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Pattrick Piel



  • PhD Candidate (GPTS 10)



Über Pattrick Piel

PhD project (since October 2018): “Chinese and Latin Historiographers' and Envoys' View on Nomadism”

This project aims to investigate the discourse on nomad-like people in two distinctive areas of Eurasia, China and Europe, during the “medieval” period, following the recent emphasis in the research of pre-modern history on approaches of transcultural, global and comparative history. Since the dawn of historic writing in antiquity, sedentary historiographers have written on exchanges and confrontations with steppe-people, but also recorded specific discourses and topoi about the ‘barbarian’ other. The nomadic people have since then appeared as ‘opponents’ and ‘the other’ in a wide array of sources. With the turn towards a global interpretation of history that focuses on ‘exchanges’, ‘connectivity’ and ‘alterity’ the mobile and non-sedentary people of Eurasia represent one of the most interesting cases for the study of pre-modern history. 


Therefore, this research seeks to investigate the development and differentiation of sedentary authors’ ethnological and historiographical discourses dealing with people of the steppes and the presentation of their specific economy, as it was presented in Chinese and Latin texts from ‘antiquity’ to the ‘middle ages’. 

Thus, attention is given to the presentation of nomadic life and economy in Chinese and Latin sources, that were written independent from each other respectively. In this endeavor I will not only be looking at traditional official histories, but also texts that originated from the direct contacts with the nomadic people, such as the texts written by envoys. As such the inquiry explores the influence direct contacts between sedentary and nomadic people had on the notions of nomadic groups and their economy, and with that the matters of ‘transculturality’ and ‘exchange’ come into play. 


Based on an ethnological, economic definition of Eurasian Nomads this project also offers the opportunity to probe academic notions of the history of the nomad-discourse in modern texts about nomadism in global history as well as the historic sources. This might lead to the reevaluation of the notion of permanence often attributed by scholars to the discourses about nomads. The sources’ discourses on the organization and economy of the nomadic society can then be compared to the Eurasian counterpart to contrast the findings. Additionally, the analysis will reflect on the image of nomadic life, as presented in the historiographical accounts, with the reports and histories written by go-betweens such as diplomats, traders, missionaries that traverse the steppes and came into direct contact with the ‘other’. Firsthand accounts, born from direct encounters with the ‘barbarians’, supposedly show how the transcultural contact changed the discourses on nomads. The goal is also to unearth clues indicating if there are significant aspects in the writing in both parts of Eurasia that can be subsumed under the label of ‘sedentary-nomadic dichotomy’, which would amount to the notion of a quasi-universal approach towards them. This makes it necessary to collect topoi in the language of the sources often associated with aspects of the nomadic life. Consequently, this project aims to include both transcultural history as well as comparative history as its tools, since both have for some time been treated as mutually excluding. 


Sep. 2009 - Mar. 2013    Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg
                                       BA (History and Political Science)

Dissertation topic: “Roman elements in the representation of the Carolingian Court. Roman elements in the Imperial Palace Ingelheim, the court and other monuments c. 800”

Sep. 2015 - Feb. 2016    Exchange student at NCCU in Taipei, Taiwan

Apr. 2013 - May. 2017    Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg
                                       MA (History)

Dissertation topic: “Chinese and Latin Historiography in the medieval millennium: A transcultural comparison”