on 19 October 2014
I approached this book, by James Millward, with the vague feeling that the Silk Road was a definable route to and from the East. In the first pages I realised my mistake. This fascinating history explains the way that there was never one single definitive 'Road' or route, but that the phrase describes the way that two millennia of trade have passed back and forth between the Orient and the West. Millward explains too how the word 'Silk' only became attached to this exchange well into that history. It was never just about silk, but all that passed between these two worlds.
In this book he explores those different kinds of exchange: biological, technological, cultural and commercial. I found that my awareness of the significance of this 'trade' became very much enhanced and enriched. Indeed this 'Silk Road' exchange of cultures and products is very much still going on. How much in all our homes is labelled 'Made in China'! And how many Eastern children are learning to play western classical instruments and to bring us their performances at the very highest level.
I have long been a huge fan of the 'Very Short Introduction' series. They attempt and achieve something enormously valuable and, I think, without equal: books for an intelligent, curious reader who is keen to learn but doesn't bring a specialist knowledge and who doesn't necessarily want to invest in hundreds of pages of time and text. This title, like most of the rest of the series succeeds brilliantly. If you are curious to learn more about the Silk Road trade of all kinds between East and West across two thousand years this book will not disappoint.