The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
James A. Millward
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The phrase "silk road" evokes vivid scenes of merchants leading camel caravans across vast stretches to trade exotic goods in glittering Oriental bazaars, of pilgrims braving bandits and frozen mountain passes to spread their faith across Asia. Looking at the reality behind these images, this Very Short Introduction illuminates the historical background against which the silk road flourished, shedding light on the importance of old-world cultural exchange to Eurasian and world history.
On the one hand, historian James A. Millward treats the silk road broadly, to stand in for the cross-cultural communication between peoples across the Eurasian continent since at least the Neolithic era. On the other, he highlights specific examples of goods and ideas exchanged between the Mediterranean, Persia, India, and China, along with the significance of these exchanges. While including silks, spices, and travelers' tales of colorful locales, the book explains the dynamics of Central Eurasian history that promoted Silk Road interactions--especially the role of nomad empires--highlighting the importance of the biological, technological, artistic, intellectual, and religious interchanges across the continent. Millward shows that these exchanges had a profound effect on the old world that was akin to, if not on the scale of, modern globalization. He also disputes the idea that the silk road declined after the collapse of the Mongol empire or the opening of direct sea routes from Europe to Asia, showing how silk road phenomena continued through the early modern and modern expansion of the Russian and Chinese states across Central Asia.
Millward concludes that the idea of the silk road has remained powerful, not only as a popular name for boutiques and restaurants, but also in modern politics and diplomacy, such as U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's "Silk Road Initiative" for India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
flourishing in Central Asia, Persia, and Afghanistan characterized by a synthesis of Islamic, Persian, and Turkic culture, and marked by high achievement in science (notably astronomy), Turkic and Persian literature, illuminated manuscripts, ceramics, stone carving, and especially architecture: the monumental mosques and madrasas of Samarkand and Herat date from this period. This Timurid renaissance influenced the Tarim Basin oases, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and India as well. Babur, the
Homo erectus, 43 Homo sapiens, 43 horses and horsemanship and cultural diffusion, 41, 46–51, 66, 92–93 domestication of horses, 41–44 and foods, 62 and the Huns, 13–14 and military power, 7, 12–13, 38, 49, 66, 71, 83–84, 114 and nomadic culture, 13–14, 21–22, 83 and the steppes, 9, 41, 47 and stringed instruments, 92 and technology diffusion, 66 and trade, 38, 60, 70–72, 92, 112–13 and Xiongnu culture, 25 huchuang (barbarian chair), 64–65 Hui people, 39 Hulegu, 34 humoral
101 Rong peoples, 15 royal culture, 46–51 Royal Society, 81 Russia and architectural styles, 116–17 and equestrian culture, 48 and gunpowder empires, 86 and Mongol influence, 37, 38 and nomadic cultures, 20 and silk, 71–72 and trade relations, 38, 71–72, 112–13 and the visual arts, 101 S Safavid dynasty, 36, 86, 106, 107 Saka, 101 Salehi, Ali Akbar, 118 Samarkand and character of the silk road, 3 and cosmopolitanism of the silk road, 32–33 and paper technology, 73–74 and
Sodhdian culture, 25 and the visual arts, 99, 104 Sanskrit, 79 Sasanid Empire and blue-and-white ware, 108 and cosmopolitanism of the silk road, 29–32 and “dark age” of the silk road, 28 and equestrian culture, 49 and grape wine, 55 and Islamic book illuminations, 105 and the silk trade, 71 and stringed instruments, 94 and the visual arts, 99 Schumpter, Joseph A., 50–51 Scythians and “dark age” of the silk road, 27 and DNA studies, 44 and equestrian culture, 48 Gibbon on, 11
cultural package that included a script, bodies of knowledge including scientific and legal expertise, and clerical personnel, in addition to the promise of salvation or enhanced reincarnation. Manichaeism, which arose in the third century CE in Persia, once had adherents from northern China to the Roman Empire (St. Augustine of Hippo flirted with Manichaeism as a youth in the fourth century). Though extinct today, that dualistic religion was adopted by the nomadic Uyghur state in the eighth