Online Seminar: The Global Middle Ages Seminar, Valerie Hansen and Morris Rossabi, 5th May 2021

Valerie Hansen and Morris Rossabi will present at the Global Middle Ages Seminar. They will each give a short paper followed by a moderated conversation and Q&A session.

“The World’s Most Active Sea Route Before 1492: From the Chinese ports of Quanzhou and Guangzhou to Basra (in Modern Iraq) and Sofala (in Modern Mozambique)” (Valerie Hansen)

Starting around the year 1000, Chinese ships began to voyage to the Persian Gulf and sometimes even farther to the East African coast, a journey three times as long as Columbus’s voyage to the Americas. The Chinese imported huge quantities of what they called aromatics (the blanket term xiang covered fragrant woods, incense, spices, and tree resins such as frankincense and myrrh) from Southeast, South, and West Asia, and they exported textiles, metal goods, and ceramics to these regions as well as East Africa. These contacts had multiple effects, some of which we can study on the basis of archeological finds, particularly of ceramics. Hansen will explore why this route isn’t better known. Although traditional treatments of the medieval period do not cover this topic, it certainly falls within the purview of the Global Middle Ages.

“The Golden Horde: Recent Discoveries in Russia” (Morris Rossabi)

Until the late twentieth century, many Russians and foreigners portrayed Mongol rule in Russia as totally disastrous and despotic and leading to autocracy in the country’s later history. In the 1980s, specialists on the period of the Golden Horde, while not ignoring the death and destruction caused by the Mongols, asserted that the Mongols contributed to Russia’s first unification, fostered trade and religion, built new cities, and patronized and supported the arts. Historians and archeologists have recently confirmed some positive aspects of Golden Horde rule. This slide-illustrated lecture provides the historical background and shows samples of the latest archeological and artistic discoveries in ceramics, textiles, and metal work.


Valerie Hansen teaches Chinese and world history at Yale, where she is the Stanley B. Woodward Professor of History. Her current book is The World in the Year 1000: When Globalization Began. Earlier monographs include The Silk Road: A New History with Documents (2012) and The Open Empire: A History of China to 1800 (2015). Hansen is a frequent visitor to Asia teaching at Yale’s undergraduate program at Peking University, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and as an invited scholar at Xiamen University in Fujian province, China.

Morris Rossabi (PhD Columbia University) was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and teaches Chinese and Mongolian history at the City University of New York and Columbia. Author and editor of numerous books, including Khubilai Khan, Modern Mongolia, Voyager from Xanadu, From Yuan to Modern China and Mongolia: The Writings of Morris Rossabi, and A History of China, as well as dozens of articles, he has collaborated on catalogues for art exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has traveled extensively and lectured in the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea, Central Asia, and Mongolia and speaks several European, Middle Eastern, and East Asian languages. The National Mongolian University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2009.

Register for this event here.


This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.

Published by Ellie Wilson

Ellie Wilson holds a First Class Honours in the History of Art from the University of Bristol, with a particular focus on Medieval Florence. In 2020 she achieved a Distinction in her MA at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she specialised in the art and architecture of Medieval England under the supervision of Dr Tom Nickson. Her dissertation focussed on an alabaster altarpiece, and its relationship with the cult of St Thomas Becket in France and the Chartreuse de Vauvert. Her current research focusses on the artistic patronage of London’s Livery Companies immediately pre and post-Reformation. Ellie will begin a PhD at the University of York in Autumn 2021 with a WRoCAH studentship, under the supervision of Professor Tim Ayers and Dr Jeanne Nuechterlein.

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