Philobiblon: Mongols: angels or devils?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Mongols: angels or devils?

I've been enjoying a lovely row - conducted of course with the politest of stilletos - on H-Asia over the nature of the Mongol conquest and empire.

Posters fall roughly into three camps:

* There were total barbarians who killed even the cockroaches (roughly the Chinese camp, or those relying on Chinese sources).

* They were only behaving according to the norms of the times, and the dictates of real politik (the Mongol camp)

* They were pretty bad, but then so were Chinese rulers (which you might class as the "you can't trust any ruler" camp)

It also pointed me in the direction of an interesting review of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford, which made a bit of a splash recently, and it seems presents an alternative to the book on which I recently posted which attributes the Renaissance to the Arabs.

Another pointer was to an article on Attitudes towards Conversion Among the Elite in the Mongol Empire.

I have what I might describe as a mild interest in the Mongols, having visit the supposed burial place of the great Genghis, one of the most fascinating days of my life. (There's an article I wrote about it here.)

Other recommended reads, included Thomas Allsen, Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia(Cambridge University Press, 2001) and Nicola Di Cosmo, ed. Warfare in Inner Asian History 500-1800. Neither in the London Library, but you can request purchases ...

If I could only give up sleeping, how much time I'd have to read.


Blogger Ronnie Smartt said...

You dabble like me, and I like you for it. I remember reading somewhere that Genghis - Chinggis, or whatever - Khan may have been a Christian and that some of his aunts certainly were: Nestorians who spread like Coca Cola.

3/05/2005 05:08:00 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Angels or devils? Interesting comparison. I wouldn't trust Chingis to watch my younger siblings for a day, unless of course they were pissing me off. But there is something to be said for taking away the title of barbarian--nomadic steppe tribe might be more accurate.

I have heard that the Mongols as well as other fascilitated trade and commerce between Europe and China. I guess you might call them entrepreneurs.

For additional information about the Nestorian presence among the Mongols check out Mission to Asia, a collection of primary source materials edited by Christopher Dawson.

3/06/2005 06:51:00 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Were the Nomadic Tribes Really Barbaric?

3/06/2005 06:54:00 am  
Blogger Richard said...

sorry, need to add a .htm

3/06/2005 06:54:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

I'm going to have to find out more about the Nestorians - they keep popping up everywhere at the moment.

And looking up the London ilbrary I find there is a "religion.nestorianism" shelf ...

And "dabble" is a nicer word than some have used ...

3/06/2005 12:31:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Actually I think this is a case for postmodernism, and maybe a bit of Durkheim - the nomads operate on different rules that fit their own environment: you can't judge them by the rules of the sedentary.

3/06/2005 12:32:00 pm  

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