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As it is frequently the case in the modern world, the term ‘Silk Road’ or ‘Silk Roads’ is of colonial provenance.The elaborate network of ancient routes originating in the fourth millennium bc and linking various parts of the Eurasian landmass through Central Asia was re-imagined and reinvented in the late nineteenth century as a ‘Silk Road’ connect- ing China with the Roman Empire, thereby undermining the role of the steppe with its various nomadic and oasis cultures which had always been at the heart of this Eurasian system of trade and other exchange. Ever since, historiography has focussed on the role of sedentary civilisations in this system of exchange, with a particular emphasis on China and the West, thus undermining the role of other sedentary civilisations such as India. Contrary to the dominant narrative, the antiquity of the Eurasian trade network goes back to several millennia before the rise of either the Han Empire or Rome.Whereas this network did connect the agrarian civilisations, this happened primarily through the agency of central Asian intermediaries whose culmination is represented by the rise of the vast Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century.The idea of the ‘Silk Road(s)’ is thus anachronistic in the sense that it is a backward projection of present into the historical past, especially in view of the fact that silk was only one among several important items of exchange, such as horses, cotton, precious stones, and furs.
The ‘Silk Road’: Historical Perspectives and Modern Constructions

The ‘Silk Road’: Historical Perspectives and Modern Constructions

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Subject:

Geography, Anthropology, Recreation

Subclass:

Maps

Reign:

Ulugh Beg III 1877-1881

Subject Year (Time):

1877

Author:

Ravi K. Mishra

Languages:

English

Royal Mughal Ref:

ARC-24052021-1004

Date of Creation:

The ‘Silk Road’: Historical Perspectives and Modern Constructions
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Description

As it is frequently the case in the modern world, the term ‘Silk Road’ or ‘Silk Roads’ is of colonial provenance.The elaborate network of ancient routes originating in the fourth millennium bc and linking various parts of the Eurasian landmass through Central Asia was re-imagined and reinvented in the late nineteenth century as a ‘Silk Road’ connect- ing China with the Roman Empire, thereby undermining the role of the steppe with its various nomadic and oasis cultures which had always been at the heart of this Eurasian system of trade and other exchange. Ever since, historiography has focussed on the role of sedentary civilisations in this system of exchange, with a particular emphasis on China and the West, thus undermining the role of other sedentary civilisations such as India. Contrary to the dominant narrative, the antiquity of the Eurasian trade network goes back to several millennia before the rise of either the Han Empire or Rome.Whereas this network did connect the agrarian civilisations, this happened primarily through the agency of central Asian intermediaries whose culmination is represented by the rise of the vast Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century.The idea of the ‘Silk Road(s)’ is thus anachronistic in the sense that it is a backward projection of present into the historical past, especially in view of the fact that silk was only one among several important items of exchange, such as horses, cotton, precious stones, and furs.

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