Pamela Kyle Crossley

Apr 6, 2022

Hammer and Anvil

Nomad Rulers at the Forge of the Modern World

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2019

This groundbreaking book examines the role of rulers with nomadic roots in transforming the great societies of Eurasia, especially from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries. Distinguished historian Pamela Kyle Crossley, drawing on the long history of nomadic confrontation with Eurasia’s densely populated civilizations, argues that the distinctive changes we associate with modernity were founded on vernacular literature and arts, rising literacy, mercantile and financial economies, religious dissidence, independent learning, and self-legitimating rulership. Crossley finds that political traditions of Central Asia insulated rulers from established religious authority and promoted the objectification of cultural identities marked by language and faith, which created a mutual encouragement of cultural and political change. As religious and social hierarchies weakened, political centralization and militarization advanced. But in the spheres of religion and philosophy, iconoclasm enjoyed a new life.

The changes cumulatively defined a threshold of the modern world, beyond which lay early nationalism, imperialism, and the novel divisions of Eurasia into “East” and “West.” Synthesizing new interpretive approaches and grand themes of world history from 1000 to 1500, Crossley reveals the unique importance of Turkic and Mongol regimes in shaping Eurasia’s economic, technological, and political evolution toward our modern world.

Hammer and Anvil: Nomad Rulers at the Forge of the Modern World (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019) is an expansive work of global history that implies a paradigm shift in the way we conceptualise not only the nomadic peripheries of sedentary societies, but those very sedentary societies themselves. An eye-opening read for those interested in the premodern history of the Eurasian continent. 

Lance Pursey is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Aberdeen where they work on the history and archaeology of the Liao dynasty. They are interested in questions of identity, and the complexities of working with different kinds of sources textually and materially. They can be reached at lance.pursey@abdn.ac.uk.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Lance Pursey

Lance Pursey is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Aberdeen where they work on the history and archaeology of the Liao dynasty. They are interested in questions of identity, and the complexities of working with different kinds of sources textually and materially.
Learn More

Also Hosted By Lance Pursey