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The Secret History of the Mongols


The Secret History of the Mongols is Mongolian’s great classic and one of the greatest pieces of history ever written. In this seminar we will read it slowly, exploring it from historical, textual (philological), source-critical, literary, ideological, folkloric, linguistic, and many other points of view. Students will write a seminar paper which will be critiqued by the class in the last two weeks of class.

As a seminar class keeping up with the reading and active participation are required. To make sure you keep up with the reading, regular reading reviews dealing with the reading for the week are required in those weeks (2-12) in which we are actually reading the work. We will go through the SHM at a rather slow pace (roughly one of the twelve “books” into which it was traditionally divided per week). Outside reading will focus on parallels from other sources.

Languages: Students are expected to purchase and read the English translation with commentary of Igor de Rachewiltz. Each session students will read approximately half a “book” along with a selection of parallel passages from English translations of Rashid al-Din’s Ghazanid History, also known as the Jami‘ al-Tawarikh (JT), the Record of the Campaigns of Chinggis Khan (SWQZL), and the History of the Yuan Dynasty (YS). Student with Mongolian, Chinese, or Persian skills are also encouraged to consult the Mongolian of the SHM (whether in the restored early Ming version, the version preserved in Lubsang-Danzin’s Altan tobchi, and/or a modern paraphrase), the SHM’s Chinese transcription and translation, the Chinese of the SWQZL and the YS, and/or the Persian of the JT.

Students are expected to have the copy of de Rachewiltz’s translation with them in all class sessions.

Regions Covered

Historical Central Eurasia

When Taught

Spring 2012


Department of Central Eurasian Studies