Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Peter Frankopan's "The Silk Roads"

Peter Frankopan is a historian at Oxford University, where he is Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford and Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, and reported the following:
A thousand years ago, the world’s centre of gravity did not lie in Europe or the West, but in the heart of Asia – just has it had for two millennia before that. Civilisation itself began in Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates, where the first cities even pre-date those of Ancient Egypt. This is where the Garden of Eden was thought to have been located – heaven on earth.

The jewel of this world ten centuries ago was a city whose vibrancy, beauty, grit and cosmopolitanism made it an early version of New York City – rough at the edges, maybe; but bursting with life and ideas.

Called the City of Peace when it was founded, it is today better known by another name – one that hardly conjures up the glorious past it once enjoyed: Baghdad. And yet Baghdad was once a magnet for scholars and preachers (of all religions), it drew in merchants and traders, lured artisans and craftsmen.

The rich lived like those in the fancy apartments overlooking Central Park in palaces that were ‘lavishly gilded and decorated, and hung with beautiful tapestries and hangings of brocade and silk’, in the words of one eye-witness (as you’ll find on page 99).

Although there are many different ways of looking at history, most historians tend to look at the same things. We are living through an age transition, where relations with Russia are strained, the Middle East is in turmoil, Iran is re-emerging and China is rising. Looking at the past from the perspective of the Silk Roads tells us what we need to know about the present – and helps us understand the future.

The world’s center of gravity has moved before, notably after Columbus crossed the Atlantic, and Vasco da Gama rounded Africa. It is now moving again – back to where it lay for thousands of years.
Visit Peter Frankopan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue