Life along the Silk Road
Life along the Silk Road
Summary of the Article
Susan Whitfield in the book Life along the Silk Road widens her exploration of the Silk Road and broadens her diverse and rich portrait of life along the Silk Road in a lively, vivid, and learned account which spans the 6th to the 10th centuries. This route is certainly Eurasia’s greatest pre-modern trade route. The book supports further understanding of themes pertinent to comparative and global history. In this second edition, Susan Whitfield effectively reconstructs the route through the travellers’ personal experiences. In her book, the author narrates the lives of 12 people who lived during this period but at different times, including 2 individuals new to this second edition of the paperback: the first one is an author and traveller from Persia during the Arab caliphate, and the other one is a shipmaster from Africa (Whitfield, 2015). With these added accounts, the author extends both chronological and geographical scope, and in so doing she brings into view the maritime connections across the Indian Ocean and depicts the network of south-north routes from the Gulf to the Baltic. As she recounts the lives of the 12 people, the author draws on contemporary sources and makes use of actual accounts and stories whenever possible in reconstructing the history of the Silk Road through the personal experiences of these twelve characters.
The paperback effectively brings alive the now sand-covered and ruined desert towns and their dwellers. Chapter 1, The Merchant’s Tale focuses on a Sogdian merchant from Samarkand who has used the Silk Road on many occasions. Susan Whitfield tells the account of a Sogdian merchant and through this tale, she effectively describes where the Sogdian people used to live at the time, their distinctive clothing, how people bargained, as well as what products people traded during the eight century. As the merchant in question, named Nanaivandak, travelled to Xi’an, this enabled the author of this book to include an explanation of the travel conditions; the cities that the merchant visited together with entertainment, food eaten, hotels and restaurants used enroute; and the terrain that he traversed. Since the merchant was a follower of Mani, Whitfield provided an insightful summation of Manicheanism.
In Chapter 4 The Princess’s Tale, Whitfield recounts the life of the princess from China who was sent as part of a diplomatic deal to marry a Turkish kaghan.
In this second edition, Susan Whitfield expands her rich and varied portrait of life along the great pre-modern trade routes of Eurasia. This new edition is updated to support further understanding of themes relevant to global and comparative history and remains the only history of the Silk Road to reconstruct the route through the personal experiences of travelers.
In the first 1,000 years after Christ, merchants, missionaries, monks, mendicants, and military men traveled the vast network of Central Asian tracks that became known as the Silk Road. Whitfield recounts the lives of twelve individuals who lived at different times during this period, including two characters new to this edition: an African shipmaster and a Persian traveler and writer during the Arab caliphate. With these additional tales, Whitfield extends both geographical and chronological scope, bringing into view the maritime links across the Indian Ocean and depicting the network of north-south routes from the Baltic to the Gulf. A work of great scholarship, Life along the Silk Road continues to be both accessible and entertaining.