- Roxann Prazniak, Sudden Appearances: The Mongol Turn in Commerce, Belief, and Art (Perspectives on the Global Past)
Part of the University of Hawaii Press’s continuing series Perspectives on the Global, this new book will be of special interest to ACMS members, given its emphasis on the “artistic creations and political transformations” fostered across Eurasia as part of a “new historical consciousness visible in the artistic legacy of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries . . . common themes, styles, motifs and pigments circulated to an unprecedented extent during this era, creating an equally unprecedented field of artistic exchange”.
Examples of this impact are wide-ranging and include many “art historical puzzles” including the Siiyah Kalem paintings, the female cup-bearer in the Royal Drinking Scene at Alchhi and the Mongol figures who appear in the Sienese mural . . . Drawing on primary sources both visual and literary as well as scholarship that has only recently achieved critical mass in the area of Mongolian studies and Eurasian histories, Roxanne Prazniak orchestrates an inquiry into a critical passage in world history, a prelude to the spin-off to modernity”.
Notably, this volume does not resort to the usual geographic “markers” such as China, Europe, the Middle East and India; rather, it moves the focus away from the nation-state and instead moves the analysis “toward a borderless world of creative commerce”.
- Elizabeth Endicott, Mongolia, 1978–2017: Memoirs of a Part-Time Mongolist
Elizabeth (Tina) Endicott first visited Mongolia in 1978, spending the next four decades documenting the Mongolian way of life through photographs, books and essays. Her first book Mongolian Rule in China (Harvard University Press) examined how a thirteenth century nomadic people established and ruled an empire that included its huge neighbor to the south. Her more recent research resulted in two other books on Mongolia and has centered on twentieth century Russo-Mongolian trade relations as well as modern day land use in Mongolia.
This fascinating memoir is based on Endicott’s fourteen visits to Mongolia, beginning in 1978 and continuing through 2017, years in which Mongolia witnessed massive and unprecedented change. Moving beyond the academic to the personal, she provides a unique perspective based on her own observations, analysis and experiences. The book also includes photographs that track many of these changes over time. Above all, Endicott’s appreciation for Mongolia’s culture, history and way of life is apparent on every page.
- Esther Jacobson-Tepfer, The Life of Two Valleys in the Bronze Age: Rock Art in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia
This well written and wonderfully illustrated book provides a useful addition to the continued documentation and analysis of the Bronze Rock art in Mongolia. Numerous maps, illustrations and color photographs, combined with a text that is both evocative and informative, give readers an intriguing perspective on one of the most visible and enduring aspects of Mongolia’s historical and cultural landscape.
As the book notes, “The rock art of northwestern Mongolia preserves vital documentation of prehistoric life in its transition from a hunting-foraging economy to pastoralism and finally, with the adoption of horse riding, to full mounted nomadism. This pictorial record is most abundant within two long river valleys: those of Tsagaan Gol and Baga Oigor Gol. Their location in the high Altai mountains marks the nexus between North and Central Asia, taiga and steppe, and the center of fundamental economic and social changes from the end of the Ice Age through the Bronze and early Iron Ages”.
Among the many interesting comments is Jacobson-Tepfer’s observation on what is “not said”: “The subject of violent conflict is avoided, as is any indication of death or dying of either men or animals”. As this example suggests, her interest goes beyond describing what she had observed in western Mongolia over multiple visits beginning in the 1990s; rather, the central intent of this study is “to seek out the ancient life of the valleys, to recreate the way they were lived and understood in a remote past’.
- Prajakti Kalra, The Silk Road and the Political Economy of the Mongol Empire
According to Prajatki Kalra, “The Eurasia region and the Silk Road today occupy much of the discourse on globalization, international and regional cooperation and world trade.”. She goes on to note that “the politics of today which engages with the past continues to be colored by misunderstandings and misrepresentations driven by modern frameworks and principles that do not necessarily reflect either the regional or individual actors. The book attempts to mitigate these distortions and takes a historical approach to inform present-day discourses on Eurasia as a consequence of Mongol governance”.
Individual chapters cover such topics as “The Rise of Chinggis Khan,” “Institutional Framework of Mongol Eurasia,” “The Place of Religion in Mongol Eurasia”; “Mongol Cities of Eurasia”; “Trade and Economic Relations in Mongol Eurasia,” and “Echoes of the Past in Present-Day Eurasia”. Based on Kaira’s comprehensive analysis, this book “demonstrates that the Mongol Empire anticipated many of the networks and connections which exist in the region at present.”
- Alicia Campi, Mongolia’s Foreign Policy: Navigating a Changing World,
A long-time observer (and at times participant) in Mongolian affairs, Alicia Campi’s new book will be welcomed by those who have long awaited a comprehensive overview and analysis of Mongolian foreign policy — including economic policy — since abandoning Soviet-style socialism in 1990 and moving toward a market-based parliamentary democracy.
Campi herself first visited Mongolia in 1975, later participating in discussions in Tokyo during 1985-1986 that eventually led to the establishment of diplomatic ties between the US and Mongolia in 1987. Posted in Ulaanbaatar as a US diplomat in 1990, she witnessed the final months of peaceful street demonstrations that placed the country on the path toward democracy. She has followed the ups and downs of political, economic and social developments in Mongolia ever since, visiting Mongolia on multiple occasions over the last three decades.
Relations between the United States and Mongolia are part of the story that Campi presents in this book and her narrative makes good use of the oral histories of several former US diplomats including former US Ambassadors to Mongolia that are publicly available in the Library of Congress. But she goes much further, including as well a detailed analysis of Mongolia’s foreign relations with China, Russia and a number of “Third Neighbors,” presenting the latter as a particularly intriguing aspect of Mongolia’s post-Soviet approach.
Her inclusion of economic policy as part of Mongolia’s engagement with the rest of the world is also welcome, resulting in commentary that at times also delves into domestic concerns. especially when looking at important issues such as mineral development, resource nationalism, energy policy and regional integration. In addition, her detailed chapter on “Soft Power” provides a comprehensive description of Mongolia’s efforts to shape a “Mongolian brand” on the world stage.
- Historical Dictionary of the Mongol World Empire (Second Edition) by Paul D. Buell and Francesca Fiaschetti
This second edition of the Historical Dictionary of the Mongol World Empire is described by the publisher as presenting “The history of the Mongol Empire, the pre-imperial era of Mongolian history that preceded it, and the various Mongol successor states that continued to dominate Eurasia long after the breakdown of Mongol unity”. The volume includes a chronology, introduction, appendixes and extensive bibliography. The dictionary sections provide more than 900 cross-referenced entries covering important personalities as well as the politics, economy, foreign relations, religion, and culture of the Mongol Empire. As with the Historical Dictionary of Mongolia, this revised edition will be welcomed as highly useful resource for student, academics, diplomats, researchers and others interested in the Mongol empire as well as events that preceded and followed it.
- John Vincent Bellezza, The Dawn of Tibet: the ancient civilization on the roof of the world.
This unique book reveals the existence of an advanced civilization where none was known before, presenting an entirely new perspective on the culture and history of Tibet. In his groundbreaking study of an epic period in Tibet few people even knew existed, John Vincent Bellezza details the discovery of an ancient people on the most desolate reaches of the Tibetan plateau, revolutionizing our ideas about who Tibetans really are. While many associate Tibet with Buddhism, it was also once a land of warriors and chariots, whose burials included megalithic arrays and golden masks. This first Tibetan civilization, known as Zhang Zhung, was a cosmopolitan one with links extending across Eurasia, bringing it in line with many of the major cultural innovations of the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age.
Based on decades of research, The Dawn of Tibet draws on a rich trove of archaeological, textual, and ethnographic materials collected and analyzed by the author. Bellezza describes the vast network of castles, temples, megaliths, necropolises, and rock art established on the highest and now depopulated part of the Tibetan plateau. He relates literary tales of priests and priestesses, horned deities, and the celestial afterlife to the actual archaeological evidence, providing a fascinating perspective on the origins and development of civilization. The story builds to the present by following the colorful culture of the herders of Upper Tibet, an ancient people whose way of life is endangered by modern development. Tracing Bellezza’s epic journeys across lands where few Westerners have ventured, this book provides a compelling window into the most inaccessible reaches of Tibet and a civilization that flourished long before Buddhism took root.
- Jonathan Schlesinger; A World Trimmed with Fur: Wild Things, Pristine Places, and the Natural Fringes of the Qing Rule
Jonathan Schlesinger’s new book includes important references to Mongolia and Mongolians within the broader context of environmental history in outlying regions of northeast Asia under Qing rule. In particular, it draws on Manchu and Mongolian historical sources to analyze a variety of environmental issues as well as their political impact at the time. Importantly, it provides a perspective from the “frontiers” of Empire rather than from its “center”. Intriguingly, it focuses on three main commodities and the important environmental issues surrounding them: pearls from Manchuria, wild mushrooms from Mongolia and furs from regions bordering Russia.
According to Inner Asia reviewer Andrei Marin from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, A World Trimmed with Fur is “very well structured and documented, with the central ideas made visible throughout the text. It is undisputedly a valuable addition to building a critical view of environmental ideas in the region”.
Marin in his review also notes that A World Trimmed with Fur “documents the evolution of environmental attitudes and ideas prominent in the centers of power, and the political nature of the discourses related to environmental degradation . . . We also get insight into how the colonial visions of ‘pristine nature’ were deployed in order to ‘purify’ nature on the steppe and in the forests. The resulting conclusion, central to the book, is that the Qing Empire did not merely preserve nature, it invented it”.
- Peter Frankopan, The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World
All roads used to lead to Rome. Now they lead to Beijing.” So argues Peter Frankopan in this revelatory new book.
In the age of Brexit and Trump, the West is buffeted by the tides of isolationism and fragmentation. Yet to the East, this is a moment of optimism as a new network of relationships takes shape along the ancient trade routes. In The New Silk Roads, Peter Frankopan takes us on an eye-opening journey through the region, from China’s breathtaking infrastructure investments to the flood of trade deals among Central Asian republics to the growing rapprochement between Turkey and Russia. This important book asks us to put aside our preconceptions and see the world from a new–and ultimately hopeful–perspective.
- Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
Far more than a history of the Silk Roads, this book is truly a revelatory new history of the world, promising to destabilize notions of where we come from and where we are headed next. From the Middle East and its political instability to China and its economic rise, the vast region stretching eastward from the Balkans across the steppe and South Asia has been thrust into the global spotlight in recent years. Frankopan teaches us that to understand what is at stake for the cities and nations built on these intricate trade routes, we must first understand their astounding pasts.
Frankopan realigns our understanding of the world, pointing us eastward. It was on the Silk Roads that East and West first encountered each other through trade and conquest, leading to the spread of ideas, cultures and religions. From the rise and fall of empires to the spread of Buddhism and the advent of Christianity and Islam, right up to the great wars of the twentieth century—this book shows how the fate of the West has always been inextricably linked to the East.
- Helen Hundley, “The Mongol Empire in World History” (Association for Asian Studies, 2016)
In a thoroughly comprehensive manner, Helen Hundley successfully demonstrates the complex legacy of the Mongol presence in medieval history, when Mongol warriors created a vast political organism facilitating interethnic and intercontinental economic and cultural exchange. Hundley offers the reader not only insight into the political organization of the diverse Mongol realm, but also an eloquent discussion on the religious effects of Mongol policies as well as the role of women in dynastic interests. The usefulness of the text is manifold: it is helpful reference material for those who specialize in Asian Studies and the European Middle Ages and also teach world history with an emphasis on cultural interaction, and also serves a comprehensive introduction to the history of the Mongol Empire, accessible to general readership.” – Sebastian P. Bartos, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History Valdosta State University.