This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals
This paper is an examination of rural resistance to Mongol rule in Khurāsān and Transoxania during the reigns of Chinggis Qan and Ögödei Qaʾan with a view to better elucidating the nature of military potential and its diffusion within Iranian society at the time of the first Mongol invasions. Scholars of Iran in the pre-Mongol era have recently explored the ways in which Iranian elements of society participated in warfare on a regular basis, despite the fact of Turkish military and political predominance and the normative prohibition of subjects’ engaging in warfare as enunciated in the literary sources. Such studies have examined, inter alia, the multifaceted ʿayyār phenomenon and the defense of cities in the Seljük era, notably Nīshāpūr and Iṣfahān. The Mongol conquests in particular have been examined as an event that “reveals” such segments of society as are otherwise obscured by our sources. Yet these studies have focused primarily on urban phenomena. In this paper, our attention will turn to the not insignificant level of rural resistance to Mongol rule. Briefly reconstructing the Mongol conquest of the eastern Khwārazmian realms, this paper looks at patterns of resistance in order to derive insights into how effectively military power and political authority were diffused. Resistance could arise in several forms, but only when significant fortifications, inaccessible terrain, or strategic mobility convinced local actors that their chances of retaining autonomy were good. These local actors included: largely autonomous muqṭaʿs and other rural “lords”; nomadic confederations such as the Khalaj; inhabitants of fortified villages or “fortress towns” in marginal areas; peasantry in the rustāqs led to revolt by local charismatic figures; and finally unorganized rural resistance, which is often described as mere brigandage. It is suggested that greater emphasis should be placed on the structure of the Khwārazmian and Ghūrids empires if we are to appreciate the full ramifications of the Mongol conquests and to gauge how widely military and political authority was wielded in eastern Iranian society in the pre-Mongol era. Furthermore, the much disproved axiom that “subjects do not fight” must be further modified to take into account not only urban but rural society as well. This paper therefore adds to recent debates about the nature and diffusion of political and military authority in the medieval Persianate world.