China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

By Peter C. Perdue | Go to book overview

12
Moving through the Land

IN this chapter I examine the spatial techniques employed by the Qing rulers to define territorial boundaries and limit mobility. Charles Maier has periodized modern world history with the concept of "territoriality," by which he "means simply the properties, including power, provided by the control of bordered political space, which until recently at least created the framework for national and often ethnic identity." He notes that in the seventeenth century, around the world, new dynasties or "more cohesively organized territorial states" fortified their frontiers and redefined sovereignty to give themselves unrestricted authority within their own domains.1 European historians commonly connect this transition with the signing of the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years' War in 1648, but the European states defined their territories culturally as well as diplomatically.2

For Maier, "the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries comprise the great epoch of enclosure: enclosure of common lands within the villages of Britain and western Europe, enclosure of state borders."3 Thus the securing of borders against external violation went in parallel with the securing of social and territorial boundaries within each state. Maier rightly notes that this process was not limited to western Europe. Russia, China, and the Ottoman empire in this period likewise developed controls over population movements, clearer definitions of the space under the ruler's command, and treaties establishing state boundaries. Russia defined its borders in the east by signing a treaty with China as it tightened controls over peasant mobility within its domains. China eliminated the autonomy of pastoral populations within its borders after it had eliminated the Zunghar regime.

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