The Mongols and the Changing Patterns of Indian Ocean Connections

Lecture: Center for Chinese Studies: Institute of East Asian Studies: Mongolia Initiative: Center for Southeast Asia Studies | November 3 | 5-7 p.m. |  Alumni House

 Tansen Sen, NYU Shanghai

 Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, Mongolia Initiative

In the thirteenth century, the expansion of Mongol forces under Genghis Khan and his descendants resulted in the formation of a vast Eurasian empire stretching from the Korean peninsula to central Europe. Despite the eventual fragmentation of this Mongol empire into four contending khanates, the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries witnessed unprecedented interactions between polities and societies across the Eurasian realm. Past studies highlighting these exchanges have primarily focused on the overland connections. This paper will demonstrate that the formation of the Mongol empire also had a significant impact on the Indian Ocean world. It will argue that new patterns of maritime exchanges emerged as a consequence of the connections between the Yuan empire in China, South Asia, and the Ilkhanate in Iran. These new patterns are discernible with regard to the use of naval power, diplomacy, commercial linkages, and cultural diffusion. The Ming voyages led by the eunuch admiral Zheng He in the early fifteenth century and even the initial Portuguese expansion into the Indian Ocean, the paper will contend, followed some of the key patterns of maritime exchanges that developed during the Mongol period.

Tansen Sen is Director of the Center for Global Asia, Professor of History, NYU Shanghai; Global Network Professor, NYU. He received his MA from Peking University and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.