Warfare in Inner Asian History: 500-1800

Warfare in Inner Asian History: 500-1800

Warfare in Inner Asian History: 500-1800

Warfare in Inner Asian History: 500-1800

Synopsis

Military developments in Inner Asia lay at the basis of the rise of a number of Ancient and Early Modern Empires. This is the first scholarly work to embrace Inner Asian military history across a broad spatial and chronological spectrum, from the Turks and Uighurs to the Pechenegs, and from the Mongol invasion of Syria to the Manchu conquest of China. Based on previously unknown and until now underestimated sources, the contributors to this volume explore the context, development, and characteristic features of Inner Asian warfare, making original contributions to our understanding of Asian and world history.

Excerpt

For some two centuries following their sudden rise in the middle of the sixth century, the Turks (Tujue) were the dominant power among the pastoral peoples of the steppe zone to the north of China. During that period, the Turkish rulers (or qaghans) often competed with Chinese emperors for supremacy in Northeast Asia. At times the Turks had the upper hand, and at other times they were subordinated to the authority of the Chinese emperor. Armed conflict was a frequent occurrence, especially during those periods when neither side was strong enough to dominate the other. The 620s was one such period of conflict, and the year 630 marked a dramatic reversal of fortunes as the Turks, who had been able to project their power into a divided China only a few years before, suffered a decisive military defeat at the hands of the newly-established Tang dynasty. The Eastern Turks fell under the authority of the Tang emperors and would succeed in reasserting their independence only after the passage of fifty years. How were the Chinese able to win such a convincing victory over this formidable nomadic adversary?

One possible answer is that this outcome was an all but inevitable consequence of the unity that had been imposed on China by the Tang founders: once a strong hand was able to mobilize the vast human and material resources of the reunified empire, the badly outnumbered nomads had no hope of holding their own. But this answer does not take into account the many failures that even a unified China experienced in its military efforts against the steppe peoples, from Wang Mang's abortive war against the Xiongnu to Northern Song conflicts with the Khitan and the capture of a fifteenth-century Ming emperor by the Mongols. Chinese victory was never a foregone conclusion, but required careful strategic planning, significant tactical adjustments, and opportune circumstances that could be ruthlessly exploited. These elements were all present in the campaign of 629–30. Although we do not have an account of these events from the Turkish perspective, a study of the choices made by Tang commanders on . . .

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