From ancient world laws laid down by King Hammurabi to the rise of Alexander, two World Wars and modern politics today, The Silk Roads moves through time and history sewing together the threads from different empires into a concise history of our planet. While I haven’t read the non-illustrated edition (which is well over 600 pages), this gorgeous edition illustrated by Neil Packer is a must-have coffee table book for history buffs.
Peter Frankopan makes a fine case for the ancient (and modern) Silk Roads as the heart of the world, citing various examples of intellectual and goods exchange across the Silk Roads of Persia for two millennia. He argues that globalisation did not begin in 1492 with the European voyages of discovery and that it actually began long before Columbus and his contemporaries set sail.
The book begins with the words – “The heart of Asia is where civilization was born”, and continues to talk about ancient Mesopotamia, along the banks of the mighty Tigris and Euphrates, and the Indus Valley civilization where the very first cities known to mankind (Mesopotamia: Babylon, Ninevah and Uruk, Indus: Harappa, Mohonjo-Daro, Dholavira) were founded. It also gives a primer on how interconnected the ancient world was, with Romans buying pepper in Indian shores, pots from North Africa being used thousands of miles away in Scotland, and ceramics from Persia being transported to Sri Lanka, South East Asia and China. The book continues to travel rapidly across time, covering the major events from the rise and fall of Rome, rise of Islam, the dark ages, colonial era, the two World Wars, and concludes rather fittingly with China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project.
“History reminds us how changes have occurred in the past and helps us understand why change is taking place today. The Silk Roads have always been important. And today is no different; the Silk Roads are rising again.”