This note is a part of my Zettelkasten. What is below might not be complete or accurate. It is also likely to change often.
19th January, 2022

Silk Road by Peter Frankopan

A short review this wonderful book on the history and the present of the Silk Road.

When I was taught history in school (mostly in Lucknow), I remember reading about two histories - the european history (the Greeks, the Romans, the dark ages, the Crusades, the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Imperialism, the World Wars) and Indian History (the Indus Valley civilization, the Aryan arrival, the Ramayana and Mahabharatha, the Guptas, the Mauryas, the Delhi Sultanate, Mughals, Company era, Independence movement).

One part which was (in hindsight) conspicously missing was what lies in between these two pieces (geographically). There was some mention of the Egyptian Civilization (mummies and pyramids!) and the Mesopotamian Civilization (hanging gardens!) but they were treated as relics of a long ago era.

In fact, the first inkling I got of the glorious islamic empires of western asia was from a game, called Crusader Kings IV. When playing it I realized that islamic powers held control over most of the mediterranean during the crusades and were more fun to play with!

What this book does beautifully is to draw a continuous line all the way from the ancient civilizations to the present. Having never visited these countries, this was an epiphany for me when I was reading the book. Also, the book takes a strongly persia-centric view of history which was refreshing and allowed me to examine some of my preconcieved notions too.

In a fluid narrative style, the book takes us from the ancient persian empires of Darius and Cyrus the Great, the invasion by Alexander of Macedonia, the founding and spread of two of the great religions today - christianity and islam, the flourishing slave trade between persia and scandinavia and the rus and africa, the Crusades, the rise of the Mongols, the rise of the mediterranean trader city-states, the plunder of the americas, and the shift of power towards western europe.

The book ends with an observation of a shifting of power and influence back towards western asia from western europe.