Márton Vér (Turkological Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary) “The Last Episode of the Silk Road’s Golden Age: Mongols and Overland Trade”


During the last decades researchers of the Silk Road’s ancient history have pointed out that most of the merchants did not trade along the entire length of the commercial network. Most of the dealers were active between two neighbouring territories and exchanged their merchandise on the local markets, so a certain commodity could change hands several times before arriving in Europe from Asia or the other way around. Another well-known fact is that the various political formations which took control over particular parts of the Silk Road alternated recurrently during the most of its one and a half millennium long history. The relations between states along the Silk Road were of paramount importance to the functioning of the commercial network.

The latter of the above statements was changed fundamentally in the first decades of the 13th century, when the Mongols conquered a huge part of Eurasia and established an empire of unprecedented size under Chinggis Khan. The aim of the present paper is to find the answer(s) to the question whether these changes effected and, if yes, how did they effect the former statement, i.e. the most of the overland trading activity along the Silk Road took place between adjoining territories and not as long-distance or intercontinental trade. The first part of the presentation outlines the relationship of the Mongols and the Silk Road in the 13th–14th centuries on the basis of narrative sources and secondary literature. The second part of the presentation presents and analyses some of the so far understudied but highly relevant group of sources, the so-called Uyghur civil documents from East Turkestan.