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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Audrey Altstadt

Second Advisor

Johan Elverskog

Third Advisor

Stephen Platt

Fourth Advisor

Jonathan Lipman

Subject Categories

Asian History


The early 17th century Oirad ulus represents a major turning point in the politics that dominated Central Asian during the second millennia. The Oirad rose among nomadic and settled states to take control of the Central Asian steppes and play an instrumental role as the modern world was taking shape. Following several major studies of the 17th century Oirad over the past twenty years some fundamental issues remain unresolved. One key issue is the political status of the early 17th century Oirad. Confusions arise from conflicting sources and the absence of Oirat primary texts as well as from narratives influenced by the 19th century paradigm of primitive, kinship-based societies and the so-called pre-state polities into which they were organized. This fresh examination of the Oirad reframes the context in which the Oirad polity is discussed and looks to two 17th century Oirat texts to clarify the nature of the Oirad polity and the way in which the Oirad themselves viewed the state in which they lived. It concludes with a very different narrative of the early 17th century Oirad as a group heavily invested in building alliances and creating a new Buddhist state through a decentralized process of state building. That process resulted in the formation of a 17th century Oirad State with right and left wings that in 1640 co-created the Mongol-Oirat Great State that was unlike anything to come before it. It was a state without central authority other than the rule of law, founded not by conquest but by the mutual agreement of sovereign nobles. Some of those nobles came from aristocratic lineages that pre-dated Chinggis Khan and survived more than five hundred years of Chinggisid primacy to once again stand on equal ground.


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Asian History Commons