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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
Web Exercises
Chapter 11: Nomads and the New Order in Asia, ca 800-1400

Between 800 and 1400 interaction among the societies of Southern and Central Asia  increased dramatically.  One factor driving this interaction was the development of the eastern trade routes over the Indian Ocean.  Along with trade goods Indian merchants carried their culture to Southeast Asia, where it blended with the indigenous cultures to produce new hybrid civilizations.  Equally important was the rise of nomadic peoples.  Turkish nomads helped to spread Islam to Central Asia and northwestern India; and the Mongols redrew the world political map from the Korean peninsula to eastern Europe, absorbing diverse cultural elements as their armies progressed.  The activates below will help you to reinforce and amplify what you have already learned about this period.

Helpful Hints:
  • You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and questions detailed in each activity.
  • On many web sites you can increase the size of the images by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine fine details in photographs.
Activity One:
  • Old trade routes such as the Silk Road continued to be vital conduits for goods and ideas.  However, these overland routes were supplemented by increasingly extensive sea routes.  Examine Map 1: note the Silk Road and other overland routes through Central Asia and sea routes over the Indian Ocean; give special attention to the routes connecting India with Southeast Asia. (You can enlarge the map by clicking on the icon that will appear in the lower right corner of the map.)
  • Indian and Southeast Asian merchants carried on lively trade along the sea routes depicted on Map 1.  How did they manage to navigate such long distances? Go to  Ships of the Old World.  When you arrive, scroll down to and read the sections on Indian and East Asian ships.  Now read Early Navigation Methods to learn more about how mariners of this period got from one place to another.
Activity Two:

During this period several important states emerged in South and Southeast Asia.
  • One of these was the Gupta Empire in India, which existed from A.D. 320 to 480. Review page 308 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition). How was the Gupta Empire similar to and different from the Han Dynasty and the Roman Empire? Add the Gupta Empire to your chart from the fourth activity. You might want to consult map 2, The Later Guptas and Decline of the Gupta Empire, and the Age of the Guptas and After.
  • In Southeast Asia several states rose under the influence of Indian culture.  These states were not carbon copies of Indian civilization. Instead, they were hybrids of Indian and indigenous cultures. To better comprehend this development, go to The Old Kingdoms, a chronology of the history of Indonesia. In addition read Early Malay Kingdoms, The Period of Hindu Kingdoms, and Buddhist Empires. How did these kingdoms reflect Indian culture? How did they reflect a hybridization of Indian and indigenous cultures?
  • Probably the best way to observe the impact of Indian culture on Southeast Asia is through visual images. Read about the great Indonesian Buddhist temple of Borobudur and examine some images of the building (you can click on them to enlarge).  Now read about Cambodia's Angkor Wat and examine a few images of the structures.  How do these two temple complexes display Indian influence?
Activity Three:
  • Another catalyst for greater communication within Asia between 800 and 1400 was nomadic movements. To better understand the importance of Central Asian nomads in world history, read "Origin of the Mongols" at Mongol history and chronology from ancient times. Now go to The Islamic World to 1600: Central Asia. According to these essays, what civilizations influenced the peoples of Central Asia between 800 and 1400? In what ways? How united were the peoples of Central Asia? Now consider which civilizations Central Asian nomads influenced. (Use map 3 to help you: Find Central Asia and note what political developments this map shows. Remember, both the Turks and the Uighurs were nomadic peoples.) Write a few paragraphs summarizing your conclusions.
  • As you know, nomads helped to introduce Islam to parts of India.  From its initial foothold in the northwest of the country, Islam gradually spread and exerted a profound influence on Indian culture. Review pages 309-313 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition).  When you finish read about impact of Islam on India.  How did Islam affect trade, technology, society, and religious thought in India?
Activity Four:
  • Of all the nomadic peoples that moved through Central Asia during this period, the Mongols were the most powerful.  As this comparative list of conquerors suggests, they built the largest empire the world has ever seen. 
  • The Mongols are generally remembered as destroyers who ruthlessly razed cities and killed or enslaved entire populations.  For another view of the Mongols and their legacy read The Mongols in Iran (make sure to click on each of the images and read the descriptions of their forms and meanings).  How did the art of Iran develop under the Mongol ilkhans?