With a long roadtrip planned, we borrowed an eaudiobook from the library to listen to on the journey. Going through the non-fiction options, this history looked likely to teach us something new.
The Silk Roads promises to provide a new history of civilisation with a focus away from the West and instead focus on the “centre of the world”, stretching from the Mediterranean across Asia. Given that, I was expecting little mention of Europe. However there was constant framing against European history, and Persia’s history was nearly all described as a struggle with Rome.
At least the Age of European Empires gives agency to non-European actors, and acknowledges mistakes and atrocities committed by the powers. The realisation of the confidence trick of empire along with the view of World War One as the conflict between empires and the trigger for the unraveling of the same empires.
The shifting power balances and growth of anti-Americanism throughout the second half of the twentith centenary is also examined through the prism of short-term decision making: nearly every decision being made for the correct immediate reasons, but without consideration for long-term impacts.
The conclusions were bizarre. After China had been mostly ignored for the body of the book, it was suddenly vital in setting the new agenda. If so important, why had it been left out for so much of the previous 24 hours?
Overall, an interesting history, but much more West-focused than the blurb suggests.