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Speaker Series – The Bound Steppe: Notes on Enslavement in Qing Mongolia

April 17, 2018 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

This presentation will briefly examine several archival examples of enslavement to illustrate several important topics and challenges in the history of slavery in Mongolia: the phenomenon of slavery skepticism in Inner Asian history, the terminology of enslavement in early modern Mongolia, and the seeming disappearance of slavery as a formal practice in the nineteenth century. Mongolia’s historical record is replete with references to captivity, enslavement, and release from bondage. Despite the ubiquity of these references, there are few studies of slavery as a historical issue in Mongolian history. Scholars have instead argued that slavery was either insignificant or absent in pastoral nomadic Inner Asian societies, including Mongolia, based on a dubious methodology of applying modern ethnographic data to historical and archaeological data. The slavery skeptic view is supported by the apparent ambiguity of the terminology of enslavement in Mongolia. Based on hundreds of wills and testaments from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries held in the Mongolian National Central Archives, the presenter will analyze some of these terms in their contemporary context and compare them with the terminology of enslavement in non-Mongolian places. Finally, the nineteenth century decline in instances of enslavement on the basis of the testamentary evidence and suggest factors that led to the decline such as changes in family and labor practices will be examied. This project engages Mongolian social history by examining local level processes of social change in the context of enslavement and manumission (the release from bondage), phenomenon generally relevant to early modern world history.

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About the speaker: Sam Bass

Sam Bass is a PhD candidate in History and Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University. He is from Atlanta, Georgia, where he earned a degree in History from Georgia State University. His current research project examines the social history of slavery in Qing Mongolia focusing on family, illegitimacy, and the state in the 18th and 19th centuries. He is a Fulbright fellow in Ulaanbaatar affiliated with Mongolian National University. He is currently conducting research for his dissertation in the Mongolian National Central Archives and Mongolian Central Library.


The American Center for Mongolian Studies (ACMS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting scholarship in Mongolian Studies. The ACMS Speaker Series are organized in partnership with the U.S. Embassy and the Natsagdorj Library and provides an important platform for researchers engaged in Mongolia to share their experiences and findings with the public. The event promotes information exchange on a variety of subjects related to Mongolia and is free and open to the public.

In an effort to reach interested viewers outside of Mongolia, this Speaker Series will be broadcast live on the ACMS Facebook page! All Facebook live videos can be re-played at your convenience.

Co sponsored by American Corner


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April 17, 2018
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
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