Take Home Final Exam

During the quarter, you have have been asked to view and read a wide range of primary sources, which we might group chronologically as follows:

A. Pre-11th century--the Han histories and other Chinese sources on the Western Lands, the Records of Ardashir, the Ancient Sogdian letters, Karoshthi documents from Niya, Faxian, Xuanzang, Tang poetry; Yakut; Buddhist, Islamic and Nestorian religious texts; coins and inscriptions; art objects (e.g., funerary sculpture, religious paintings in Inner Asian caves, Sogdian painting in Central Asia).
B. Mongol, Timurid and early Ming periods (13th-15th centuries)--Ibn al-Athir, a Russian text on the sack of Riazan, William of Rubruck, Juvayni, Marco Polo, John of Monte Corvino, Ibn Battuta, Pegolotti, Clavijo, art objects (e.g., ceramics, painting).
C. Mughal and Safavid periods (16th and 17th centuries)--Babur, the Tarikh-i Rashidi, Jenkinson, GoŽs, Steel, Chardin, Olearius, Jahangir's conversations, and art objects.

Your question is this:

Can one argue that the nature of exchange on the Silk Road changes significantly beginning in the thirteenth century or at some later point (down through the seventeenth century)? Justify your conclusions with evidence from the primary sources.

To prepare to answer the question, you will want to consider a number of others. What kind of "exchange" constitutes the "Silk Road"? How might one measure change over time? What are the developments/themes common to more than one of the indicated periods? How similar or different are they in each, and why? What are the developments/themes distinctive to only one of the periods, and why does that seem to be the case? Among other things, you will need to think here about routes, people, the role of governments and belief systems, and material evidence of cultural influences.

Note: Your answer might reasonably emphasize the second and third of the periods, but cannot totally ignore the first. I will be particularly interested to see how you use the materials in the assignments for the final two weeks of the course (i.e. covering the third period), since you have not yet otherwise written on them, but you should not focus exclusively on the final period.

While your discussion should be informed by your secondary readings and material presented in class, your evidence must in the first instance be drawn from the the primary sources, not the opinions of modern historians. In other words, quoting a modern historian does not constitute "proof" for the purposes of this essay. When you use those primary sources, naturally for identification purposes you may need to incorporate information about authors, dates and the like from secondary material such as introductions. However, that is peripheral to showing you have actually read, absorbed and can use the substance of the primary sources themselves. This is not to say that secondary material, such as that in Frye, Xinru Liu, Gommans, Dale, et al., or class lectures, is irrelevant here. To the degree that you use it, presumably your essays will be the better for doing so. Those who have been attending class regularly may in fact have something significant to add to the essay.

To a substantial degree, you will be graded on the degree to which you effectively incorporate specific material from a broad range of primary sources. You do not persuade me you have done the work for the course if you confine yourself to one or two. But remember, listing a course in the bibliography of itself is no indication to me you are actually using it. Of course it would be unrealistic to expect you to use all of them if you wish to end up with an essay that is more than a catalogue. A good essay is one that has a clear argument and develops carefully selected themes and examples. As you use the primary sources, you should keep in mind the possible limits of the evidence they provide and, as appropriate, be prepared to comment on those limits. There may be obvious bias, the sources you have in hand may leave gaps in their coverage, etc. It is possible, of course, that part of the change one might observe in the long history of the Silk Road is less a reflection of the realities of its history and more a reflection of the changing character of the sources from which we learn about that history.

You should aim to write 5-7 pp., one-and-one-half-spaced with 1-inch margins. It is hard to imagine writing a good essay on such a big topic in much less than 5 pp.; more than 7 pp. may produce diminishing returns. Essays should be carefully written in correct English and proofread. Also, it is essential that you append on additional pages a bibliography of all works used in preparation of the essay, even if that list is only material assigned for the course. Remember that I am not interested in seeing how creatively you use sources other than those assigned. I am very interested in seeing what you do with the assigned readings. In fact, given the range and substance of what is assigned, turning to other sources is quite unnecessary and is not likely to stand you in good stead.

Remember that all quotations must be explicitly identified as such with appropriate punctuation and the precise source given. Try to avoid excessive quotation though. Also, any precis of a source you use, even if not exactly a quote, requires a note as to the source. The point, of course, is that you must identify carefully that which is not your own composition. Not to do so is plagiarism.

The final exam is due no later than 5:00 PM on Tuesday, March 15, that is, shortly after the end of the exam time scheduled for the course. It is best to give the paper to me in my office (I should be around most of the morning, out for lunch hour and out again at 4, but will pick up the papers before I go home). You may also leave your exam in my History Department mailbox, 315 Smith, which may not be open during the lunch hour (12-1). Do not slide exam papers under closed doors. Be sure to keep a hard-copy version of your exam. If there is any question as to whether or not you have written the exam and handed it in, the burden of proof is on you.

Late final exams will not be accepted, the one exception being a documented medical excuse (this is a university regulation). If, for some reason, you are still owing me one of the previous papers due in the course, you should prioritize finishing the final exam first to make sure it comes in on time. Any other work still owing should be turned in no later than the end of exam week. Remember you need to complete all the written assignments in the course in order to be eligible to receive credit.

If you wish to receive back your exam (and any other papers) once the grading is finished, leave a self-addressed envelope of adequate size and with adequate postage. I will hold on to papers through spring quarter, if you wish to pick them up then. Grades are due by 10 AM, Monday, March 21. While my goal will be to finish the grading before then, please do not assume that in fact it will be finished substantially prior to the deadline.