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HIST341: The Silk Road and Central Eurasia

Unit 8: The Timurids, Mughals, and the Ming   After the collapse of the Mongol Empire, the Timurids rose to power in the latter part of the fourteenth century.  Led by Tamerlane, the Timurids established their capital at Samarakand, one of the great cities of the Silk Road.  Through Silk Road commerce, Tamerlane and his successors established diplomatic relations with Ming China.  By the sixteenth century, the Mughal Empire, one of the great empires to occupy Central Eurasia, had assumed control of much of the Silk Road.  While some scholars have suggested that the Silk Road commercial system collapsed with the disintegration of the Mongol Empire and the rise of European maritime trade in the 1400s, overland trade continued to flourish. 

In this unit, we will consider how the great land-based empires of Central Eurasia influenced the overland trade between the 1400s and 1600s. 

Unit 8 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit will take you approximately 13 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 8.1: 9 hours
 

☐    Sub-subunit 8.1.1: 0.5 hour
 

☐    Sub-subunit 8.1.2: 0.5 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 8.1.3: 0.5 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 8.1.4: 0.5 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 8.1.5: 7 hours
 

☐    Subunit 8.2: 4 hours

Unit8 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Discuss major political developments in China, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent following the disintegration of the Mongol Empire.
  • Describe some of the major features of Mughal rule in India and the explanations given for its collapse.

8.1 Rise of Timurids   8.1.1 Timur and the Mongols   - Reading: University of Washington: Professor Daniel C. Waugh’s “The Mongols” and “The Timurids” Links: University of Washington: Professor Daniel C. Waugh’s “The Mongols” (HTML) and “The Timurids” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read these texts in their entirety.  In them, Professor Waugh discusses the history of the Mongols, who created the greatest of all the Eurasian empires, and the Timurids, founders of the Mughal Empire, which ruled a large portion of the Indian subcontinent.
 
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8.1.2 Campaigns in India   - Reading: Library of Congress Country Studies: James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden’s (ed.) India: A Country Study: “The Mughals” Link: Library of Congress Country Studies: James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden’s (ed.) India: A Country Study: “The Mughals” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  This reading narrates the invasion and rule of the Mughals of India, descendants of the Mongol, Turkish, Iranian, and Afghan invaders of South Asia, during the sixteenth century.
 
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8.1.3 The Ottomans and Mamluks   - Reading: Jewish Virtual Library’s “Mamluks” Link: Jewish Virtual Library’s “Mamluks” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read is text in its entirety.  Mamluks were Turkish soldiers of slave origin that ruled Egypt from 1250 to 1517 and Syria from 1260 to 1516.
  
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  • Reading: IslamiCity’s “Islam and Islamic History in Arabia and The Middle East”: “The Mongols and the Mamluks” Link: IslamiCity’s “Islam and Islamic History in Arabia and The Middle East”: “The Mongols and the Mamluks” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  This reading briefly describes the tense relations between the Mongols and the Mamluks.  The Mamluks were the first power to defeat the Mongols in open combat.
     
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8.1.4 Relations with Ming China   - Reading: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” exhibit: “The Ming Dynasty” Link: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” exhibit: “The Ming Dynasty” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the last Han dynasty to rule China, is considered to be one of the greatest eras of political and social stability.
 
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8.1.5 Samarkand   - Reading: University of Washington: Professor Daniel C. Waugh’s “Clavijo’s Embassy to Tamerlane” Link: University of Washington: Professor Daniel C. Waugh’s “Clavijo’s Embassy to Tamerlane” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this text and all embedded links in their entirety.  Pay special attention to section “22. Description of Samarkand.”  An account of the western half of the Silk Road, Clavijo’s memorial details the major political and economic centers of the silk routes within Timur’s empire.  Sent as an ambassador to Tamerlane by King Henry III of Castile and Leon, Clavijo journeyed from 1402 to 1406 through Constantinople, Trebizond, and inland across northern Iran and Central Eurasia.
 
The extracts and maps are from the translation by Guy Le Strange, Clavijo.  Embassy to Tamerlane 1403-1406 (New York and London: Harper, 1928).  This page is maintained by Professor Daniel C. Waugh and the University of Washington. 
 
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  • Reading: University of Washington: Professor Daniel C. Waugh’s “Samarkand,” “Samarkand and the Silk Road in the Time of the Timurids and Their Heirs,” and “The Shah-i-Zinde in Samarkand” Links: University of Washington: Professor Daniel C. Waugh’s “Samarkand,” (HTML) “Samarkand and the Silk Road in the Time of the Timurids and Their Heirs,” (HTML) and “The Shah-i Zinde in Samarkand” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read these texts in their entirety.  The city of Samarkand is most noted for its central position on the Silk Road between China and the West, and for being an Islamic center for scholarly study.
     
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8.2 The Mughal Empire   8.2.1 Rise of Muslim Civilization in India   - Reading: Library of Congress Country Studies: James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden’s (ed.) India: A Country Study: “The Coming of Islam” Link: Library of Congress Country Studies: James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden’s (ed.) India: A Country Study: “The Coming of Islam” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  Islam is now the second-most practiced religion in the Republic of India after Hinduism.  Before addressing the history of the Muslim-led Mughal Empire, which was established in the Indian subcontinent during the sixteenth century, this reading discusses Islam’s earlier arrival in India, and how it became an integral part of the region’s rich cultural and religious heritage.  
 
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8.2.2 Akbar and the Founding of the Mughal Empire   - Reading: University of Calgary’s The Applied History Research Group’s “The Mughal Empire” Link: University of Calgary: The Applied History Research Group’s “The Mughal Empire
 
Instructions: This series of readings covers many of the political and cultural milestones in the history of Mughal India, from the founding of the empire to its decline.  Please read all of the sections listed on the left side of the opening page (“Babur and the Founding of the Empire,” “Humayun,” “Akbar,” and “Chapter Summary”).  Note that some of these pages contain links to additional short readings and collections of images. 
 
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8.2.3 Mughal Splendor and European Contacts   - Reading: George Mason University’s version of François Bernier’s “Letter to Monsieur Chapelain” (1667) Link: George Mason University’s version of François Bernier’s “Letter to Monsieur Chapelain” (1667) (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  Written in the mid-seventeenth century by a French physician, this document indicates some of the ways in which Mughal life was experienced and portrayed by Western observers.  Bernier was the first European to describe the region of Kashmir; his position as a medical doctor in the court of Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughal emperors, provides an unprecedented window into Mughal culture and customs, as well as the sentiments they inspired in contemporary Europeans.
  
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8.2.4 The Mughal Era Contributions to India’s Cultural History   - Reading: University of Washington’s Daniel C. Waugh’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: “Mughal India's Timurid Heritage” Link: University of Washington’s Daniel C. Waugh’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: “Mughal India's Timurid Heritage” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  This final glimpse in our course of the Mughal Empire discusses the ways in which imperial elites looked back upon their own Timurid heritage and the manner in which these sentiments are reflected in their cultural productions.  Please use the links to the images on the left side of the page for short but valuable introductions to some of the major artistic and architectural accomplishments of Mughal India. By discussing its Timurid heritage, Professor Waugh points out the key characteristics of Mughal India.
 
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