Fall 2019 HC 231H: Crossing the Pamir Mountains: A Silk Roads History

Fall 2019-2020

Professor: Roxann Prazniak

4.00 credits

  • CRN 12767: Tuesday & Thursday, 10:00 - 11:20 @ CHA 202
  • CRN 12768: Tuesday & Thursday, 12:00 - 13:20 @ CHA 202

This course is not about mountaineering, but if you have done any backpacking or climbed Spencer Butte you will have a feel for the travel experiences of those who traversed the Eurasian continent in centuries past.  Although the geography of high mountain passes, river valleys, and desert oases has remained largely unchanged, the human story enacted on this terrain reveals layers of climate change both natural and social, making Eurasia a core sample in our search for historical understanding. We begin by looking back from the 19th and 20th century movements of people and ideas, peeling back layers of encounter among societies in Iran, France, Afghanistan, and China (PRC). We explore the complexities of the present that make us wonder about the past. What has changed across this political and natural terrain?  For this we need to get to the heart of our inquiry -- the long thirteenth century (1206-1368) of global upheaval, the Mongol Empire and its predecessors. Our primary sources include traveler accounts, art, and literature of the pre-1400 era, including The Great Mongol Shahnama, Marco Polo’s Travels, and Rashid al-Din’s Jami ‘al-Tavarikh [Compendium of Histories]. Students will present material for group discussion and write analytical essays based on primary readings. Specific interests in this material will happily be accommodated.  Our goal is to build reading, writing, and speaking skills in critical thinking and historical analysis.