The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World For Centuries, Fame And Fortune Were To Be Found In The West In The New World Of The Americas Today, It Is The East Which Calls Out To Those In Search Of Riches And Adventure Sweeping Right Across Central Asia And Deep Into China And India, A Region That Once Took Centre Stage Is Again Rising To Dominate Global Politics, Commerce And CultureA Major Reassessment Of World History, The Silk Roads Is A Dazzling Exploration Of The Forces That Have Driven The Rise And Fall Of Empires, Determined The Flow Of Ideas And Goods And Are Now Heralding A New Dawn In International Affairs

Peter studied History at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he was Foundation Scholar, Schiff Scholar and won the History Prize in 1993, when he took an outstanding first class degree He did his D.Phil Ph.D at Corpus Christi College, where he was elected to a Senior Scholarship before moving to Worcester College as Junior Research Fellow in 1997 He has been Senior Research Fellow since 2000 and i

[Reading] ➮ The Silk Roads: A New History of the World ➶ Peter Frankopan –
  • Paperback
  • 636 pages
  • The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
  • Peter Frankopan
  • English
  • 07 March 2018
  • 9781408839997

10 thoughts on “The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

  1. says:

    4.5 epic, illuminating, depleting, disheartening stars 2018 Honorable Mention Read I started this very long book back in September of 2017 and almost half way through took a lengthy break as there was a chapter missing in my ebook and I had to wait a few months to get a copy from the library I also needed a break from the many evils of world history Over my life I have tried to read a number of very thick books that cover the world from the beginning of historical time and have always failed The books were either too dense or too dry or did not hold my interest Yet I knew to read such a book was really important I had too many gaps in my knowledge and like many of us would fill it in with childhood skewed religious classes or flimsy psychological, sociological and feminist understandings I needed this so desperately and this book was able to deliver a wealth of knowledge, a bit of depth to my understanding of world economics and politics and power dynamics but also, to be honest, despair on the relentless suffering that most of our fellow beings experience for the majority of their lives and in all time periods although the races, classes and ethnicities all take their turn What was most appealing about this book to me was that the eye view of whatever is happening in each time period was primarily kept on the area of the world we know as the Silk Roads The turbulent Middle East and the mysterious lands of Central Asia Mr Frankopan was able to give these cultures and places of a voice in their importance as well as contribution to knowledge and culture that most Eurocentric or Far East centric historical books tend to give I really appreciated this and helped me understand and integrate gaps in understanding in what I knew from my few readings in European, American and Chinese history Mr Frankopan accomplished quite a feat in being to condense a world history into bite size chunks that layered knowledge onto understanding and at times even illumination as to how we got into the huge mess that is our modern world His writing was interesting, neutral, at times entertaining and always with his eye on his central thesis of the most strategically economically culturally relevant areas for whatever superpowers happened to be flexing their muscles were in the areas of what we know as the Middle East and Central Asia In summary, Mr Frankopan helped me achieve 3 remarkable results1 I finally understand, in a limited way, why the Middle East is such a volatile powder keg and its very good and valid reasons for being so The dirty games that Imperialist regimes have played in this area are immense, cruel and unfathomable.2 Truly appreciated the contributions to art, music, literature, science and medicine that the peoples of Central Asia and Persia contributed to the world especially in the Dark and Middle Ages in Europe.3 Solidified my understanding that people and regimes in power are primarily corrupt and yes, evil,sometimes with a lower case e and sometimes with a capital one Evil and cruelty has been perpetuated by every regime in power and that control and greed are the primary reasons for this.We are often told that we need to learn from our knowledge of history but I feel it is likely to help us understand what is inevitable I will stop there so I don t move into despair..

  2. says:

    Oh I am really disappointed with this book Maybe because I had very different expectations about it I ve read the title and the introduction by the author, and I thought that it was exactly what I want to know about the people of this region over the centuries I wanted to find out about their way of life, religions, political systems, culture and economy I wanted to know about their interactions with each other and only at the last place their interactions with the other parts of the world.As a result of reading this book I barely got the answer on the last issue and the sense of chronology, which I knew anyway I think to say the book is dealing with the complexity of this region in the historical perspective would be overstatement big time It deals with the Europe s and later the US s policies, predominately at the Middle East region and their mistakes over the centuries So if this is your main interest in the book, you might be satisfied For me the book was as West centred as many other World Histories apart from that normally you have too much of Europe s praise While here it is Europe and the US bashing You barely hear about China, the Ottoman empire has almost mentioned in passing apart from Senan s architecture But we are treated to the detailed consideration of the courses of the Irangate in the US I agree that it is important But I rather read a separate book about this While here I wanted to find out how the Iranians were leaving before and after the Islamic Revolution for example.The Early Europe has got a rough treatment For example the fact that the Arabs stopped their conquest at the borders of the modern France is explained that they had nothing to gain from going further, the military resistance by the local population is mentioned but in passing The same situation with the Mongols five centuries later really What a coincidence The renaissance should be called naissance as Early Modern Europe had nothing to do with Rome i totally missed this point Those people in the 15th century thought differently Also I did not get what is new about this New History of the World As a summary, if it is your first book about the world history, go for it, if you are ready to skip China, the South America to name a few and have a flavour for the Modern Middle East s politics especially blunders made by the US in treating Iran and Iraq Also if you are interested to hear quite a bit of the author s judgements in the area go for it.If you are interested in the history of peoples of the steppe, like I was, you would probably not be satisfied I am starting again to look for a book about The Silk Road.

  3. says:

    This is the most unbiased and objective narration of history focussing on the rich history of countries on the old Silk Route The aim was simple, somehow focus the spotlight of history back on this region instead of focussing on European and American historical version which seems to be widely prevalent Peter has weaved a tremendous story which at times almost seems apocryphal to someone like myself who is steeped with the popular historical narrative The fact that Peter is a well respected historian does help matters as it forced me to take his view seriously I would highly recommend this beautifully crafted and engaging historical narrative which reads like a well made documentary.

  4. says:

    The Silk Roads is part of the genre of popular history books that purports to tell the history of the world through one particular theme or from one particular vantage point, and is better than most of them Peter Frankopan is a trained historian, and so knows how to synthesise a great deal of information from cultures across Asia and Europe and the span of several centuries in a nuanced manner As an example of a sweeping chronicle, there s much to admire here The author knows how to keep a narrative moving at a brisk pace and when to throw in the occasional wry aside, which also helps the reader to move quickly through such a thick book Frankopan s main point that central Asia is far central to world history than is popularly thought or than most Western textbooks teach is well made, if not exactly new I found the early chapters of this book particularly engrossing, as Frankopan a Byzantinist is clearly most at home in those centuries Sadly, as the book progressed, I got a little dissatisfied with it Once the European Age of Exploration begins, the focus shifts so that we get of a sense of how imperialist powers used Asia to fight their battles than anything else This is, of course, an important story, and I learned some new things about British, French, and Russian involvement in Iran and Iraq to appal and depress me But what I didn t get much of a sense of was the voices of those who lived in those regions and the reactions which they had to the forces swirling around their homes Nor did I get a sense of the interactions between central Asia and the world to the south and east of it There s little about China and nothing about, say, the Swahili coast This serves to subtly, and I am sure unintentionally, reinforce the idea that the history of central Asia is important inasmuch as it helps to contextualise things that happened in the West This may well be a function of the secondary scholarship on which Frankopan is drawing as he moves further and further from his areas of expertise, but it s a shame.

  5. says:

    This is a frustrating, though still useful, book Historian Peter Frankopan s title claims this is a new history of the world He then proposes that what the world needs is to reorient its focus from Europe to the silk roads , vaguely defined by him as the region between East and West. from the Eastern shores of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean to the Himalayas This almost certainly reflects the fact that the core of this region happens to his particular area of interest Turkey, Persia, Central Asia and Russia as a historian Having made this decision, he has to force the rest of the story to keep coming back to this region, to somehow keep his argument afloat My recurring thought on reading this book was that all this is unnecessary He could have written a history of the region without pretending that this was the REAL history of the world, and it would have worked fine Or he could have attempted a history of the world and not bothered with this tendentious framing But he insists on doing both, and it causes endless and needless irritation The other issue is that having attempted a sort of forced universal history, he wanders into areas where he is clearly not an expert and makes some surprisingly basic errors For example, the abduction of Sita is described as being part of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata it is actually in the Ramayana a mistake that could be avoided by even the most basic familiarity with Indian culture and the Quranic verse hold fast to the rope of Allah 3 103 is interpreted with breathtaking audacity, if not accuracy as a possible message of conciliation between Muslims, Jews and Christians it is an explicit call for Muslim unity, against all comers These are minor details, but they should put the reader on guard More seriously, at one point he claims that the building of the Taj Mahal owes to the riches that the Mughals gathered from Europe, which in turn was getting them from the newly discovered Americas India s glory came at the expense of the Americas , which is a bit much As far as I know, It came from the sweat and blood Indian peasants, not from events in the distant Americas I don t claim to be an expert on precious metal flows of that era, but the claim seems needlessly hyperbolic If he is right, I would love to hear about it though PS the erudite Pseudoerasmus pointed me to one of his posts that shed light on this issue, and basically says the injuns paid for it, not the Americas.There is also a consistent and very strong undertow of what may be described as Eurocentric self hate throughout the book Peter thinks the West has been very vicious and uniquely rapacious in history, which is a kind of mirror image of the idea that the West has been uniquely powerful in history Even where this is likely true e.g in the 19th century , his treatment of this seems to be too close to popular postmarxist postmodern historiography for comfort.In general, the account of recent events the book ends with the recent American disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan is too superficial to satisfy anyone who is genuinely interested in any particular theater of conflict, and too trite and formulaic to be categorized as a groundbreaking universal history The last chapter is a good example of the irritating way he mixes occasional good insights with his need to fit everything into his original silk roads as center of the world thesis He also has a tendency to rather pompously assert the West needs to give up its current disastrous focus on X and step back and adopt the correct way of looking at things which is irritating because X is usually a straw man and the correct way is mostly a rewording of his unproven center of the world thesis.My last point is bit hard to convey, but I will try Frankopan displays absolutely no awareness of the fact that he himself is part and parcel of the institutions and society which he repeatedly dismisses as painfully naive and incompetent One gets the feeling that the author really believes that he and Oxford will be just fine, since they are somehow above the fray As an artificial vantage point from which to write the book, this is not a bad idea, but when reading the book one gets the distinct impression that this is not just a strategic and justifiable vantage point, it is a thought that has really never crossed his mind My point is this a universal history is ultimately a reflection of the wisdom, insight, discernment and, yes, character, of the author He is picking and choosing what few things to present out of a gigantic mass of materials, and he decides how to frame it and Peter Frankopan does not impress me in this regard And being impressive in this regard does not always mean one has to agree with the author s conclusions Christopher Beckwith author of Empire of the Silk Roads may have many opinions I do not share, but he commands respect by his impressive and careful scholarship and his deeply thought out positions In short, what he says has weight, even if I do not agree with his conclusion Peter Frankopan does not match that standard He may have access to facts, but he is no Gibbon, and that knocks this book down a peg.Still, the book is not without its redeeming features He has read widely and there are genuine insights and nuggets of interesting information scattered throughout the book, making it worth your while You would be well advised to suspend judgement about the frame in which he has chosen to frame them, and you should keep in the back of your mind the fact that all his minor facts are not necessarily correct.Still, worth a read.PS for a really good book about the Silk Roads, one that will teach you new things and genuinely make you think new thoughts, check out Christopher Beckwith s Empires of the Silk Road Razib Khan has an excellent review.

  6. says:

    4.75An extremely well researched but defintely not dry history of the Silk Roads I am definitely a happy camper.Need time to gather my thoughts and refer to my notes for a better and cohesive review reaction

  7. says:

    Don t let the size of The Silk Roads daunt you It s very readable The scope is huge, geographically and over centuries, but Peter Frankopan keeps everything clear and moving along.I lack familiarity with the history, so I can t say whether his arguments, his judgements on history, are true and what is truth Probably if each of us studied the same scholarly texts we d decide things a bit differently But his arguments did hang together the evidence he presents supports his insights Frankopan has a nice style for a popular history book The scholarship is evident and the referencing is great if you want to dig deeper with additional reading , but he wears it lightly and the wry sharpness of his judgement on the greed, violence, delusion and sheer stupidity of various individuals and nations empires helps kick the book along.The complexity and good governance of the empire Ghengis Khan founded made for fascinating reading Skip through a few centuries and the Russian factor in the decision to start World War I is one I hadn t read before confessing my ignorance Even the twentieth and twenty first centuries, where I thought I knew contained surprises The Great Game , as the British called it, was never a game Resources, wealth and security, power, religion and identity, mix to create a volatile region that impacts the world I m not sure I agree with Frankopan s conclusion that the world is turning back to centre on the old silk roads That power shift to China, the belly of the old Soviet Union and the Middle East seems disputable from my corner of the world, Australia And yet, there s now a train or composed of several trains that carries cargo from China across the old silk roads spine Maybe the upheaval in the Middle East, the terrible suffering of its people, is because of power shifting and players fighting to seize their opportunities, or to resist losing what they have The Silk Roads is an interesting and absorbing read that lingers in the mind.

  8. says:

    Well written, well researched, interesting and original all good points about a book that is excellent in parts I enjoyed reading it, found much to be compelling and challenging to some of my own views, but at times I found this book frustrating For all its excellence, this is less one book than two And neither of those books quite fulfils the promise of the title The first book, roughly chapters 1 16, is a history of trade routes and in being that, it is largely about Eurasia The second book, roughly chapters 17 onwards is a much detailed history, still with an emphasis on trade, but might be better called why the world is now in the mess it is in Both of these books are very good, but they do not quite fit seamlessly together The first book is broad brush history, the second is much detailed ordering of facts leading to forward looking conclusions In both cases the term Silk Road is a metaphor for trade routes, rather than being specifically about The Silk Road , and it is pretty much about Eurasia and not the world as a whole and there is a lot of world outside Europe and Asia.But both books are good enough to forgive these faults The first book is a wonderful general history It shows quite how much of history is not about the west It rebalances the bias of the traditional western histories I have grown up with Its not that western history is not interesting and important, it is both of these things, but there is so much history which is not the history of the west and it is worth knowing For long periods western Europe was a quiet backwater compared to what was happening in the rest of the world Read this if you like big historical themes and interesting original insights The second book is a story of ongoing disaster influenced heavily by mistaken policies firstly of Britain and then America in the middle east and Asia It s quite an eye opener, if not always a pleasant one to read The British Empire may not have been one of the worst, but in the second book you learn it was full of plenty of self interest, deviousness and unpleasant behaviour And the behaviour of America in the last few decades has been no better, possibly even worse If you are westerner and you are irritated by the chants of hypocrisy pointed at us from middle eastern countries read this to understand why that anger has a very valid and strong basis.

  9. says:

    This book covers the history of the area known as the Silk Road since it was first used, by traders circa 200 years BCE, up to very recent times I d touched on some of this history before but Peter Frankopan comes at events from a slightly different angle essentially, his premiss is that early civilisation wasn t actually shaped by the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians it was the Persians who provided the catalyst for much of the learning and development that established the world we now live in His view is that as people travelled the Silk Road routes, between China and the Mediterranean, ideas and religions as well as all sorts of goods travelled with them and that early scholars from the surrounding areas were, in fact, way ahead of the curve.At an early stage I was seeking out early maps of the area to ascertain where exactly Persia, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Asia Minor and other ancient names actually featured in the geography as we understand it today The text is, in truth, rather textbook dry but it s also peppered with small bits of wisdom and knowledge that surprised and delighted me But it s a long book and I started to find myself rushing through sections to get to the periods I was most interested in The final sections of the book deal with events post WWII I found to this part to be fascinating even though I d lived through most of this period, I quickly realised how little I really knew about how this bit of history had unfolded The conclusion to the book is sobering too as it draws attention to the rich natural resources of the area gas, oil and minerals and how this is bringing increasing wealth to nations I couldn t even point to on a map Frankopan suggests that history may well be turning full circle and cites examples to support his case that in the future the East may be rediscover its former pre eminence over the West.A thoughtful and thought provoking book for anyone interested in discovering about the colourful history of this area.

  10. says:

    This is a world history from the perspective that the area between China and Europe is the center of gravity of everything important in human endeavors For the author, Frankopan, this loosely defined region is bounded by western China, northern India, the Horn of Africa, eastern Syria, and southern Russia Roughly speaking this places Uzbekistan in the center When passage through this area was the only way for trade goods to be transported between east and west it was indeed an important area Trade and exchange through this area resulted in a development of culture and wealth such that by around 1000 A.D world riches were concentrated around Baghdad But ever since the 1500s when Europeans learned how to sail the oceans to reach the Far East, most of history has moved elsewhere Frankopan insists that it s still important and will be so in the future World history from the time of Alexander the Great to the present is a massive scope to fit into a 500 page history additional 100 pages of notes and bibliography Thus as a world history this book is somewhat cursory in its coverage, but detailed and interesting anecdotes are provided focusing on the Middle East area All the important events are included e.g Alexander the Great, the Roman and Sassanid Empires, Attila the Hun, multiple religions Islam in particular, Crusades, Mongols, Western traders and colonialist, Muslim Mughals in India, the Great Game, World War One, World War II Through the coverage of these events the author provides special emphasis on and praise of the cultures in the targeted area Likewise he also demonstrates subtile prejudice against Western influences by pointing out their mistakes and weaknesses When the narrative reaches the late twentieth century the book provides a thorough account of British and American meddling in Iranian affairs and their support of the Shah Needless to say this is the tortured part of modern history and makes French, British and American foreign policy look foolish and bad.At the end of the book Frankopan forecasts a coming renewed glory for the Silk Road region We are seeing signs of the world s center of gravity shifting back to where it lay for millennia Perhaps, time will tell But these words have a tinge of rose colored glasses.Below are several excerpts taken from the book I don t claim them to be the most important parts of the book, just things I found interesting.The following excerpt is an example of an interesting anecdote from the ninth century that tells how a semi nomadic tribe, the Khazars, in the Russian Steppes ended up adopting Judaism as their religion in spite of efforts by Christian and Moslem missionaries to win them over British spelling is used throughout the book Remarkably a copy of the khagan s reply to this letter survives with the Kazar ruler explaining his tribes conversation to Judaism The decision to convert, wrote the Khagan was the result of the great wisdom of the one of his predecessors, who had brought delegations representing different faiths to present the case for each Having pondered how best to establish the facts the rule had asked the Christians whether Islam or Judaism was the better faith When they replied that the former was certainly worse than the later, he asked the Muslims whether Judaism or Christianity was preferable When they lambasted Christianity and also replied that Judaism was the less bad of the two, the Khazar ruler announced that he had reached a conclusion both had admitted that the religion of the Israelites was better, he declared, so trusting in the mercies of God and the power of the Almighty, I choose the religion of Israel, that is, the religion of Abraham p109 Slavery was endemic in Islamic society during the zenith of its culture in the medieval years much the same as it had been in the Roman Empire during its heyday The following excerpt from the book provides a discussion of the extent of slavery in Islamic lands Recent research suggests that at the height of its power the Roman Empire required 250,000 400,000 new slaves each year to maintain slave population The size of the market in the Islamic lands was considerably larger assuming the demand for slaves was analogous stretching from Spain through to Afghanistan, which would suggest that the number of slaves being sold may have been far greater even than those for Rome Although the limitations of the source material are frustrating, some idea of the likely scale comes from the fact that one account talks of a caliph and his wife owning a thousand slave girls each, while another was said to own no fewer than four thousand Slaves in the Muslim world were as ubiquitous and silent as they were in Rome p116 The book mentions that much of the gold and silver taken by Spain from the newly found mines of North and South America ended up in the far east in payment for luxury goods such things as spices, silks and fine china China in particular had a preference for silver relative to gold, thus a large portion of the silver ended up in China The following excerpt discusses the economic consequences of such an accumulation of silver in China Much of the silver that flooded into China was spent in a series of major reforms, not the least of which were the monetisation of the economy, the encouragement of free labour markets and a deliberate program to stimulate foreign trade Ironically, China s love of silver and the premium it placed on this particular precious metal became its Achilles heel With such great quantities of silver reaching China, above all through Manila, it was inevitable that its value would start to fall, which over time caused price inflation the net result was that the value of silver, and above all its value in relation to gold, was forced into line with other regions and continents Unlike India, where the impact of the opening up of the world produced new wonder of the world, in China it was to lead to a serious economic and political crisis in the seventeenth century Globalisation was no less problematic five centuries ago than it is today p235 This book provides a history written from an intentionally non Western point of view This difference in perspective is what makes it unique and worth reading.Link to article titled, Eurasia, the supercontinent that will define our century

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