Accepted Paper:

"In Bitter and Grievous Times": Depictions of the Mongol Empire in Armenian Colophons  


Armen Abkarian (University of Michigan)

Paper long abstract:

When challenging historical narratives in the bourgeoning field of frontier studies, finding new sources for historical reference has been of increasing importance. This is especially true for the Mongol empire because scholars have already thoroughly examined most primary sources of that era. However, by moving beyond mainstream sources, there is a wealth of information in more unorthodox documents that can reinvigorate the field by contributing a fresh perspective.

In my own research of the periphery of the Mongol Empire, I have been primarily concerned with the Armenian experience. My approach has been to examine Armenian historiography by tracing developments of the Mongol era solely through colophons of Armenian manuscripts from the 13th century. A unique feature of these colophons was that, in addition to providing basic information about the books' scribes, they contained unusually detailed material regarding current events. This additional information reflected the medieval Middle Eastern trope of self-deprecation as a disclaimer for any blemishes in the manuscripts' craftsmanship. But in doing so, the scribes revealed a surprising amount regarding sociopolitical developments of their time. The events they discussed, in addition to any opinions they shared, build a profile of this particular area of Armenian historiography.

In a further effort to engage with these sources, I have catalogued the colophons and organized them chronologically, geographically, as well as thematically. Then, by placing them in a visual context with the use of historical maps, I will attempt to answer how the circumstances behind the colophons' production has influenced their content.

Panel HIS-12
Mongols, Uyghurs and Xinjiang