Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Rethinking History : The Shocking Reality of History in the Making

Written by: on December 19, 2019

Rethinking History! The Shocking Reality of History In the Making

Reading The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by British writer and historian, Peter Frankopan, sparked intrigue and bewilderment on this new interpretation of a pivotal time in history for the West. Moreover, in the book Frankopan provided a challenge to the reader before commencing onward to this new revelation of history. His challenge to his readers is to study people and places that have been ignored by scholars for generations by opening up new questions and new areas of research and to inspire those who read this book to look at history in a different way.[1]

Immediately two thoughts leaped to mind; 1) Is he suggesting to rethink the foundational knowledge of history? Furthermore, 2) Is he in the process of rewriting history? Nevertheless, the need to find the answer captivated my attention.

The Silk Road Rewrite

Technically, the book provides more of a revision to the history of the Silk Road rather than a complete rewrite. The Silk Road is known as a network of trade routes connecting China and the Far East with the Middle East and Europe, which provided an avenue to distribute precious metals such as gold and silver bars, coins, and commodities such as silks, spices, and oils. It also contributed to a darker side of the trade with the distribution of slaves, death, plagues, and disease. It is also a period that earmarked globalization by interconnecting countries together through trade, religion and politics.

In his book, he poses that instead of accepting the Eurocentric perspective of the Silk Road, the center of the world, civilization is much closer to Persia rather than Rome. In examining this claim, many historians echo the sentiments of Peter Frankopan in considering the route of the Silk Road to have been centralized, as in the middle of the world.

History Under Review

Frankopan’s new expedition into the history of the Silk Road resulted in a quest for a more in-depth inquiry to review history in its fundamental purpose.

History is the foundation in which religion, heritage, politics, and culture find its place in time and the world. History is the study of past events connected to human affairs. Although the need to question the events of history has always been present, the reality of its foundation remained in place. Furthermore, history is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon[2]. At the core of historiography, this statement could not have provided more truth. There are always multiple sides to the story, but it is the ones that write the book of history that control the narrative.

With knowledge of this, historians recognize that individual facts and stories only give us part of the picture. Drawing on their existing knowledge of a time period and on previous scholarship about it, they continually reevaluate the facts and weigh them in relation to other kinds of information, questions and sources.[3]  Thus, historians are on an unending quest to understand the past, and that includes revisionism – what makes history vital and meaningful.[4]

The word revisionism is a term that has attracted negative connotations due to the ill use of the variation of term revisionist used in the Holocaust denial debauchery. Historical revisionism is the reinterpretation or reexamination of historical facts, events, and accounts. Without revisionism, we would be mired with stereotypes[5] of the past cultural influence and accept a lazy interpretation of the history of civilization such as Ancient Greece begat Rome, Rome begat Christian Europe, Christian Europe begat the Renaissance, the Renaissance the Enlightenment, the Enlightenment political democracy and the industrial revolution. Industry crossed with democracy, in turn, yielded the United States embodying the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.[6] Revising history is the elixir of life for the historian; thus, every historian is a revisionist historian in some sense.

Rethinking History

Frankopan’s revision of the Silk Road provides access to the world of history. He challenged the reader to look beyond that which is written and examine the place, time, cultural influence and even political influences of that time. In doing so, the reader has the opportunity to expand the horizons of their individualist thoughts and evaluate how history affects one’s life and society. Though, the reader may not be a historian understanding the dynamics of historical revisionism paves the way for enlightenment.

The reality is that history remains in the making. It is a continuing dialogue, between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time. There is no single, eternal, and immutable “truth” about past events and their meaning.[7]



[1] Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (New York: Vintage Book Trade, 2015), xix.

[2] Olivia Raub, “History as You Were Never Taught,” Penn State: Interesting History, April 26, 2014, https://sites.psu.edu/interestinghistory/2014/04/26/historical-quotes/.

[3] “Why Do Historians’ Accounts of the Past Keep Changing?why Do Historians’ Accounts of the Past Keep Changing?,” National Council of Public History, accessed December 18, 2019, https://ncph.org/what-is-public-history/how-historians-work/the-changing-past/.

[4] James McPherson, “Revisionist Historians,” Historians, September 1, 2003, https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/september-2003/revisionist-historians.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (New York: Vintage Book Trade, 2015), xiii.

[7] James McPherson, “Revisionist Historians,” Historians, September 1, 2003, https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/september-2003/revisionist-historians.


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Shermika Harvey

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