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Trans-Asian Trade along the Silk Roads, 1000-1200 - MST00084M

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  • Department: Centre for Medieval Studies
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Dilnoza Duturaeva
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

  • Have an understanding of the historical context of trans-Asian trade and networks in 1000-1200
  • Question both their previous knowledge and current narratives related to the topic
  • Analyse and critically use original written sources together with archaeological and visual materials

Module content

Trans-Asian trade along the Silk Roads experienced one of the most turbulent phases in its history in the period between the fall of the Tang dynasty and the rise of the Mongols. Political instability in Central and North Asia and the withdrawal of the Tang dynasty from the Western Regions restricted access to the caravan routes that have connected China and Central Asia since ancient times. However, trade always could find a way of running through the barriers, which can also be seen in the present day. Without sharing goods, ideas and knowledge, the world in the 10th -12th centuries would have been much poorer. Moreover, it’s difficult to imagine that the Silk Roads declined in this era when the Song dynasty, as all Chinese dynasties, had a high demand for horses from the
Western Regions.

This module seeks to understand how trans-Asian trade functioned during the political upheaval and explores the “renewal” of the Silk Roads in the 11 th century providing a Central Asian perspective. We will study the role of Central Asian polities in international trade between China, India, Iran and Anatolia and explore commodity and exchange in the history of Central Eurasia, focusing on the period when not only silk was a major primary commodity transported from China to Central Asia and beyond. Through dynastic histories, official documents, history works, diaries and travelogues as well as art objects and historical maps we will examine trade and economic diplomacy between China and the “West” along the global caravan routes.

Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9. The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

1. Asia in 1000-1200
2. Song China and Central Asia
3. Liao China and the Islamic World
4. The Tanguts and Overland Trade
5. China, India and Iran: Global Caravan and Maritime Routes
6. When not only Silk was Gold: Tea-Horse Trade
7. Baltic Amber in China
8. Between Arabia and China: Frankincense Trade


Task Length % of module mark
3500-4000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

CMS Students are expected to develop their essay topic in consultation with staff teaching on the module, and they are also strongly encouraged to submit a draft of their essay for feedback before the end of term. The draft essay replaces any formative assessment assignments and is a unique opportunity given to CMS students in recognition of the challenges they face in writing in an unfamiliar discipline.

Draft essays are normally submitted to the relevant staff member by the beginning of week 9 at the latest, in order to receive feedback
by the end of term. The word limit for the draft essay is 2,500 words.

Students will then submit a 3,500 - 4,000-word assessed essay for the summative assessment in week 1 of the summer term.


Task Length % of module mark
3500-4000 word essay
N/A 100

Module 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.

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:

  • Valerie Hansen. The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World and Globalization Began (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020).
  • Hyunhee Park. Mapping the Chinese and Islamic worlds: cross-cultural exchange in the Pre-modern Asia(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
  • Liu Xinru. The Silk Road in World History (Oxford: Oxford University, 2010).
  • John W. Chaffee and Denis Twitchett, eds. The Cambridge History of China: Sung China, 960–1279, vol. 5, part 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

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.