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Mongolia's Middle Ages
Catalog Number CEUS-U 320/520
Brian Baumann

Asked about Mongolia, the average person knows only about the world empire built by Genghis Khan. Recent visitors to Mongolia hear about the 1990 democratic transition, how the previous Communist regime had been installed by the Red Army in 1921, and how the Buddhist clergy which had ruled the country after independence from China in 1911 was destroyed in the 1930s. But what happened in between the fall of the Mongol empire in 1368 and the restoration of Mongolian independence in 1911? This class “fills in the gaps” in the common knowledge of Mongolia. 

In fact traditional Mongolia was made in these “Middle Ages.” The “Second Conversion” to Buddhism after 1575, the aristocratic society established under Batu-Möngke Dayan Khan (c. 1480-1518), and Manchu-Chinese rule in Mongolia formed the ancient regime against which twentieth-century revolutionaries revolted. Likewise, Buriats and Kalmyks were profoundly transformed by Russian rule from 1605 to 1771. Mongolia’s traditions of epics, oral poetry, and folk tales assumed their modern form from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. The great Oirat confederacies, first of Esen who captured the Chinese emperor in 1449, and then of the seventeenth-eighteenth century Zunghars, Kalmyks, and Upper Mongols, first rose to dominate Inner Asia from Tibet to Crimea but then were virtually destroyed by foreign attacks and insurrections of their form Kazakh and Tibetan subjects. Mongolia’s Middle Ages treats all of these topics and more in a combination of lecture and discussion. 

Class Format:

In general, Monday and Wednesday will be lectures and Friday will be discussion. In the weekly syllabus below, the top item refers to the topic of the lecture, while the “readings” refers to which readings will be discussed that week. Usually they are coordinated, but sometimes not. Students will be expected to be prepared to contribute their ideas and knowledge. 

Assignments and Grades (Undergraduate):

Assignments for the class consist of three map quizzes (15%), a midterm (25%), and a final (45%). Attendance and participation count for 15%. The midterm will consist of identifications and an essay, while the final will be identifications and two essays. There is no paper.

Graduate Requirements:

Graduate students have additional required reading, which will be discussed during four extra sessions of the class (time and place TBA). Undergraduates are welcome also to do this reading and attend the discussion sessions if they choose. Graduates will have no choice on the questions for the midterms and finals. In addition graduates will write a 15-20 page research paper.