Skip to main content

Oxford historian's 'Silk Roads' talks about 'age of Asia'

2017-10-13 08:56 China Daily Editor: Wang Zihao

The Chinese translation of Peter Frankopan's The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Oxford University history professor Peter Frankopan says historians should be brave: "Otherwise, there is no point of writing history."

In his latest book, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, he has tried to narrate the history of the world from a different perspective-from what "kept being told of the importance of the Mediterranean as a cradle of civilization, when it seemed so obvious that this was not where civilization had really been forged", as he writes in the preface.

"The real crucible, the 'Mediterranean' in its literal meaning-the center of the world-was not a sea separating Europe and North Africa, but right in the heart of Asia."

At the end of the 672-page book, Frankopan concludes "we are seeing the signs of the world's center of gravity shifting-back to where it lay for millennia".

After elaborating the historical development of the Silk Roads since its birth more than 2,000 years ago from different perspectives, such as faiths, trades, wars and diseases, Frankopan writes: "It is easy to feel confused and disturbed by dislocation and violence in the Islamic world, by religious fundamentalism, by clashes between Russia and its neighbors or by China's struggle with extremism in its western provinces. What we are witnessing, however, are the birthing pains of a region that once dominated the intellectual, cultural and economic landscape and which is now re-emerging."

Questioned by many critics on being "overly optimistic" about the conclusion of his book, Frankopan says in an interview with China Daily: "I'm not being optimistic. I am saying that there is always part of the world that drives and is most affected by changes, and it has always been like that."

The whole world is in the process of change, he adds, and "I could try to answer, but the key point is that the change doesn't happen in the space of one week, one month or one year, and we'll see what will happen".

He attributes the change to what was happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and even the last phase of the former Soviet Union some 25 years ago.

"That was the birth of the change. We're living in an age of Asia," he says.

In the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, Frankopan says the greatest challenge for China is the need to constantly explain itself to the outside world.

"That's hard," he says.

There is already a strong belief in China, not just within government but also among people, that the Chinese are very special, Chinese culture is very rich and Chinese history is strong, he says. "There's no need to be explaining this way."

That can be better done by making as many friends as possible, he says.

Although it still needs time to see how the Belt and Road Initiative develops, Frankopan says, "I'm still more or less optimistic insofar as it looks to me potentially the most important investment plan for hundreds of years".

Since he published The Silk Roads: A New History of the World in 2015, more than 1 million copies in English and other languages, including Finnish, Korean, Dutch, Danish, French Swedish, Russian, Croatian and Spanish, have been sold, making the book a best-seller around the world.

Since the Chinese translation of his book was published in September 2016, more than 500,000 copies have been sold.

Since he was 6 years old, Frankopan has been fascinated by the world map and curious about the center of the world. He says he has being working on the book for 40 years.

Happy with his work as a historian, he has spent the last 25 to 30 years working in libraries, looking for answers to his own questions, such as: Why the world today looks the way it does? Why is it that English language is so common all over the world? Why is it that China is changing today?

Everybody is trying to understand what the world is going to be tomorrow, but they are looking to the past to explain that, he says.

"Suddenly it looks that these questions that I'm asking, everybody else wants to know some answers. And I'm modest enough to know that I don't have all the answers but at least I've tried to think about what these questions are and I think that's why this book has been so successful all over the world," he says


Popular posts from this blog

Balochistan to establish first medical university

The Newspaper's Staff CorrespondentOctober 25, 2017QUETTA: The provincial cabinet on Tuesday approved the draft for establishing a medical university in Balochistan.Health minister Mir Rehmat Saleh Baloch made the announcement while speaking at a press conference after a cabinet meeting.“The cabinet has approved the draft of the medical university which would be presented in the current session of the Balochistan Assembly,” he said, adding with the assembly’s approval the Bolan Medical College would be converted into a medical university.Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017

5 Shia Hazara community members gunned down in Pakistan

Five members of the minority Shia Hazara community, including two women, were killed on Sunday in an attack by unidentified gunmen in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.This is not the first time that members of the Hazara community have been targeted in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan.(Reuters File Photo)Updated: Sep 11, 2017 00:20 ISTBy Press Trust of India, Press Trust of India, KarachiFive members of the minority Shia Hazara community, including two women, were killed on Sunday in an attack by unidentified gunmen in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.The gunmen targeted a car in Kuchluck area of Quetta while it was coming from the Chaman border crossing area, police said.The firing took place when the travellers had stopped at a filling station to refuel their vehicle. Five people of the Shia Hazara community, including two women, died in …

China’s 'Digital Silk Road': Pitfalls Among High Hopes

Will information and communication technologies help China realize its Digital Silk Road?By Wenyuan WuNovember 03, 2017In his speech at the opening ceremony of China’s 19th Party Congress, President Xi Jinping depicted China as a model of scientific and harmonious development for developing nations. Xi’s China wants to engage the world through commerce but also through environmental protection and technological advancement. This includes Beijing’s efforts to fight climate change with information and communication technologies (ICTs) that it plans to export along its “One Belt One Road” initiative (OBOR). Xi may have ambitious plans, but could China be throwing up obstacles in its own way?In his speech, the Chinese president emphasized the need to modernize the country’s environmental protections. The Chinese state is taking an “ecological civilization” approach to development and diplomacy, with a natio…