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Medieval Wednesdays: Stephen Pow - Old Problems, New Interpretations: Some Results of Revisiting the Historical Problems of the Mongol Invasions of Europe

Mongol Invasions of Europe
Wednesday, May 6, 2020, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Zoom meeting information…
Password: 0506


This presentation amounts to a justification for "revisiting" even long-discussed historical issues. Such efforts can regularly show just how much new interpretations are not only possible, but also justified and necessary. In this case, we look at the abrupt Mongol withdrawal from Europe in 1242. Scholars have long debated about the cause of the Mongols suddenly evacuating Hungary after occupying much of it for one year, but no explanation has the full consensus of experts. Primary sources say little about what prompted it. So, in light of the possibility to combine the different expertise of my supervisors, colleagues (supplemented by my own research), the result of my dissertation was a holistic analysis of Eurasian sources combined with newer archaeological findings. The resulting work represents a deviation from persistent ideas found in the scholarship, but my "revisiting" was deemed valuable by several luminaries in the field. It highlighted some useful methodological approaches to the larger field of "Global Middle Ages." Clearly a "revisiting" of a topic signals that something new has been done or accomplished in a historical field, but it often also elucidates what has not yet been done in the field - it highlights lacunae and desiderata in need of the attention of interdisciplinary research teams. As such, this talk will conclude with a discussion of future projects and objectives in the study of the Mongols and East-Central Europe which include possible Digital Humanities initiatives. 


Stephen Pow recently completed his PhD at Central European University with the dissertation, "Conquest and Withdrawal: The Mongol Invasions of Europe in the Thirteenth Century," done under the supervision of  Balázs Nagy and József Laszlovszky. It was a revisiting of the historical problem of the Mongol evacuation of Hungary in 1242. His publications in journals and volumes are often done in collaboration with other scholars from diverse disciplines as interdisciplinary work in medieval studies yields exciting results. Some publications include research on environmental history and particularly how it affected the Mongols (e.g. Nature - Scientific Reports, 2017), steppe ethnogenesis (e.g. Golden Horde Review, 2019), Mongol military history (e.g. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 2017), and the literary-historical Hungarian(!) origins of Sir Lancelot (e.g. Annual of Medieval Studies at CEU, 2018). In addition, he has taken part in several co-authored translation projects (e.g. Simon of Saint-Quentin: The History of the Tartars, 2020) and is planning a new online digital humanities project devoted to the missions of Dominican Friar Julian in the 1230s.