The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

Peter Frankopan. Knopf, $30 (656p) ISBN 978-1-101-94632-9
Upending the traditional narrative of Western enlightenment and world domination as the inevitable descendants of Greek and Roman intellectual ferment, Oxford historian Frankopan (The First Crusade) places the silk roads—the long, remote Central Asian trading routes linking Europe and China—at the center of human history. The silk roads served as conduits for goods and ideas as well as plagues and marauding armies, and their location at the nexus of Europe and Asia continues to drive world events today. Frankopan casts his net widely in this work of dizzying breadth and ambition. Casual readers may struggle to follow all the threads; those opening to any page will find fascinating insights that illuminate elusive connections across time and place. Frankopan’s thoughts on Islam, for instance, begin with newly discovered “wisps of text” that are reshaping understanding of Muhammad’s life and stretch across centuries to the modern luxuries of the “oil-soaked” Middle East. The Black Plague—carried west by the Mongols—devastated Europe and the Middle East, but “the plague turned out to be the catalyst for social and economic change that was so profound that far from marking the death of Europe, it served as its making.” Frankopan approaches his craft with an acerbic wit, and his epochal perspective throws the foibles of the modern age into sharp relief. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/21/2015
Release date: 02/16/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-68168-052-1
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-5094-1222-8
Paperback - 672 pages - 978-1-101-91237-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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