Michael Drompp


Since coming to Rhodes in 1989, I have taught a variety of courses on Chinese, Japanese, Inner Asian, and general East Asian history.  These have included courses on nomad empires of Inner Asia and the Silk Road, the Mongol Empire (the largest contiguous land empire in world history), the history of China from earliest times, and the history of Japan.  I have also team-taught a course on the Vietnam War with Professor Robert Saxe.  Stepping a bit farther afield, I teach a course on the many ways in which the West has perceived Asia.  I particularly enjoy exploring historical topics with my students that had previously been unfamiliar to them.  In 1999 I received the College’s Clarence Day Award for Outstanding Teaching.


My research focuses primarily on the political and cultural relations between China and the nomadic peoples of the Inner Asian steppe during the period from the 6th to 9th centuries CE.  My book, Tang China and the Collapse of the Uighur Empire: A Documentary History, translates 69 ninth-century Chinese official documents as well as one unofficial account of a Chinese spy’s experience, and then uses those primary sources along with a wide number of secondary sources to develop a narrative history; in writing this book, I wanted to delve deeper into this topic, which represented a crisis for China’s government when thousands of Uighur refugees arrived at the Chinese frontier, than had been done before.  The rich trove of primary sources allowed me to consider the day-to-day workings of the late Tang dynasty bureaucracy.  My current research considers the various ways in which nomadic rulers employed religious symbolism and beliefs to provide political legitimacy for their empires.  In addition I am working on a number of other topics, including the role of Sogdian elites in Inner Asian empires.


I have served the College in a number of capacities.  I was chair of the Department of History for eight years and chair of the Asian Studies Program for seventeen, headed the President’s Diversity Task Force, chaired the Steering Committee for the President’s ten initiatives for the College, served as Faculty Fellow for International Programs, and most recently served as Dean of the Faculty and Vice-President for Academic Affairs for six years, from 2008 to 2014.  From 2005 to 2008 I was President of the College’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  I have very much appreciated all these remarkable opportunities to help enrich the Rhodes experience for our students.

In addition to my work at Rhodes, I have served as President of the American Oriental Society (2010-2011) and the Tang Studies Society (2005-2011), and since 2010 have been Managing Editor of Brill Academic Publishers’ Brill’s Inner Asian Library book series.

I am also a pianist and composer.



Tang China and the Collapse of the Uighur Empire: A Documentary History [Brill’s Inner Asian Library 13] (Leiden: Brill, 2005).


 “Five Notes on the Yenisei Kirghiz in the Early Middle Ages,” in Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, ed., Language, Society, and Religion in the World of the Turks: Festschrift for Larry Clark at Seventy-Five [Silk Road Studies XIX] (Brepols, 2018), pp. 139-163.

 “Infrastructures of Legitimacy in Inner Asia: The Early Türk Empires,” in Nicola Di Cosmo and Michael Maas, eds., Eurasian Empires and Exchanges in Late Antiquity: Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe (Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 302-316.

“Strategies of Cohesion and Control in the Türk and Uyghur Empires,” in Jan Bemmann and Michael Schmauder, eds., Complexity of Interaction along the Eurasian Steppe Zone in the First Millennium CE [Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology 7] (Bonn: Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, vfgarch.press uni-bonn, 2015), pp. 437-451.

“The Lone Wolf in Inner Asia,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 131/4 (October-December 2011), pp. 515-526.

“Chinese ‘Qaghans’ Appointed by the Türks,” T’ang Studies 25 (2007), pp. 183-202.

"Imperial State Formation in Inner Asia: The Early Turkic Empires (6th to 9th Centuries)," Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 58/1 (2005), pp. 101-111.


“Sogdians in the Service of the Early Türk Qaghans” (invited paper presented at the “International Symposium on Sogdian-Turkic Relations,” Turkish Language Association, Istanbul, Turkey, 2014).

“At the Edge of Empires: The Tuyuhun and Khitan in Medieval Eurasia” (invited paper presented at the workshop “In the Shadows of Empire: Peripheral Polities in the Eurasian Middle Ages,” Austrian Academy of Sciences, University of Vienna, Austria, 2014).

“Political Formation and Sustentation among Imperial Nomads: The Early Turkic Empires” (invited paper presented at the workshop “Worlds in Motion: Rome, China, and the Eurasian Steppe in Late Antiquity, ca. 250-650 C.E.,” The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, 2013).

“Political Dimensions of Religion in Early Medieval Inner Asian Empires” (invited paper presented at the symposium “The Steppes: Crucible of Eurasia,” Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 2012).

“The Lone Wolf in Inner Asia” (presidential address presented at the national meeting of the American Oriental Society, Chicago, Illinois, 2011).

Bäŋgü Taš: ‘Eternal Stones’ and the Beginnings of Turkic Historiography” (invited paper presented at the workshop “The Sense of the Past among Inner Asian Peoples,” The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, 2007).

“’Shadow Empires’ and Shadow Games: Imperial State Formation in Inner Asia Reconsidered” (presented at the 1st International Conference on the Medieval History of the Eurasian Steppe, Szeged, Hungary, 2004).

Nomad Involvement in the Politics of North China during the Sui-Tang Transition” (presented at the 8th International Congress of Mongolists, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 2002).


B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa), M.A, and Ph.D., Indiana University