Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia

Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia

Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia

Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia


Thomas Allsen is one of the foremost historians of the Mongol empire. His latest book breaks new scholarly boundaries in its exploration of cultural and scientific exchanges between Iran and China. Contrary to popular belief, Mongol rulers were intensely interested in the culture of their sedentary subjects. Under their auspices, various commodities, ideologies and technologies were disseminated across Eurasia. The result was a lively exchange of scientists, scholars and ritual specialists between East and West. The book is broad-ranging and erudite and promises to become a classic in the field.


The present study originated some twenty-five years ago with a chance discovery that the Mongolian courts in China and Iran both sponsored the compilation of agricultural manuals in the course of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. A few years later I discovered, again quite by accident, that this was not mere coincidence, and that there were indeed “agronomical relations” between these two courts. This in turn led to an interest in other types of cultural exchange between the Il-qans and the Yuan, an exchange that became the focal point of my research over the last decade.

My initial intention was to cover all facets of the interchange in one large monograph but this was clearly impractical. Consequently, I have concentrated here on cultural exchanges in the fields of historiography, geography, cartography, agronomy, cuisine, medicine, astronomy, and printing technology. My investigations into other areas of their contact — language study, popular entertainments, and economic thought, as well as the transfer of military technology and the transcontinental resettlement of artisans of varied specialties — will appear as separate studies.

I have had the opportunity to present my preliminary findings in the form of lectures at a number of academic institutions and the response has always been welcoming and the questions and comments from these audiences most helpful in shaping the direction of my subsequent research. To these various students and scholars I offer my thanks for their guidance and encouragement. I must also record my gratitude to the National Endowment for the Humanities which awarded me a Fellowship for the academic year 1998–99 that permitted me to complete research and prepare a first draft of the manuscript.

Peter Golden and Stephen Dale read and commented on this manuscript and helped to improve it in many substantial ways. So too did the many suggestions and corrections of the anonymous reviewers of the Press. I am deeply indebted to all of these scholars.

I must also offer special thanks to my current department chair, Daniel Crofts, who has supported and facilitated my research over the last several years.

Finally, I again express my profound gratitude to my wife, Lucille Helen Allsen, whose enthusiasm, patience, and editorial and word-processing skills are essential ingredients in all my scholarly endeavors.

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