to discuss this extra literature.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.