to Andrew Heritage
(on fax)

From Andras Bereznay

 

THE MONGOL INVASIONS OF THE 13TH CENTURY

(Comments, propositions)


I find the view the main maps offer confusing especially because of their positioning so that south appears on top. I find difficult on the one hand to empathize with the notion that the Mongols themselves might have felt the world around them this way, and on the other hand feel that if the view offered is so confusing, at least initially, for somebody as accustomed to the shape of coastlines and other map features as I am, then displaying them this way would probably mean to give a rather hard task to the average reader to decipher.
A further disadvantage in the presentation seems to be an overemphasized background relief. Its strong showing makes the words carrying historical or geographical information appearing on the maps somewhat hard to read, creates an atmosphere of apparent overcrowdedness, and so acts as another source of confusion.
The contrast created by the simple and straightforward style and conventional, easy to read positioning of the third, smaller map, which is while in no way wrong in itself, contributes, as it is, to emphasize further the more apparently than really chaotic nature of the main maps, while at the same time it appears as if it was too poor and devoid of information. There seems to be therefore an element of lack of balance.
I feel that the ideal solution for these problems, and also for the problem that there are too many military campaigns shown while no other type of information relevant to the Mongols appears, is in the first place to combine the content of the two main maps into one. This map would be best directed so that east is at the bottom, west on the top. The advantage of such positioning would be the maintaining a degree of unconventional interestingness, without overdoing it. What is hard to recognize if turned upside down, is far easier if merely turned to one side, so to speak. This would even, I find, convey better the intended feel, that of the Mongols’ own perception of their place in the world they knew. Going mainly from bottom to top, the feel of rising in power would be more present.
At the same time this positioning would help in two different further ways. One is the lessening of the contrast with the smaller map’s traditional positioning: a 90 difference is far easier to digest psychologically than a 180 one.
More importantly, however, I would propose to introduce a new theme positioned parallel to the main map another one, dealing this time with the spreading of religious influences in the first place, and also with other aspects of contact, such as travel. The emphasis would be on East-West relations. Christian influences grew strong in much of Central Asia thanks to the Mongol conquest, and also the same conquest created an opening to a substantial advance by Islam.
This new map, positioned side by side with the other, but directed having east on top, i.e. the opposite way, would allow the reader - who would see the arrows indicating spiritual advance running roughly parallel with the campaign arrows of the first map -, to understand better how one historical process brought about another, different kind of process, and so would help to appreciate him the complex nature of historical events. On this way the feeling - as in the case of the campaigns - of rising, of achievement, could be retained, while the sensing of its counter effect would be achieved by the map’s opposite direction.
Although the two maps would be directed as each other’s opposites I don’t see this creating the kind of confusion the “upside down” maps were creating. This is in part because any of the side views is far easier to follow than the upside down one, and also because whatever contrast would exist between them it would be dissolved by the presence of the traditionally positioned smaller third map, acting, as it would, as a reference point. It could not have acted like that when it was itself in contrast with the main maps. It seems desirable, however, to increase the size of the third map somewhat, and I think that it would benefit also from the application of a neutral background colour as on the main maps, instead of white, and from the adding of a very pale relief background. The same background on the main map(s) needs to be made far less emphasized than at present.
While I acknowledge that very many historical maps do not follow the principle I advocate, I still find strongly desirable that when a given map depicts a certain period, the frontiers present should represent a particular moment of history. This does not need to render the map static. Any changes that occurred within the period can be shown in comparison to the situation of that moment. Ideally a date is to be displayed to indicate what precise situation the represented extent of states correspond to. It is not necessarily a very big problem in the case of maps satisfying other than academic needs if the date is not actually spelt out, but it would seem that if the reader is not to be confused it was even in this case to be avoidable to offer an anachronistic picture by displaying situations on one part of the map as they were at one time, and on its other part, at another time
In the case of the Later Mongol Campaigns 1227-1294 specifically, no precise date is given to define the time of the existence and extent of the states shown. It can be deduced, however, from various - in general consistent - features that the situation is intended to reflect the beginning of the title’s period. It is for this reason that the words “Byzantine Empire” are incongruous. Following its earlier disappearance, the Byzantine Empire was re-established in 1261, and then over a lesser extent than the annotation on the map would suggest. Bulgaria ought to be represented instead, not only because its showing is appropriate for the period, but also because the withdrawing Mongol forces had certainly made their presence felt over its territory. Serbia ought to be mentioned for similar reasons, and also Poland, possibly as Polish Principalities. If, as it seems, colours where applied are to represent states directly affected by the Mongol attacks, then Koryo, Bulgaria, Serbia, Poland, and perhaps also the Holy Roman Empire, which latter if not necessarily coloured, ought to be at least named, should get their own colours. The other Bulgaria, the one by the Volga, should be represented also as a state, not only as a town (which is ill positioned to Kazan’s place, needs to be moved south), and it should get its own colour. So should Khwarazm, which though seriously reduced in extent and weakened after earlier Mongol attacks, still existed at this time over most of the area left blank on the map between the Mongol and Abbasid states, and between Georgia and the Sultanate of Delhi. There is little reason to colour Novgorod differently than other Russian principalities. Sweden is to be freed from Novgorod’s colour. Other adjustment to the extent of the Russian Principalities is also necessary, so as to include some land at Polotsk. The state of Nan Chao did not belong to the Sung Empire, it is to be shown by another colour, and by a more state-like type face. Its capital, Dali is to be moved about halfway between the Yangtcze and the Mekong from its present position on the Mekong. Pagan did not extend over areas now part of India and Bangladesh (it spread about as far to the north-west as the second “a“ of “Pagan”, the first “A” in “PAGAN” and the opening bracket of “(Mien)”), but its extent was far greater at north-east and south than shown. It included at the north-east areas on both sides of the Irrawady at roughly same measure as far north as the letter “I” of the river’s name on the map, while at south included the whole mouth of the Irrawady and the Salween, and spread south by the Bay of Bengal not unlike at present. The arrow indicating the return of the Mongols subsequent to their campaign in Central Europe is to be led south of the Danube, through Bulgaria, as I referred to this, not between the Carpathians and the Danube. The river shown in Hungary is “Tisza”, not “Tiszer”, and the town dot of Pest is to be moved where at present the “i” of the word “Muhi” is. Bukhara should be moved somewhat east of Amu Darya, as positioned correctly on the other main map of the spread. The representation of Moscow is too early. Was insignificant insofar it existed. The word “Cumans” would be better placed north of the Black and Azovian Seas, rougjly from the Dniester to the lower Volga. “Seljuk Empire” is not too incorrect, but “Rum Seljuk Empire”, or just “Rum” would be more appropriate, and consistent with the respective world maps.
There are some inaccuracies on the map The Campaigns of Genghis Khan 1209-1227 also. The word Russia is placed over an area that wasn’t it. The Hsi-Hsia state’s extent is increased greatly. It was far smaller than shown especially at north, but it is enlarged also at the expense of Tibet at the west. There is some confusion in respect of the coastlines of what is now European Turkey, and by the Crimea.
Inaccuracies of The Successor States map include the leaving out of Novgorod from among the vassal states, and the inclusion as such the territory of Turov-Pinsk and Polotsk. Trapezunt’s territory should have been left white, it was not part of the Golden Horde. The Ilkhan Empire spread at the west near Aleppo only as far as the Euphrates, but Lesser Armenia was among its vassals. Moscow was at the time a place without importance, Kiev alone would be enough for Russia, or Vladimir may be also appropriate. There was no town called Kashmir, it is to be deleted. The name of KASHMIR (as of a state) is to be moved more north than placed at present. It may help, merely from the point of view of consistency, if the northern extent of the Great Khan’s Empire would be depicted on the same way I have shown it on the 1300 world map.