Central Asia under Mongol Rule: Rulers, Subjects and Emigrants of the Chaghadaid Khanate (1220-1405)

This project undertakes to fill an important void in the study of both the Mongol empire and Central Asian history by reconstructing the intricate mosaic that constituted Central Asian society under Mongol rule and by analyzing various political, institutional, social, and intellectual aspects of the Chaghadaid Khanate. 

Named after Chaghadai, Chinggis Khan’s second son, this polity ruled over Central Asia—from present-day Uzbekistan to eastern Xinjiang, China—between 1220 and 1370 and over eastern Central Asia (Moghulistan) until the 17th century. However, the chronological scope of the proposed study ends with the passing of Tamerlane (r. 1370-1405), for at this juncture both the Timurids and Chaghadaid Moghuls relinquished all hope of reuniting the severed Chaghadaid Khanate.

Although the study of the Mongol empire and Central Asia has flourished in recent decades, scholars have, by and large, ignored the Chaghadaids. This is due to the relative dearth of  indigenous sources that were written in their khanate, especially compared to the ample historical literature available from the neighboring states of Yuan China and Ilkhanid Iran. In light of the above, a history of the Chaghadaids can only be achieved by synthesizing a vast array of multilingual sources that were composed in different genres and regions. Accordingly, the project under review will integrate a close reading of many and manifold literary sources—largely in Persian, Arabic, and Chinese—from Yuan and Ming China, Ilkhanid and Timurid Iran, and to a lesser extent from Mamluk Egypt and Syria, the Delhi Sultanate, and Western Europe with all the extant indigenous sources that originated in Mongol Central Asia: Mongolian and Uighur documents, Syriac gravestones (in translation), colophons, scientific, religious, and literary works, and numismatic and archaeological studies (primarily in Russian). Drawing on this plethora of sources, I will forge a new history of the Chaghadaids.

This will be accomplished by means of three complementary steps: 

  1. Analyzing the political history of the Chaghadaid Khanate and its major institutions. Within this framework, I will also explore the polity’s ties with its Eurasian counterparts. 
  2. Reconstructing, within the limits of the existing sources, the social-economic and culturalintellectual life of Central Asian nomadic and sedentary societies in the Chaghadaid realm. This includes the activities of Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and even Jewish networks that operated in Central Asia, as well as the relations that these people had with both the Mongol rulers and their co-religionists outside the khanate. 
  3. Mapping Central Asian emigrants and diasporas in the various Mongol khanates (as well as the Mamluk and Delhi Sultanates) and examining the role that they filled in the empire and throughout Eurasia during the period in question. 

On the basis of these three principal steps, I will then determine Central Asia’s place in the Mongol empire and that of the Mongol empire in Central Asian history. In so doing, the study will not only give the Chaghadaids their deserved place in world history, but promises to considerably enhance our theoretical understanding of cross cultural contacts, East-West exchange, pre-modern migrations, diasporas politics, and nomad-sedentary relations.