Christopher Atwood

Christopher P. Atwood teaches Mongolian and Chinese history at the University of Pennsylvania. His interest in Mongol empire focuses on ways in which the empire anticipates developments commonly seen as being early modern: ecological and cultural exchange in a context of technocratic rule, mass mortality, and attendant environmental and climate upheavals.


Population Mobilization in Early Mongol Conquests

Dans le cadre du séminaire Migrations et démographie en Asie centrale (IVe-XIe siècle) organisé par Étienne de La Vaissière

Perso-Arabic historians give a lurid picture of the Mongol practices of massacre and deportation. Debate about these practices has long focused rather unproductively on the exact numbers massacred by the Mongols and whether this fits the definition of genocide. This talk will focus on forms and practices of deportation and show how the Chinese historical and legal sources, while not nearly as dramatic and vivid as the Perso-Arabic tradition, supply much more detailed data on the actual mechanics of deportation; deportations appear to have had significantly greater demographic impact than direct massacres. Professor Atwood will conclude with an examination of how these practices flowed into practices during the subsequent Mongol regime both in the North and in South China. Control of labor emerges as one of the key constants in the Mongol regime, although its forms changed.

  • Vendredi 17 mai 2019, de 13h à 15h, EHESS, AS1-08 (sous-sol), 54 Bd Raspail, 75006 Paris

Partners in Profit: Empires, Merchants, and Local Governments in the Mongol Empire and Qing Mongolia

Orto’ud, or business partners, were an essential part of the Mongol conquests and rule. But the word has disappeared in Mongolian today, replaced by a Chinese loan word tünš. Even when the word orto’ud “partners” appears in classical Mongolian sources, editors have not recognized it. What happened to this key word in the history of Mongolian “war capitalism”? And when and where did its Chinese replacement, tünš – which originally meant “interpreter” – come to mean “business partner”? Professor Atwood will use little known Uyghur-Mongolian texts and documents to shed light on the orto’ud “partners” from the heyday of the Mongol empire in the thirteenth and fourteenth century, to their decline, and to the strange rebirth of the institution –if not the name – during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries rule of China’s Manchu Qing rulers over Mongolia.

  • Mercredi 29 mai 2019, de 14h à 16h, EPHE, Centre d'études mongoles et sibériennes, salle P1-01 (1er étage), 54 Bd Raspail, 75006 Paris

The Environmental Geography of Mongol China

Dans le cadre du séminaire Migrations et démographie en Asie centrale (IVe-XIe siècle) organisé par Étienne de La Vaissière

Since John Richard’s Unending Frontier (2003) and Alfred Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism (2004), the ecological impacts and imperatives of empires have been preoccupied historians of the early modern period. Less widely understood have been the similar ecological impacts and imperatives of the thirteenth century Mongol empire. Environment has been an important area of focus in the study of Central Eurasian nomads, but within a framework that takes the relative stability of the ecological infrastructure as a given. The Mongol empire, however, resulted in a both a vast expansion of pastoralism together with the kind of directed agricultural expansion that we usually associate with the early modern world. The result was an environment in Mongol China that looked vastly different from anything in China before or after – and yet which left permanent marks on the Chinese economy and agriculture. This paper will present research on the environmental geography of Mongol China, showing how distinctive the environment was, and how that distinctiveness was the result of ongoing Mongol imperial policy.

  • Vendredi 7 juin 2019, de 13h à 15h, EHESS, AS1-08 (sous-sol), 54 Bd Raspail, 75006 Paris

Empire of Cotton, Empire of the Mongols

Dans le cadre du séminaire Migrations et démographie en Asie centrale (IVe-XIe siècle) organisé par Étienne de La Vaissière

"Since the days of Paul Pelliot, it has been understood that the Mongol Yuan dynasty marked the era when cotton went from being a marginal fiber in remote local markets to being one of China’s central fiber crops. Previous discussions have dealt with this spread as an aspect of cultural exchange. Sven Beckert recently made the case for cotton as the prime commodity in the industrial revolution and demonstrated how “war capitalism,” involving conquest, depopulation, slavery, and other forms of direct government coercion played a fundamental role in birthing this capitalist market in cotton. Likewise, the Yuan agricultural institutions grew out of a tradition of deportation that aimed to supply on a non-market basis the empire as a whole, and each branch of the Mongol imperial family severally, with the essential products they needed. The Yuan-era tuntian or military farms offered a new institutional form for the same basic purpose. Professor Atwood will investigate how the Mongol empire’s policies of military farms and taxation directly promoted the spread of cotton in North China. The study will highlight the inescapable role of violence and deportation in the development of world markets and cultural exchange.

  • Vendredi 14 juin 2019, de 13h à 15h, EHESS, AS1-08 (sous-sol), 54 Bd Raspail, 75006 Paris