History | Intro to Central Asian History
G300 | 21685 | R. Sela
Above class open to undergraduates and Education MA's only; meets
with CEUS-R 310 and R510.
Central Asia, the world’s “crossroads of cultures and
civilizations,” has witnessed an unparalleled increase in world
interest since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Its global
significance, reflected in its strategic location between China,
Russia, India and Iran, in the management of vital natural resources
such as oil and natural gas, and the recent American conflict in
Afghanistan, have turned the region into one of the key focal points
for academics, policy makers and practitioners.
This course offers students a unique opportunity to explore Central
Asia’s place in world history, its forceful presence in the history
of Islam, and its role as the great connecting link between East
Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The course aims to acquaint students with the basic principles of
the history of Central Asia, a region that corresponds
geographically to today’s Islamic republics of the former Soviet
Union (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and
Tajikistan), as well as adjacent historic regions of north-eastern
Iran, northern Afghanistan, and western China (Xinjiang). Following
introductory lectures on the history and geography of the region, we
will survey, in a chronological order, the historical developments
in the region, both in the sedentary areas, and in the steppes,
beginning with the rise of Islam and the Arab conquest of the
region, and concluding in the late-Soviet era
Special themes that will be addressed include:
Trade, migrations and exchange of ideas and goods along the Silk
The rise and fall of great empires (Chinggis Khan, Tamerlane).
The region’s gradual conversion to Islam.
Central Asia as a “frontier zone.”
The symbiotic relationship between nomadic and urban-based
The unique interaction between Turks and Iranians in Central Asian
The Great Game or, the scramble for Central Asia.
Colonization and nation building.
Prerequisites: No prerequisites are necessary.
Svat Soucek, A history of inner Asia (Cambridge University Press,
Additional readings will be distributed in class or accessed on-line.
Many of the readings are drawn from primary sources (in English
translation, of course). Students should bring those readings with
them to our Wednesday meetings and should be prepared to discuss
them in some detail.
Requirements & Grading:
A midterm exam (questions will be given in advance); a final, take-
home exam; a silent map quiz on the second week of classes; active
contribution to the class discussions. Undergraduate students will
write a short critique on a book of their choosing as their term
assignment. Graduate students will write a short term paper and will
also be responsible for instructing the class about their project. I
will circulate a separate communiqué regarding the assignments and
Grade distribution: midterm (25%), Final (25%), term project (30%),
discussions & quiz (20%).