The Road That Never Was: The Silk Road and Trans-Eurasian Exchange
- Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
- Duke University Press
- Volume 30, Number 3, 2010
- pp. 420-433
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The Silk Road is commonly used as a convenient blanket term to describe the many trade routes and points of contact that criss-crossed Central Asia. The term is generally overused, to the point that everything in the history of the region is conceptualized within the confines of the Silk Road(s). By reading Greco-Roman and particularly Chinese sources on the contacts between the eastern and western termini of the Eurasian continent, this article demonstrates that the Silk Road is not only a nineteenth-century name but, indeed, a modern historiographical invention, serving to lump together individual histories and creating long-distance connections where they never existed. It is proposed that for a more productive study of Central Asian history, we must do away with the notion of the Silk Road and notice the realities, to consider individual socioeconomic systems and their peculiarities.