Nomadic empires, imperial formations built by expansionist horse-riding non-sedentary societies such as the Xiongnu, Mongols and Comanches, are an important theme in world history. The period spanning from the fourth century BCE to the late nineteenth century CE witnessed the rise and fall of several expansionist equestrian confederations and steppe empires that profoundly shaped historical developments, often on continental and sometimes on hemispheric scales.
Yet, nomadic empires are often seen as marginal or secondary historical phenomena, subordinate to agrarian- and industrial-based empires and states whose ambitions and actions take precedence in the existing explanations of large-scale historical processes. Although the rise of world history as a distinctive and thriving field of historical inquiry has drawn increasing attention to nomadic empires in recent years, the scholarship has not kept pace with the growing interest. This has resulted in a representational discrepancy: Powerful nomad-based polities now figure prominently in world history textbooks and curricula, but the content is often outdated; old misconceptions and biases prevail, distorting not only the notions of nomadic societies but historical development itself.
This project aims to reinvigorate the study of nomadic empires by developing new theoretical, conceptual and methodological approaches to the study of expansionist nomadic societies, their borderlands and relations with sedentary agrarian societies and other nomadic groups, and their historical influence. Collectively, these objectives amount to a historiographical intervention that has the potential to profoundly reshape how world history is written, taught and understood.