Journal of World History 12.2 (2001) 476-479
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The Mongol Empire and its Legacy
Mughal India and Central Asia
The Mongol Empire and its Legacy. Edited by REUVEN AMITAI-PREISS and DAVID O. MORGAN. Islamic History and Civilization: Studies and Texts, Vol. 24, ULRICH HAARMANN and WADAD KADI, gen. eds. Leiden: Brill, 1999. Pp. 361. Maps, footnotes, index; $146.50.
Mughal India and Central Asia. By RICHARD C. FOLTZ. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1998. Pp. xi + 190. $13.00.
These are two very good books. Though very different, they both have much to offer those interested in World History. And they share a common theme, which is captured by the title of the first volume: The Mongol Empire and its Legacy. In different ways, each shows the extraordinary extent, richness, and durability of the Mongol impact, and the way in which it accelerated the emergence of a single Eurasian world.
The volume edited by Reuven Amitai-Preiss and David Morgan is a collection of seventeen essays from a conference held in March 1991 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. The essays convey a powerful impression of the vitality of studies on the Mongol empire and its successor states. The editors have grouped the essays under four main headings: the history of the Mongol Empire, the Mongols in the Middle East (mainly on aspects of the Ilkhanid empire), the Mongols in China and the Far East, and the Mongol Legacy. But the themes of the volume cross these borders at many points.
One important theme (touched on also in Richard Foltz's book) is the astonishing durability of Chinggissid legitimacy. Peter Jackson offers a nuanced account of the breakup of the Mongol Empire into different "uluses" that have too easily been seen as the patrimonies of members of Chinggis Khan's own family. Amitai-Preiss argues that the [End Page 476] Mongol "Imperial idea" exerted a durable influence on Ilkhanid foreign policy. Hodong King and Junko Miyawaki explore the complex succession conflicts of Moghulistan in the fourteenth century, and of the Oyirad (western Mongolian) worlds. In both regions, claims to Chinggissid descent, or the absence of such claims, were amongst the most important factors in the outcome of struggles for leadership. Finally, Haining explores a modern Mongolian historiography, in which the central problem remains: the relationship of modern Mongolia to Chinggis Khan and his heirs.
There are several other important essays on the historiography of the Mongol Empire. As Charles Melville hints, in a detailed study of sources on Ilkhan Öljeitü's Conquest of Gilan, in 1307, the Mongol era offers an unusual opportunity to see relations between the sedentary and the pastoralist worlds in "3-D," because, unusually, we have extensive records from both sides. Normally, we see the pastoralist world through the jaundiced eyes of literate enemies from the sedentary world. Three essays discuss the Mongol impact on Chinese historiography. Sh. Bira shows the impact on Yuan era thinking of writings by Qubilai Qa'an's Buddhist adviser, 'Phags-pa bLa-ma. 'Phags-pa bLa-ma not only developed a theory of relations between the secular and spiritual authorities that shows remarkable parallels with contemporary Christian discussions of the same topic--he also founded the notion that Mongol rulers represented a third great Buddhist monarchy, the first two being the Indian and Tibetan monarchies (historians who know their Muscovite history will immediately note the parallel with the theory of "Moscow as the Third Rome"). T. H. Barrett reminds us that, for the most part, Chinese historiography has been far less admiring of Qubilai Qa'an than the historiography of the West, which was so influenced by the writings of Marco Polo. Hidehiro Okada takes up this theme but with another twist. He argues that the writings of the Han historian, Sima Qian, created an enduring image of China as "an ethnically homogeneous nation with a long, uninterrupted history of its own civilization little affected by occasional barbarian intrusions" (p. 269), despite the fact that Chinese nationhood had...