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Protected Rimlands and Exposed Zones: Reconfiguring Premodern Eurasia

  • Victor Lieberman (a1)

In a recent study, I sought to analyze political and cultural patterns across mainland Southeast Asia during roughly a thousand years, from c. 800 to 1830.1 In brief, I argued that each of mainland Southeast Asia's three great north-south corridors experienced a pattern of accelerating integration. This process was territorial in the sense that some twenty-three small polities in the fourteenth century were assimilated, gradually or convulsively, fully or partially, to three overarching imperial systems by the early 1800s. Integration was administrative insofar as within each imperial system mechanisms of provincial control, economic extraction, and manpower organization became more penetrating, stable, and efficient. Integration was cultural in the sense that hitherto self-sufficient communities across each of the three principal zones came to accept linguistic, ethnic, and religious norms sanctioned by imperial elites.

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1 Lieberman Victor, Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c. 800–1830, Volume One: Integration on the Mainland (Cambridge, 2003). Mainland Southeast Asia comprises the modern countries of Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

2 By these three criteria, southeastern Europe could be included in the “exposed zone.” “Southwest Asia” includes Persia, Transoxania, and the Ottoman lands. The three defining features of the exposed zone do not all apply as completely to Transoxania and Persia as to China and South Asia. In its civilizational precocity and subjection to Inner Asian influence, Persia, for example, clearly had much in common with other exposed zones, but along with Transoxania, Persia had a population and territory on the same modest scale as many protected rimlands. What is more, although the three defining features of the exposed zone all apply to the Ottoman lands, in those lands as in Persia and Transoxania, Islam displaced/camouflaged pre-Islamic charter-era cultural legacies far more substantially than in South Asia. The Ottoman lands were distinct too in that they escaped fresh post-1500 Inner Asian incursions such as transformed Persia, South Asia, and China. In short, depending on criteria, between the “exposed zone” and the “protected rimlands” one can find a degree of overlap, while both categories contain internal variations.

3 For varied definitions of early modernity, see Richards John, “Early Modern India and World History,” Journal of World History 8 (1997): 197209; Subrahmanyam Sanjay, Penumbral Visions (Ann Arbor, Mich., 2001), 261–65; Goldstone's Jack contrary views in “Neither Late Imperial nor Early Modern,” in Struve Lynn, ed., The Qing Formation in World-Historical Time (Cambridge, Mass., 2004), 242302; and discussion in Strange Parallels, I, 79–80, esp. n. 117.

4 Huntingdon Samuel, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York, 1996), chapter 8, endorses this opposition, as in varying degrees and guises do Landes David, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (New York, 1998); several contributors to Harrison Lawrence and Huntingdon Samuel, eds., Culture Matters (New York, 2000); and Immanuel Wallerstein and his disciples.

5 Price Barbara, “Secondary State Formation: An Explanatory Model,” in Cohen Ronald and Service Elman, eds., Origins of the State (Philadelphia, 1978), 161–86.

6 Much as Southeast Asia looked to India for cultural inspiration, South India looked to North India. By this criterion, though not in terms of insulation from Inner Asian incursions, South India could be categorized alongside Southeast Asia.

7 On Pagan, Angkor, and Dai Viet, see Lieberman, Strange Parallels, I, chs. 2–4 and sources therein. On Kiev, I have relied in part on Martin Janet, Medieval Russia 980–1584 (Cambridge, 1995); Franklin Simon and Shepard Jonathan, The Emergence of Rus 750–1200 (London, 1996); Franklin Simon, Writing, Society, and Culture in Early Rus, c. 950–1300 (Cambridge, 2002); Miller David, “Monumental Building and Its Patrons as Indicators of Economic and Political Trends in Rus, 900–1262,” Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas 38 (1990): 321–55. On Carolingian/Capetian France, see Geary Patrick, The Myth of Nations (Princeton, 2002); McKitterick Rosamond, The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians (London, 1983); McKitterick Rosamond, ed., The New Cambridge Medieval History, c. 700–c. 900 (Cambridge, 1995); Hallam Elizabeth, Capetian France 987–1328 (London, 1990); Bull Marcus, ed., France in the Central Middle Ages 900–1200 (Oxford, 2002); and Duby Georges, France in the Middle Ages 987–1460 (Oxford, 1991). On early Japan, see Piggott Joan, The Emergence of Japanese Kingship (Stanford, 1997); Farris William Wayne, Heavenly Warriors (Cambridge, Mass., 1992); idem, Japan's Medieval Population (Honolulu, 2006); von Verschuer Charlotte, Le Riz dans la Culture de Heian, Mythe et Realite (Paris, 2003); Shively Donald and McCullough William, eds., The Cambridge History of Japan, Volume 2: Heian Japan (Cambridge, 1999); and Totman Conrad, A History of Japan (Malden, Mass., 2000), pts. 1, 2. Arguments for Russia, France, and Japan are set forth in detail in Victor Lieberman, Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c. 800–1830, Volume Two: Mainland Mirrors: Europe, Japan, China, South Asia, and the Islands (forthcoming, Cambridge, 2009), chs. 2–4.

8 Cf. McNeill William, Plagues and Peoples (Garden City, N.Y., 1976), chs. 3, 4; Jannetta Ann Bowman, Epidemics and Mortality in Early Modern Japan (Princeton, 1987); Farris, Japan's Medieval Population; Lieberman , Strange Parallels, I, 50, 97–98, 224.

9 On climatic changes c. 600–1300, see Lieberman , Strange Parallels, I, 101–12, 224–26, 363–64, and sources cited therein.

10 Japan fit this pattern less well insofar as trade and cultural contacts with the continent tended to decline c. 900–1200.

11 See n. 7 supra; and Henley David, “Population and the Means of Subsistence,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 36 (2005): 337–72.

12 On thirteenth/fifteenth-century crises, their etiology and manifestations, see sources in n. 7 supra; and Lieberman , Strange Parallels, I, 119–31, 236–47, 367–72; and II, chs. 2, 4, which in turn rely in part on Fennell John, The Crisis of Medieval Russia 1200–1304 (London, 1983); Crummey Robert, The Formation of Muscovy 1304–1613 (London, 1987); Ostrowski Donald, Muscovy and the Mongols (Cambridge, 1998); Potter David, ed., France in the Later Middle Ages 1200–1500 (Oxford, 2002); Allmand Christopher, The Hundred Years War (Cambridge, 1989); Benedictow Ole, The Black Death 1346–1353 (Woodbridge, U.K., 2004), which sets forth the link between plague and new commercial circuits; Yamamura Kozo, ed., The Cambridge History of Japan, Volume 3: Medieval Japan (Cambridge, 1990); Mass Jeffrey, ed., The Origins of Japan's Medieval World (Stanford, 1997); and Adolphson Mikael, The Gates of Power (Honolulu, 2000). In France, the interregnum of 1337–1453 was actually the second, the first having come c. 890–1110, between Carolingian collapse and early Capetian vigor. In this sense, as Lieberman, Strange Parallels, II, ch. 2 explains in detail, fusing the Carolingian and Capetian periods into a composite charter era, while convenient for this brief exposition, artificially conflates two administrative cycles.

13 I take the period between Carolingian collapse and early Capetian consolidation as the first interregnum. If we start with the Hundred Years War and proceed through the Wars of Religion to the Revolutionary upheavals, the ratio, depending on definitions of breakdown, would be in the order of 116:36:2.

14 See Lieberman , Strange Parallels, II, ch. 1.

15 On political integration c. 1450–1830, see Lieberman , Strange Parallels, II, chs. 2–4, based on, inter alia, Crummey, Formation of Muscovy; Kollmann Nancy Shields, Kinship and Politics (Stanford, 1987); idem, By Honor Bound (Ithaca, 1999); Hellie Richard, Enserfment and Military Change in Muscovy (Chicago, 1971); Kivelson Valerie, Autocracy in the Provinces (Stanford, 1996); LeDonne John, Absolutism and Ruling Class (New York, 1991); de Madariaga Isabel, Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great (New Haven, 1981); Potter David, ed., France in the Later Middle Ages 1200–1500 (Oxford, 2002); Holt Mack, ed., Renaissance and Reformation France 1500–1648 (Oxford, 2002); Doyle William, ed., Old Regime France 1648–1788 (Oxford, 2001); Le Roy Ladurie Emmanuel, The Ancien Regime (Oxford, 1998); Beik William, Absolutism and Society in 17th Century France (Cambridge, 1985); Collins James, The State in Early Modern France (Cambridge, 1995); Woloch Isser, The New Regime (New York, 1994); Yamamura, Cambridge History; Hall John Whitney, ed., The Cambridge History of Japan, Volume 4: Early Modern Japan (Cambridge, 1991); Jansen Marius, ed., The Cambridge History of Japan, Volume 5: The 19th Century (Cambridge, 1989); Hall John Whitney et al. , eds., Japan Before Tokugawa (Princeton, 1981); Totman Conrad, Early Modern Japan (Berkeley, 1993).

16 Within 1825 boundaries, between 1300 and 1825 the population of France rose roughly 70 percent, those of Burma and Siam perhaps 100 percent, that of Vietnam some 250 percent, of Japan 500 percent, and of Russia 600 to 900 percent.

17 Flynn Dennis, “Comparing the Tokugawa Shogunate with Hapsburg Spain,” in Tracy James, ed., The Political Economy of Merchant Empires (Cambridge, 1991), 332–59; Barrett Ward, “World Bullion Flows, 1450–1800,” in Tracy James, ed., The Rise of Merchant Empires (Cambridge, 1990), 224–54.

18 Gorski Philip, The Disciplinary Revolution (Chicago, 2003). On the dynamics and limits of cultural integration in each realm, sources in n. 15 supra, plus Stephen Batalden, ed., Seeking God (DeKalb, Ill., 1993); Baron Samuel and Kollmann Nancy Shields, eds., Religion and Culture in Early Modern Russia and Ukraine (DeKalb, Ill., 1997); Kivelson Valerie and Greene Robert, eds., Orthodox Russia (University Park, Pa., 2003); Roche Daniel, France in the Enlightenment (Cambridge, Mass., 1998); Chartier Roger, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution (Durham, 1992); Bell David, The Cult of the Nation in France (Cambridge, Mass., 2001); Batten Bruce, To the Ends of Japan (Honolulu, 2003); Howell David, Geographies of Identity in 19th-Century Japan (Berkeley, 2005); Burns Susan, Before the Nation: Kokugaku and the Imagining of Community in Early Modern Japan (Durham, 2003).

19 Strange Parallels, I, chs. 2–4, passim; Lieberman Victor, “Ethnic Politics in Eighteenth-Century Burma,” Modern Asian Studies 12 (1978): 455–82; and previous note.

20 Discussion of Chinese political, cultural, and economic history follows Lieberman, Strange Parallels, II, ch. 5, which in turn relies on, inter alia, Ebrey Patricia Buckley, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (Cambridge, 1996); Skinner G. William, ed., The City in Late Imperial China (Stanford, 1977); Mote F. W., Imperial China 900–1800 (Cambridge, Mass., 1999); Elman Benjamin, A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China (Berkeley, 2000); Franke Herbert and Twitchett Denis, eds., The Cambridge History of China, Volume 6: Alien Regimes and Border States, 907–1368 (Cambridge, 1994), Chaffee John, The Thorny Gates of Learning in Sung China, 2d ed. (Cambridge, 1995); Johnson David, The Medieval Chinese Oligarchy (Boulder, 1977); Bol Peter, “This Culture of Ours” (Stanford, 1992); Hymes Robert, Statesmen and Gentlemen (Cambridge, 1986); Bossler Beverly, Powerful Relations (Cambridge, Mass., 1998); Hansen Valerie, The Open Empire (New York, 2000); McKnight Brian, Village and Bureaucracy in Southern Sung China (Chicago, 1971); Smith Paul Jakov and Glahn Richard von, eds., The Song-Yuan-Ming Transition in Chinese History (Cambridge, Mass., 2003); Wong R. Bin, China Transformed (Ithaca, N.Y., 1997); Hucker Charles, ed., Chinese Government in Ming Times (New York, 1969); Huang Ray, Taxation and Governmental Finance in Sixteenth-Century Ming China (New York, 1974); Bartlett Beatrice, Monarchs and Ministers (Berkeley, 1991); Rawski Evelyn, The Last Emperors (Berkeley, 1998); Struve , Qing Formation; Naquin Susan and Rawski Evelyn, eds., Chinese Society in the Eighteenth Century (New Haven, 1987); Elman Benjamin and Woodside Alexander, eds., Education and Society in Late Imperial China 1600–1900 (Berkeley, 1994); Reed Bradly, Talons and Teeth (Stanford, 2000); Liu Kwang-Ching, ed., Orthodoxy in Late Imperial China (Berkeley, 1990); Esherick Joseph and Rankin Mary, eds., Chinese Local Elites and Patterns of Dominance (Berkeley, 1993); Perdue Peter, China Marches West (Cambridge, Mass., 2005); Elliot Mark, The Manchu Way (Stanford, 2002); Pomeranz Kenneth, The Great Divergence (Princeton, 2000); Sommer Mathew, Sex, Law, and Society in Late Imperial China (Stanford, 2000); Johnson David et al. , eds., Popular Culture in Late Imperial China (Berkeley, 1985; Rowe William, Saving the World (Stanford, 2001).

21 Smith Paul Jakov, “Introduction,” in Smith and von Glahn , eds., Song-Yuan-Ming Transition, 34.

22 Perdue, China Marches West.

23 Lorge Peter, War, Politics, and Society in Early Modern China (London, 2005); Perdue, China Marches West; Cosmo Nicola Di, “Did Guns Matter?” in Struve , Qing Formation, 121–66. As noted, a pacific post-1640 environment also nullified firearms improvement in Japan.

24 Trigger Bruce, Understanding Early Civilizations (Cambridge, 2003); Scarre Christopher and Fagan Brian, Ancient Civilizations (Upper Saddle River, N.J., 2003); Ebrey, Cambridge Illustrated History, chs. 1–3.

25 For geographic definitions and historical overviews of Inner Asia—also termed “Inner Eurasia,” “Central Eurasia,” or in its western sector “Central Asia”—see Soucek Svat, A History of Inner Asia (Cambridge, 2000), Christian David, “Inner Eurasia as a Unit of World History,” Journal of World History 5 (1994): 173211; idem, A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, Volume 1 (Malden, Mass., 1998); Elliott, Manchu Way; Perdue, China Marches West; Barfield Thomas, The Perilous Frontier (Cambridge, Mass., 1989); Cosmo Nicola Di, “State Formation and Periodization in Inner Asian History,” Journal of World History 10 (1999): 140; Sinor Denis, “Central Eurasia,” in Sinor D., ed., Orientalism and History (Bloomington, 1970), 93119.

26 Lieberman, Strange Parallels, II, ch. 5, n. 212.

27 Cf. Cosmo Nicola Di, “Review of The Cambridge History of China, vol. VI,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 56 (1996): 493508.

28 Elliott, Manchu Way.

29 Rawski, Last Emperors; Elliott, Manchu Way; Perdue, China Marches West.

30 Cf. n. 24 supra; and Diamond Jared, Guns, Germs, and Steel (New York, 1997).

31 Lee James, Campbell Cameron, and Feng Wang, “Positive Check or Chinese Check?Journal of Asian Studies 61 (2002): 500.

32 See “Introduction” and other essays by Skinner in idem, City in Late Imperial China.

33 See Reed, Talons and Teeth.

34 For China, see Naquin and Rawski , Chinese Society, 219; Feuerwerker Albert, “State and Economy in Late Imperial China,” Theory and Society 13 (1984): 298307; Skinner , The City, 2021, 29; Vries P.H.H., “Governing Growth: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of the State in the Rise of the West,” Journal of World History 13 (2002): 95. For Europe, see Kahan Arcadius, The Plow, the Hammer, and the Knout (Chicago, 1985), 345; Hellie Richard, “The Costs of Muscovite Military Defense and Expansion,” in Lohr Eric and Poe Marshall, eds., The Military and Society in Russia 1450–1917 (Leiden, 2002), 66; Mathias Peter and O'Brien Patrick, “Taxation in Britain and France, 1715–1810,” Journal of European Economic History 5 (1976): 601–50, esp. 607–9; Brewer John, The Sinews of Power (Cambridge, Mass., 1988), 91; Hoffman Philip and Norberg Kathryn, eds., Fiscal Crises, Liberty, and Representative Government 1450–1789 (Stanford, 1994), 299302. For Southeast Asia we lack statistics. For Japan, a pacific environment, rapid commercial and handicrafts expansion, and late Tokugawa inertia allowed effective tax rates on rural incomes to fall to the range of 15–40 percent. Francks Penelope, Rural Economic Development in Japan (London, 2006), 4547, 79 ff.; Philip Brown, personal communication, 13 Nov. 2006. But this too was considerably higher than Chinese rates, arguing again for structural constraints in China.

35 Feuerwerker, “State and Economy,” 300; Vries , “Governing Growth,” 94–95; Ray Huang, “The Ming Fiscal Administration,” in Twitchett Denis and Mote Frederick, eds., The Cambridge History of China, Volume 8, Part. 2: The Ming Dynasty 1368–1644 (Cambridge, 1998), 113, 124, 134, 138, 144–48, 166.

36 Huang , “Ming Fiscal Administration”; Naquin and Rawski , Chinese Society, 225–26; Zelin Madeline, The Magistrate's Tael (Berkeley, 1984), 305–8; Wang Yeh-chien, Land Taxation in Imperial China, 1750–1911 (Cambridge, Mass., 1972), 8–9, 30, 26–35, 131.

37 Discussion of South Asian political, cultural, and economic history follows Lieberman, Strange Parallels, II, ch. 6, which relies on, inter alia, Allchin F. R., The Archaeology of Early Historic South Asia (Cambridge, 1995); Thapar Romila, Early India (Berkeley, 2002); Asher Catherine and Talbot Cynthia, India before Europe (Cambridge, 2006); Ludden David, An Agrarian History of South Asia (Cambridge, 1999), Raychaudhuri Tapan and Habib Irfan, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of India, Volume 1: c. 1200–1750 (Cambridge, 1982); Pollock Sheldon, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men (Berkeley, 2006); idem, ed., Literary Cultures in History (Berkeley, 2003); Wink Andre, Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World, 2 vols. (Delhi, 1990, and Oxford, 1997); Jackson Peter, The Delhi Sultanate (Cambridge, 1999); Talbot Cynthia, Precolonial India in Practice (Oxford, 2001); Richards John, The Mughal Empire (Cambridge, 1993); Alam Muzaffar and Subrahmanyam Sanjay, eds., The Mughal State 1526–1750 (Delhi, 1998); Alam Muzaffar, The Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India (Delhi, 1986); Bayly C. A., Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars (Cambridge, 1983); idem, Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire (Cambridge, 1988); Eaton Richard, A Social History of the Deccan, 1300–1761 (Cambridge, 2005); idem, ed., India's Islamic Traditions (New Delhi, 2003); Bayly Susan, Caste, Society and Politics in India (Cambridge, 1999); Trautmann Thomas, Aryans and British India (Berkeley, 1997).

38 This post-1640 vigor India shared with Japan and South Russia, but not with Western Europe or China. Cf. Richards, Mughal Empire, ch. 9; Subrahmanyam Sanjay, The Political Economy of Commerce: Southern India, 1500–1650 (Cambridge, 1990).

39 Cf. Hodgson Marshall, The Venture of Islam, Volume 3: The Gunpowder Empires and Modern Times (Chicago, 1974); Gommans Jos, Mughal Warfare (London, 2002).

40 Pollock, Language of the Gods, esp. chs. 8–12.

41 Bayly C. A., Origins of Nationality in South Asia (New Delhi, 1998).

42 Ali M. Athar, The Mughal Nobility under Aurangzeb (Bombay, 1966); idem, “Towards an Interpretation of the Mughal Empire,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1978): 38–49.

43 But in turn, because South Asia lacked a universal administrative language comparable to Chinese, the Turkic insistence on Persian was perhaps unavoidable. Sanskrit was a primarily religious tongue associated with Hinduism, while the congeries of dialects that evolved into Hindi lacked sufficient standardization or prestige, the Delhi sultans and Mughals felt, to serve as an imperial lingua franca.

44 Discussion of island Southeast Asia follows Lieberman, Strange Parallels, II, ch. 7, which in turn relies on, inter alia, Reid Anthony, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450–1680, 2 vols. (New Haven, 1988, 1993); Ricklefs M. C., A History of Modern Indonesia since c. 1200 (Stanford, 2001); Lombard Denys, Le Carrefour Javanais, 3 vols. (Paris, 1990); Taylor Jean Gelman, The Social World of Batavia (Madison, 1983); Andaya Barbara Watson and Andaya Leonard, A History of Malaysia (Honolulu, 2001); Andaya Leonard, Leaves of the Same Tree (Honolulu, 2008); Kathirithamby-Wells J. and Villiers John, eds., The Southeast Asian Port and Polity (Singapore, 1990); Wolters O. W., Early Indonesian Commerce (Ithaca, 1967); Phelan John, The Hispanization of the Philippines (Madison, 1959); Doeppers Daniel and Xenos Peter, eds., Population and History (Madison, 1998).

45 A Cola attack on southeast Sumatra in 1025 and a failed Mongol assault on Java in 1293 were exceptions proving the rule.

46 Andaya , Leaves of the Same Tree, ch. 2; idem, “The Search for the ‘Origins’ of Melayu,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 32 (2001): 315–30.

47 Reid, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, II, chs. 1–2.

48 Ottoman military aid to Aceh in the seventeenth century hardly negates this claim.

49 Admittedly, Europeans also intervened on the pre-1824 mainland. For example, Spanish forces entered Cambodia in the 1590s, French troops were stationed in Siam in 1687–1688, and both Portuguese and Dutch meddled in the Vietnamese civil wars of the mid-seventeenth century. But all these short-lived, generally half-hearted actions either had no long-term impact or, often inadvertently, strengthened local authorities.

50 On the pre-1415 foundations of European expansion, see Ringrose David, Expansion and Global Interaction, 1200–1700 (New York, 2001); Scammell G. V., The World Encompassed (Berkeley, 1981). Cf. Adas Michael, “Imperialism and Colonialism in Comparative Perspective,” International History Review 20 (1998): 371–88.

51 Perdue, China Marches West.

52 See nn. 23, 39 supra.

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