Reviews

Apart from a very small number of synthetic articles like Françoise Aubin’s “L'arrière-plan historique du nationalisme ouïgour: le Turkestan oriental des origines au xxe siècle,” Cahiers d'études sur la Méditerranée orientale et le monde turco-iranien 25 (one of the few references not mentioned in J. Millward’s rich bibliography), this is the first general history of Xinjiang ever published in a Western language.  As such, the book (using Chinese, Japanese, Russian, English, German, and French literature) will be useful not only to non-expert readers, but also to Xinjiang specialists, providing them with a long-term historical scenario of a key-region in Central Eurasia.  All along the successive periods, the author follows three relevant topics: the crossroads of populations and civilisations, the geographical features (nomadic and sedentary populations, the water issue) and socio-cultural identities.  Chapter 1 deals with the ancient period (until the eighth century):  I will not review this part since it falls outside the scope of the CER.  The chapter 2 covers the medieval times (ninth to sixteenth centuries), describing with great clarity the succeeding rule of nomad powers on oasis agriculturalist societies.  Beyond the account of events, the medievalists might expect more details on institutions, e.g. on the law system (yasa and shari‘a, madhhab) or on cultural life (in the madrasas, through court patronage, among the intellectual milieus).  The specialists of Central Asian Islam would update one or two references (instead of Bellew 1875, see Hamada, Journal d’histoire du soufisme, 2003), and would no longer emphasise the role of the shaykhs and mystics in the early conversion to Islam.  Nevertheless, such a historical survey does not allow this kind of developments and nuances.  And J. Millward, being definitely a modernist historian, understandably alludes to later epochs even while he studies the pre-modern times, rather than entering into the medievalists’ debates.  The chapter 3 examines the period from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, stressing adequately the prominence of the Naqshbandi Khwajas throughout the period, and providing a balanced image of the Manchu conquest.  Here, one might regret the only short mention of the Yarkand Khanate (1514-1680)—a neglected topic in most Western publications, but a well-developed subject matter in Sino-Uighur historiography.  In fact, the author devotes his much longer chapters to late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The chapter 4 examines the foundation of the modern Xinjiang province from the Qing recapture to early-twentieth-century Turkic nationalist projects, when the Muslim reformist (jadid) movement was highly influential.  As research perspectives on this topic, suffice to mention prominent though very much unstudied figures like Abduqadir Damulla (1861-1924) or Mämitili Äpändi (1901-37):  Both make a transition to chapter 5, coming from 1910s up to 1940s.  In this chapter, one finds a meticulous description, not deprived of humour, of the complicated situation in Xinjiang under the Guomindang and in the years preceding the Communist takeover, including the two East Turkistan Republics, and what is called in Uighur the üch wilayät inqilabi.  The chapter 6, on post-1949 Xinjiang, i.e. the People’s Republic, submits a survey of the whole socialist implementations in the region, with a particular emphasis on the disastrous Cultural Revolution (between 1957 and 1978).  The pages (pp. 246-51) depicting Islam (mainly the waqf institution) in the 1950s are of great interest as well.  The last chapter (ch.7) reconsiders the contemporary condition of Xinjiang since 1990s.  Interestingly, it deals not only with the political tensions in the province but also with the environment issue which proves to be exceedingly critical.  In passing, let me add that the French geographer Augustin Berque has recently published several articles on this theme, based on fieldworks in the upper Tarim.  Last but not least, to be noticed eventually is the original, and somewhat optimistic, conclusion introducing three high characters from present-day Xinjiang: Rabiyä Qadir, Sun Guangxin and Adil Hoshur.

Alexandre Papas, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-3.5.A-333