Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Syllabus Archive

The following syllabi come from a variety of different terms. They illustrate the evolution of this course over time, and are intended to provide alternate views into the instruction of this course.

Fall 2008, Ian Chapman (PDF)

Fall 2003, Peter Perdue (PDF)


This subject examines interactions across the Eurasian continent between Russians, Chinese, Mongolian nomads, and Turkic oasis dwellers during the last millennium and a half. As empires rose and fell, religions, trade, and war flowed back and forth continuously across this vast space. Today, the fall of the Soviet Union and China's reforms have opened up new opportunities for cultural interaction. Topics include the religious traditions of Central Asian Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Confucianism; caravans and travelers like Marco Polo and Rabban Sauma [the first Chinese to travel to the West]; nomadic conquest and imperialist competition, past and present. Source materials include primary documents, travelogues, films, and music.

Course Requirements

This will be a lecture and discussion course. Come to class having done the reading for the week, and be prepared to discuss questions raised in the reading and lectures. There will be one hour exam at midterm, with a map quiz, ID questions, and a short essay.

Much of the information we have about this region comes from travelers' reports. These are both useful sources and fun to read. Each of you will have to read one, or part of one, traveler's account and give a short report on it in class. I will provide suggestions and bibliography later on.

One 10-15 page paper is due BEFORE the last class. This can be a discussion of a travel account, an art exhibit, political relations, or on a topic of your choice. I will give suggested topics and bibliography during the term.

There is NO Final Exam.


Barfield, Thomas. The Perilous Frontier.

Bonavia, Judy. The Silk Road.

Brower, Daniel R., and Edward Lazzerini, eds. Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1700-1917.

Foltz, Richard. Religions of the Silk Road.

Hopkirk, Peter. The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia.

Kipling, Rudyard. Kim.

Xinru, Liu. The Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Interaction.

Polo, Marco. The Book of Marco Polo.

Rossabi, Morris. Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times.

Rudelson, Justin. Oasis Identities.

Whitfield, Susan. Life along the Silk Road.

Titles of Student Papers

  • National Identities in Post Soviet Central Asia
  • Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Rudyard Kipling's Kim
  • Mongolian Nationhood in Outer and Inner Mongolia
  • The Expeditions of Younghusband and Peter Fleming
  • Tibet and Communist China
  • Warfare on the Steppe