Organized Panel Session
How did the Mongol Empire change the natural environments of Eastern Eurasia? In contrast to the “biological expansion of Europe,” historians have paid surprisingly scant attention to the environmental implications of the Mongol Empire. For two centuries, Mongol conquests connected a broad and diverse territory, reshaping herding, hunting, and human migrations from the taiga to the tropics. Nor did this impact cease with the end of Mongol rule. In China and Korea, the ecological implications of Mongol policies resonated for centuries after the decline of the Yuan dynasty, while in Central Asia, Mongol institutions continued to shape land-use and demography well into the modern era.
This panel uses new approaches from environmental history to center the Mongol Empire in the making of early modern and modern Asia. Mongol practices and institutions transformed resource extraction, landscape composition, and approaches to flora and fauna. Patterns established under Mongol rule cut paths for later successor regimes to follow and continued to impact the lands of their former subjects into the twentieth century. The panel begins with an analysis of the environmental legacies of the Mongol tributary system in Ming China. The next presentation focuses on the royal hunt in Korea during and after Mongol rule, showing how Mongol practices reshaped the political dimensions of human-fauna relations. The panel concludes with two studies of the long-term transformations of a key Mongol landscape – the animal pasture – in the Korean peninsula and on the Kazakh steppe.