Toward a Trans-imperial Intellectual History of Central Eurasia, 1644–1820
The early modern era was a watershed period for empire-building in Eurasia. Whether they endured, like the Qing and Russia, or proved temporary, like those of Nadir Shah or the Junghars, these imperial projects left a permanent imprint on the region. Many of their most important legacies lay in the realm of ideas. As states struggled to understand new neighbors and subjects, and their people created unprecedented intellectual connections within and across borders, new forms of knowledge fermented in Eurasia. Studying the texts in which these were expressed poses unique challenges as well as opportunities. Instead of neatly published travelogues or statistical reports, they are often unsigned memoranda and haphazard translations of obscure originals. They are far more commonly the work of anonymous bureaucrats and monks than well-known intellectuals. These works, in which spheres of knowledge collided and fused, offer a largely unknown vista onto the transnational intellectual history of the Eurasian empires.
Taking the westward expansion of the Qing as their common point of departure, the papers in this panel address the creation of bodies of work in a variety of genres, from history to law, by writers from Japan, Mongolia, Russia, and the Islamic world. Together, they represent an argument for a Eurasian history that takes full account of the powerful transnational flows that distinguished the region in the early modern period and links up communities of scholarship that have traditionally been isolated from one another. The panel is targeted at scholars throughout Eurasian studies as well as anyone interested in the transnational history of ideas.