Since I was a child I’ve always been fascinated by history and geography. I loved learning about ancient cultures from the Greeks and Romans to the Renaissance and the enlightenment. History is truly the ultimate story encompassing our ancestors and how we as humans got to where we are today. As a history fan the phrase “history is written by the victors” is well known and as an American growing up in the US there is a European centric slant to history. Yet, homo sapiens are thought to have been born out of Africa and thrived in Mesopotamia in the Middle East. There are so many untold stories of how humans have progressed and this is exactly the same line of thinking that led Peter Frankopan to write The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. This very well researched and thoughtful account of history takes a broader view and shows how in fact much of the history can be explained by the constant struggle for Asia and the Silk Roads.
Frankopan’s work takes you from the earliest of civilization all the way into the 21st century showing how in fact there are many pieces of history missing. For anyone interested in understanding humanity, history, or economics this account of history will provide deep geographical and historical context of how the world has been organized throughout history. The mistakes and decisions of the past have resulted in the society we live in today and can be traced back to the root cause of many of the conflicts of the past. Frankopan does a good job explaining facts with as little bias as possible to give a truer more robust view of history.
Some of the key takeaways from reading his work include how cyclical societies are. There has always been an ebb and flow as certain civilizations thrive and rise to prominence to ultimately be usurped or have that power shift to another. The control of the silk roads and trade routes stand to be one of the most important factors influencing history. I failed to realize just how long we have been trading, bartering, and fighting for resources from other places. The state of humanity has been to acquire more resources and trade being the most productive route to do so has enabled certain societies to maintain power for long stretches of time.
As we approach the end of the 2nd decade in the 21st century it is clear another power shift is occurring as the rise of China becomes harder to ignore. If you look at recent history power seems to be slowly circulating back to Asia and while there is a lot of conflict occurring in the Middle East today there are pockets of tremendous wealth. The key lesson is the state of the world and was power sits is never stagnant. Change is the constant throughout history and so it seems is the power of trade. Controlling trade routes and the ability to sell, broker, and acquire goods are key factors in the success of cultures long-term.