Remnants of what had been the western Mongol Empire (the Kalmyks and Dzungars) fought China early in the 18th century, but finally, in 1735, the Mongols ceded the eastern region of Turkestan to the Qing empire and then, in 1759, ceded the Xinjiang province to the Chinese. Thus, by 1760, China controlled all of outer Mongolia west to Lake Balkhash and then south to the Tarim basin and eastern Turkestan.

Farther south, just east of the Caspian Sea, a thousand miles of desert was fought over by two Muslim khans, one from Khiva and one from Bokhara. There was continuous warfare also in Afghanistan. The Afghans started a campaign against the Persians at Kandahar in 1711, led by Mirwais Hotak, a Ghilzai chieftain. By 1722, Mahmud Hotak, another Afghan chieftain, had defeated a central Persian army and made himself Shah of that land. Somewhat later, however, Nadir Kuli, a powerful chief of the Afshar tribe of Khorosan, defeated the Afghans (and later also the Ottomans, with Russian help) and then went on to invade the Indian sub-continent. After Nadir’s death in 1747, one of his generals, Ahmed Shah, continued to rule Afghanistan, although by the end of the century he had lost all of Nadir’s Indian territory. Ahmed Shah called his Afghan dynasty the Durani Empire. In the 18th century an Indo-European speaking people, the Pashtuns, came up from Pakistan and forced out the inhabitants to settle in the southern and southeastern parts of Afghanistan.

Russians voyaged to explored Siberia at the same time North America was being explored by Europeans. Wild animals (foxes, hares, beavers, bears, wolves) and innumerable birds (ducks, cranes, swans, pelicans, geese, bitterns, woodcocks, and grouse) occupied the various waterways and swamps. Hunters and merchants were attracted by these fur bearing animals to the land. The skins were taken to Irkutsk and thence either to China, Moscow, and Europe. Taxes were collected in the form of precious and marketable furs for the Tsar. Sea otter fur was in world-wide demand. Russians fought native Siberians who objected to Russian presence in their homelands as they worked their way across the Bering Sea to the Aleutian Islands, catching otters at the mouths of rivers. Russian hunters and merchants traveled along the American coast, from Alaska as far south as the San Francisco area.


An 18th century drawing of a sea otter (Source: Wikimedia)

Early in the century (1717) Tibet was invaded by the Mongols, but the Chinese emperor sent in armies to drive them out, and Tibet became a political appendage of China by 1720. A definitive protectorate was established in 1750. At the end of the century expeditions were sent from southern Tibet into Nepal.


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