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Before the Mongols: Nomadic Empires of Central Eurasia, 900-1200 - HIS00140I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Dilnoza Duturaeva
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

By the end of the first millennium CE, a vast portion of Central Eurasia was controlled by nomadic powers that stretched from China to Europe. This was the beginning of “the age of the transregional nomadic empires” (Jerry Bentley) in world history that also includes the Mongol Empire (1206-1368) era, when the nomads reached their height in terms of influence on world history. This module focuses on the history of Central Eurasia before the Mongols and introduces main political and cultural patterns that took place in the region from the tenth to the early thirteenth centuries.

After a brief survey of geographic and geopolitical contours of Central Eurasia we will discuss the major cultural, religious, economic and political changes that occurred in the region. We will study the first Turko-Islamic dynasties that dominated in the territories from Northern India to the Volga region and from west China to Anatolia and explore the Non-Han dynasties of China. We will also take into account events and trends in the neighbouring regions (China, Arabia, Europe) and the influence of changes that took place in Central Eurasia on these areas from invasions and migrations to trade networks and cultural exchange. Our aim is to explore this history critically by reading and commenting on primary historical sources in different languages (mainly in Arabic, Persian, Turkic and Chinese), all available in English translation.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study particular historical topics in depth
  • To develop students’ ability to examine a topic from a range of perspectives and to strengthen their ability to work critically and reflectively with secondary and primary material

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have acquired a deep knowledge of the specific topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to use and synthesise a range of primary and secondary sources
  • Be able to evaluate the arguments that historians have made about the topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to study independently through seminar-based teaching

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 1-hour plenary/lecture and a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW) during which there are no seminars. Students prepare for and participate in eight 1-hour plenaries/lectures and eight 2-hour seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. The Ascendancy of the Turks in Central Asia
  2. The Patrons of Persian Culture in India
  3. Between the Arabs and the Vikings
  4. The Turks in Iran and Anatolia
  5. Between China and the Islamic world: Non-Islamic Central Asia
  6. Non-Han dynasties in China
  7. The “Chinese” dynasty outside of China
  8. Global networks and migration of ideas


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will complete a referenced 1200 to 1500-word essay relating to the themes and issues of the module. This will be submitted in either the Week 5 or Week 9 RAW week (on the day of the weekly seminar).

For summative assessment, students will complete an Assessed Essay (2000 words, footnoted). This will comprise 100% of the overall module mark.

Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Beckwith, Christopher. Empires of the Silk Road. A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the present. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  • Biran, Michal. The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Golden, Peter B. Central Asia in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.