DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Silk Roads

Written by: on October 5, 2016

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan

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Frankopan’s study reminds us that one-way systems are a recent invention. Traffic—physically and culturally—typically runs two ways, and certainly did along the Silk Roads.

Introduction

Peter Frankopan, the director of Oxford University’s Centre for Byzantine Research, has rethought world history while relocating all the major central developments of that history well east of Europe. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, covers many continents and centuries and is an in-depth reading that draws over the latest forms of research. The book includes many Russian and German sources and contains vivid and intricate details with close connections to diverse cultures.[1] The Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade, a major reason for the connection of trade routes into a transcontinental network.

Summary

Frankopan has actually recalibrated the view of history for challenging assumptions linked with where we come from and what is it that has shaped us on the whole. The traditional view taught within our schools as well as supported by museums displays is that we mainly link to the glorious Romans as a race, who were associated with the Greeks, who in turn were connected to the Egyptians.

Frankopan disagrees with this Eurocentric view as he views the center of the world as somehow connected to the east, way beyond Mesopotamia and the Caucasus, within Iran. Frankopan has dug deeply into the archives and quotes many texts to make his point. His facts actually support the overall theory that Chinese silks were being worn by elite Carthaginians 2,000 years ago, while the wealthiest Iranians were using Provencal pottery and Indian spices for Afghan, as well as Roman, cuisine.[2] Frankopan asserts that trade, or wealth, has always been the most integral engine driving people over the Silk Roads. However, other things were also carried along these routes. In this case, he has emphasizes the fact that Alexander’s campaign in the east brought Greek culture to the Indus valley. Christianity also very quickly spread along the Silk Roads, as did Islam.[3] Many scientific advances also took place along with philosophical ideas and many of them were cross-fertilized through the exposure to the east and the west.

Reflection

It is a good book overall that very nicely captures the history of the world with a modern point of view and though process. It can actually be quite intriguing, but leaves many hostages to fortune when reviewed closely. For example, when emphasizing the overall appeal of early Islam to Jews, Frankopan highlights the pact Muhammad made along the Jews of Medina. On the other hand, he does not mention the truth about what happened to these Jews later: he shows one perspective and ignores another.

Personal Note

The spread of religions and cultural traditions along the Silk Roads, according to Jerry H. Bentley, also led to syncretism, because the religious beliefs of the peoples of the Silk Roads changed radically over time. We can see how the network of trade routes affected the rise and fall of empires along the regions and their impact on trade and cultural exchanges. How did it shape world development for centuries? Because they were routes of trade, which emphasizes how these routes served as spiritual highways connecting an eclectic mix of Eastern and Western religious movements. In a series of chapters—The Road of Faiths, The Road of Furs, and so on—studded with state-of-the-art research sourced from at least a dozen languages, the author brings wondrous histories to vivid life. “The ‘silk road’ label is relatively recent, coined only in 1877 by the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen, uncle of the first-World-War flying ace, the Red Baron” (one of many fascinating details Frankopan has packed into his text).

The questions that crowded my mind as I read The Silk Roads were about trade and migration, the world’s oldest international highway was the vehicle which spread Buddhism through Central Asia. Its significance for Buddhism is that it was the principal path for the early transmission of Buddhism from India to China, and later for Chinese pilgrims travelling from China to India in search of teachings and scriptures. We can see the Silk Roads as transmitters of people, goods, ideas, beliefs, and inventions. It is perhaps worth noting, however, that long-distance trade can have unexpectedly bad side effects as well as direct beneficial effects. For example, the Black Death plague that devastated Europe in the 14th century is believed to have come via the Silk Road from Central Asia, where the plague is endemic among local rodents.

The Silk Roads was so much more than a bunch of fancy fabrics traveling on camels’ backs to clothe the Roman elite, which shows how the wealthy shape governance. The question is, how does it relate to our own ideas of trade and globalization today? It served the wealthy. Wealth and politics are still tightly interwoven; their influence is still changing lives. However, the economic impact of the bottom income earners, those making the silk, is “statistically non-significant.” Economic elites, business interests, and people who can afford lobbyists still carry major influence today in our political world. They support foundations for favor.

 The Silk Road Caravan routes influenced the local cultures, as the routes of communication and trade opened previously isolated societies, I can see “Our Outreach Ministry” like a great caravan with servant leaders spreading the news of the kingdom, and   influencing the community …changing lives.

 

Bibliography

Avery, Serge. “The Silk Road: A New History, by Valerie Hansen—Book Review.” http://worldhistoryconnected.press.illinois.edu/10.3/br_avery.html (accessed October 4, 2016).

Bentley, Jerry. Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Christian, David. “Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History.” Journal of World History 11, no. 1 (2000): 1–26.

Davies, Mark W., and Luke A. Jardine. “How to Write a Book Review.” In How to Write a Paper, 5th ed., edited by George M. Hall, 98–101. New York: Wiley, 2013.

Frankopan, Peter. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. New York: Knopf, 2016. Kindle edition.

Sattin, Anthony. “The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan Review—A Frustrating Trail.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/29/silk-roads-peter-frankopan-review (accessed September 5, 2016).

[1]. Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (New York: Knopf, 2016). Kindle edition.

[2]. Anthony Sattin, “The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan Review—A Frustrating Trail.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/29/silk-roads-peter-frankopan-review (accessed September 5, 2016).

[3]. David Christian, “Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History.” Journal of World History 11, no. 1 (2000): 1–26.

About the Author

mm

Rose Anding

Rose Maria “Simmons McCarthy” Anding, a Visionary, Teacher,Evangelist, Biblical Counselor/ Chaplain and Author, of High Heels, Honey Lips, and White Powder. She is a widower, mother, stepmother, grandmother, great grandmother of Denver James, the greater joy of her life. She has lived in Chicago, Washington, DC, and North Carolina, and is now back on the forgiving soil of Mississippi.

7 responses to “The Silk Roads”

  1. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Rose,
    Great post and personal insights. I agree with you that the author doesn’t always expose the truth in this book. What I believe is that he uses stories to open the appetite of each reader and then if the reader is really interested…go research. I’m not a fan of history so when I read the stories that connect the events, I’m able to choose what to research. This book was definitely another way of looking at history. As you stated, “The Silk Road Caravan routes influenced the local cultures” and I believe this was one of the first mark of cultural interaction because this was an intentional case of East meet West.

    Garfield

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Garfield for sharing your thoughts on my blog. It was nice meeting your wife, you guys are such a lovely couple. I prayed that all is well today.

      Yes, Silk Roads was a great story of history, I also listen to the Silk Roads’audio book that was narrated by: Laurence Kennedy telling the story. He did an excellent job. I agree, that the uses of stories opens one appetite to want to learn more. Thanks for enlightenment! Rose Maria

  2. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Rose,

    You have lived in some very different places: D. C. and Mississippi…and maybe Chicago? (Or perhaps you just have relatives in Chicago.)

    Are you aware of any “Silk Road” effects flowing between some of these places: are there any indicators that D C culture has affected Mississippi culture, or the other way around?

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Marc for the observation and the questions, yes I could call the African Americans from the South to the urban North, a Silk Roads in a matter of speaking. These routes , transformed Chicago and other northern cities between 1916 and 1970. I can speak especially about Chicago which attracted slightly more than 500,000 of the approximately 7 million African Americans who left the South during these decades. Before this migration, African Americans constituted 2 percent of Chicago’s population; by 1970, they were 33 percent. I lived in Chicago thirteen years from the period of 1957-1970, I saw the impact of the African Americans from the South on Chicago’s manufactured goods, employers needed a new source of labor for jobs assumed be “men’s work.” Factories opened the doors to black workers, providing opportunities to black southerners eager to stake their claims to full citizenship through their role in the industrial economy. For black women the doors opened only slightly and temporarily, but even domestic work in Chicago offered higher wages and more personal autonomy than in the South.

      African Americans became an urban population. They created churches, community organizations, important businesses, music, and literature. African Americans of all classes built a community on the South Side of Chicago for decades before the Civil Rights Movement, as well as on the West Side of Chicago.
      However, I did lived two years in North Carolina and thirty-seven years in Washington D.C. area but I think the silk roads from the south for African Americans nested the greatest impact in the city of Chicago, because the Great Migration’s impact on cultural life in Chicago is most evident in the southern influence on the Chicago Renaissance of the 1930s and 1940s, as well as blues music, cuisine, churches, and the numerous family and community associations that link Chicago with its southern hinterland—especially Mississippi.
      Thanks for sharing , your question has brought the silk Roads to my neck of the woods. Rose Maria

  3. Hi Rose. Thanks for bringing your daughter to London/Oxford. It was fun to all be together! Great post! I really appreciate your personal note. When I was young I too thought the Silk Road was just a bunch of pretty fabric on camels and horses. I like your conclusion of servant leaders spreading the kingdom. That is the exact picture my tribe (the Vineyard) uses for ministry. Thanks for the good writing!

  4. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Aaron P.
    It was nice meeting your wife, I am sure she enjoyed herself.It’s great have a mate that support your endeavor.
    Thanks for the comments of support, we seem to be working from the same type of Vineyard.
    Rose Maria

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