07 Mar The Silk Road: A New History
Thursday, March 7 / 4:00 PM
Valerie Hansen (History, Yale)
Whenever we speak of the Silk Road, the mind’s eye conjures up a single merchant traveling on a camel laden with goods, most likely on his way to Rome. The discovery of multiple artifacts and excavated documents in northwest China allows us to revise this image. In fact, few people moving along the Silk Road were long-distance merchants. Under tight government supervision, merchants usually stayed on circuits close to home and exchanged goods for other goods, often not using coins at all. Other Silk Road travelers included missionaries, refugees, artists, and envoys, who have left the clearest document footprint of all. The most active foreign community in China were Sogdians, migrants from Samarkand and the surrounding areas. They found new homes in the small oasis-states ringing the Taklamakan Desert whose rulers encouraged religious tolerance as they welcomed newcomers to their realms.
Sponsored by Phi Beta Kappa, the Dept. of History, and IHC’s Ancient Borderlands RFG.