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Silk Roads

Peoples, Cultures, Landscapes

Susan Whitfield


A landmark publication celebrating the rich history and culture of Central Asia's 1,500-year-old trade routes

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From precious stones to spices, from new religions to technological innovations, the exchange of goods and ideas along the ancient trading routes of the Silk Roads has played a crucial role in the development of civilizations across Europe and Asia.

This beautiful illustrated overview, the first and most ambitious of its kind, places landscapes at the heart of 1,500 years of Eurasian history. With contributions from over 80 leading experts from around the world, each chapter explores the history of trade and cultures along the Silk Roads in the context of a particular terrain – steppe, mountains, deserts, rivers and seas – to reveal how integral the landscapes of the Silk Roads have been in defining the resources, travel and communities of those who lived and traded along these routes.

Gloriously illustrated with detailed maps, stunning photography of the landscapes of Central Asia and 100 iconic treasures, including archaeological artefacts and ancient ruins, this ground-breaking book honours the legacy of richly diverse cultures that advanced and flourished not in spite of their differences, but because of them.

Shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards in the Illustrated Travel Book of the Year category


'An extraordinary compendium of history and art … a marvel of a book … a brilliant survey that could not be put together in real time, a catalogue of an exhibition that could never be … This is a book to fundamentally jolt our endemic Eurocentricism and Western complacency … [a] one-volume museum'
V&A Magazine

'The many magnificent illustrations make one long to go travelling'
Spectator, Martin Gayford’s Books of the Year

'A superbly illustrated volume … the huge variety of the travellers and the merchandise along these complex trajectories is handsomely laid out in this delightful, informative and continually surprising work'
The Arts Desk, Books of the Year

'A book to experience rather than read … simultaneously erudite and accessible'
Asian Review of Books

'Stunning maps and artifacts combine with evocative landscapes as well as troubling tales of plunder, serving as a timely reminder of the rich rewards of meaningful communication and candid cultural exchange within and between the continents'

'Sections on Christian monasticism in Africa and Asia and the emergence of lapis lazuli make compelling reading. At a time when global politics and economy are hit by uncertainty, this book emphasises how movement and exchange fostered economic activity and cultural and political ideas'
The Art Society

'Revealing on every level and will undoubtedly cast a spell upon the reader … this is one journey not to be missed'
The Lady

'This beautiful publication honours the astonishing diversity in the way cultures advance and flourish not in spite of their differences, but because of them'
Antiques Diary

'The value of this sumptuous book lies not in its decorative coffee-table desirability but because it serves to remind us that human difference and interaction is vitally necessary for progress. In an era marked by international wall-building and little compassion towards refugees and migrants, we would do well to remember this'
World of Interiors

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: PLC

Size: 28.6 x 22.5 cm

Extent: 480 pp

Illustrations: 491

Publication date: 3 October 2019

ISBN: 9780500021576

About the Author

Susan Whitfield is a historian of medieval Central Asia and a former curator at The British Library. Her research focuses on the archaeology, art history and material culture of the Silk Road. The author of many books and articles, she has travelled extensively in Central Asia and visited, studied and documented numerous archaeological sites.

List of Contributors

Peter Sellars, Idriss Abduressul, Alison Aplin Ohta, Warwick Ball, Bérénice Bellina, Arnaud Bertrand, Jonathan M. Bloom, Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud, Robert Bracey, Sonja Brentjes, Ursula Brosseder, Cristina Castillo, Tamara T. Chin, Joe Cribb, Rebecca Darley, T. Daryaee, Sophie Desrosiers, Claire Dillon, K. Durak, John Falconer, Anna Filigenzi, Frantz Grenet, Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, Anne Hedeager Krag, Julian Henderson, Georgina Hermann, B. Hildebrandt, P. P. Ho, Mark Horton, Susan L. Huntington, Karel C. Innemée, Jun Kimura, Elizabeth A. Lambourn, Lewis Lancaster, George Lane, Li Tang, Li Wenying, Xinru Liu, George Manginis, Kate Masia-Radford, James A. Millward, Sergey Miniaev, Noriko Miya, Valentina Mordvintseva, Davit Naskidashvili, Lukas Nickel, Jebrael Nokandeh, Luca M. Olivieri, Mehmet Ölmez, Hamid Omrani Rekavandi, Charles R. Ortloff, Sara Peterson, Marinus Polak, Gethin Rees, Nicolas Revire, W. K. Rienjang, Rong Xinjiang, Eberhard W. Sauer, Nikolaus Schindel, Angela Schottenhammer, Assaad Seif, Eivind Heldaas Seland, Angela Sheng, Nicholas Sims-Williams, Ursula Sims-Williams, Robert N. Spengler, Sarah Stewart, Ingo Strauch, Richard J. A. Talbert, Ilse Timperman, Marina Tolmacheva, Dmitry Voyakin, Rosalind Wade Haddon, Helen Wang, Wang Xudong, Daniel C. Waugh, Peter Webb, Peter Whitfield, Tim Williams, Paul D. Wordsworth, Zhao Feng