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Title: The image of the Mongols in Western European imagination (1220-1500)
Author: Fielding, Ann Trudy
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2005
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Recent work by Jackson, Reichert and Schmieder among others has illuminated how Mongols and Europeans interacted. My research looks at the consequences of this interaction and at how Europeans devised and used images of Mongols. These images have generally been overlooked, or the presence of Mongols in them has been dismissed as mere superficial exoticism. This research both reveals these images as being too individual to be subsumed in a general discussion of Orientalism and casts light on propaganda strategies of church and state. The earliest European images of the Mongols represent them as savage creatures coming to wreak destruction. These images have received a disproportionate amount of attention in the past, and my first chapter argues both that they have to be seen within an apocalyptic context and that from the third quarter of the thirteenth century onwards they had surprisingly little influence. As peaceable trade relations became established, more varied and less predictable images of the Mongols were created and used. My second chapter discusses the reception in Europe of the porcelains and embroidered silks imported from lands controlled by the Mongols between the mid-thirteenth and the mid-fourteenth centuries. Alongside this trade went a more structured attempt by the Papacy not only to convert the Mongols, but also to divide Asia up into Franciscan and Dominican areas of influence. My third chapter focuses on how in the 1350s and 1360s, just as their bishoprics in China were being abandoned, the two orders placed Mongol figures in the frescoes of their central Italian churches. Often dismissed as mere superficial exoticism, these images are better read as propaganda pieces in the argument between the orders as to which one had the better candidates to martyrdom and the most missionary zeal. Finally, the fourth chapter discusses how this papal initiative was mirrored by secular images of the Great Khan as an autocratic ruler of an immense kingdom where there was no priestly interference. This image had very little to do with the actual Mongols: the very idea of a ‘Mongol Kingdom’ misses out the fractures within their empire. However, this research has revealed that the Mongol rulers had a hand in the creation of this Western image of them. Their diplomatic letters to the West planted suggestions that the Mongols were Christian, or at least inclined towards Christianity, and of immense power and wealth. This idea had a huge afterlife in Western Europe.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available