The Bound Steppe: Notes on Enslavement in Qing Mongolia


2018-04-16 11:39 GMT+8


In this presentation, he briefly examines several archival examples of enslavement to illustrate important topics and challenges in the history of slavery in Mongolia: the phenomenon of slavery skepticism in Inner Asian history, the terminology of enslavement in early modern Mongolia, and the seeming disappearance of slavery as a formal practice in the nineteenth century.

Mongolia’s historical record is replete with references to captivity, enslavement, and release from bondage. Despite the ubiquity of these references, there are few studies of slavery as a historical issue in Mongolian history.

Scholars have instead argued that slavery was either insignificant or absent in pastoral nomadic Inner Asian societies including Mongolia, based on a dubious methodology of applying modern ethnographic concepts to historical and archaeological data, and relying on the apparent ambiguity of terms for enslavement in Mongolia.

Based on hundreds of wills and testaments from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries held in the Mongolian National Central Archives, I will analyze some of these terms in their contemporary context and compare them with the terminology of enslavement in other societies.

Finally, I will examine the nineteenth century decline in instances of enslavement on the basis of the testamentary evidence and suggest factors that led to the decline, such as changes in family and labor practices. This project engages Mongolian social history by examining local level processes of social change in the context of enslavement and manumission (the release from bondage), phenomena generally relevant to early modern world history.

Where: American Corner, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
When: Tuesday, April 17, 2018, 5:30-7:00 p.m.

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