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Tamga: a fiscal form in post-Mongol Moscow



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Russell, Angus John McLachlan 


This thesis traces the evolution of tamga, a form of trading taxation, across Mongol and post-Mongol Eurasia (from the thirteenth to early sixteenth centuries). Tamga, which had first denoted a stamp or seal, came to also signify a tax – charged primarily on exchange – that allowed the khans to profit from trade. Adopting various analytical scales, this thesis offers the first in-depth study of tamga, building on various globally oriented methodologies (connected, comparative, entangled) to interrogate how the tax was engaged in the political spaces that emerged from Mongol rule.

Chapter I explores the earliest attestations of tamga in the written record; it then comparatively analyses fiscal practice at either end of the ‘Silk Roads’, in Yuan China on the one hand and at Italian Black Sea trading outposts on the other. In both cases, the sources only recalcitrantly employ the term tamga, but reflect evidently shared fiscal practice. In chapter II, my focus moves northwards to Rus’ – invaded by the Mongols in the 1230s and subjected to the suzerainty of the Jochid khans (‘Golden Horde’) – to explore how tamga was adopted by the increasingly powerful rulers of Moscow, and how that process is reflected in Muscovite exemption charters (zhalovannye gramoty). Chapter III moves beyond this explicitly ‘political’ realm, to ask how tamga interacted semantically in Rus’ with another due, myt, which pre-dated the Mongol invasions; by studying the negative connotations of myt and its cognates in religious texts, I argue that tamga was attractive to Muscovite rulers precisely because it remained unencumbered by this spiritual hinterland. Finally, chapter IV tracks southwards, to assess the evolution of tamga in the Middle East: by contrasting Rus’ with concomitant developments in Īlkhānid and Tīmūrid Iran, I show how the fate of tamga in these regions became increasingly intertwined with the canonical dictates of Islamic law.

Tying these strands together, I contend that post-Mongol Moscow should be seen more keenly as part of a broader political arena that linked Rus’ with Central Asia, China, the Middle East and the Black Sea. By bringing otherwise discretely considered sources into contact with each other, this thesis shows how tamga constituted a key element in the khans’ political legacy – a legacy to be debated, contested and appropriated by their successors.





Franklin, Simon


global history, institutions, Mongols, Muscovy, taxation, trade


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Arts and Humanities Research Council (2274389)
Arts and Humanities Research Council (Open-Oxford-Cambridge DTP)