History | Travelers in Central Asia
T500 | 26680 | Sela

Above class open to graduates only
Above class meets with CEUS-U520

This course charts the discovery and exploration of Central Asia
(stretching from the Caspian Sea and north-eastern Iran in the west
to Eastern Turkestan – modern-day Xinjiang – in the east) by its
many visitors – adventurers, pilgrims, geographers, missionaries,
merchants in disguise, diplomats and prisoners of war – from the
eighth through the nineteenth centuries. The numerous testimonies
left by those visitors will serve as a point of departure for our
own exploration of the history of this fascinating but under-studied
region; a region that had witnessed, among other things, the unique
merger of cultures (Arab, Persian, Turkic, Chinese, Mongol, and
Russian), the Arab conquest of an ancient Persian civilization, the
Jewish Khazar state, the Mongol hordes under Chinggis Khan, the rule
of Timur (Tamerlane) over a vast Kingdom centered in the fabled city
of Samarqand, the nomadic invasions of the 16th century, the rise of
the ‘Tribal’ Dynasties of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the
expansion of the Russian Empire.

The course focuses on reading primary sources (in the original
English or translated from Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew,
Turkish, Latin, German and Russian) which, in addition to
underscoring Central Asia's pivotal role as a crossroads of
civilizations, will also allow us to evaluate travel logs, diaries,
memoirs, and mission reports as sources for the study of (Central
Asian) history. We will wonder about the common grounds that modern-
day historians and medieval tourists may share, and also introduce
the potential unanimity and contrast between inside and outside

Prerequisites: No prior knowledge of Central Asian history, or any
of its languages is required.

Course Requirements: For undergraduates: Mid-term, Final, and a
short assignment based on one travel narrative. Active participation
in our discussions is expected. Graduate students will take both
exams, and write a term paper to be decided in consultation with the

Course Website:  http://php.indiana.edu/~rsela/travel/index.html
(this is the old course website. A new one is under construction).