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Christopher Atwood: Environmental Geographies of the Mongol Empire
February 8, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Speaker: Christopher Atwood, Professor, Mongolian and Chinese Frontier & Ethnic History, University of Pennsylvania
The European conquest of the Americas, the consequent ecological exchange, massive mortality, and rise of plantation economies have been one of the prime topics of environmental history. 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 and hunting 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 empire, focusing on North China, showing how distinctive the environment was, and how Mongol imperial policy used environmental zonation and control of labor as a crucial tool of governance.