Here are some great links to fascinating stories about Asia. All but one are from historian Gordon Stewart, a senior research scholar at the University of Michigan’s Center for South Asian Studies.
Stewart examines Asia in more detail in his 2009 book, When Asia Was the World: Traveling Merchants, Scholars, Warriors, and Monks Who Created the "Riches of the "East."
The stories are engaging and terrific for student assignments. Two come from Saudi Aramco World and one came from the Wilson Quarterly.
My thanks to Jeremy Greene for posting the links on Facebook.
- Suitable Luxury from ARAMCO World: Following in the footsteps of Ibn Batutta, Gordon discovers an interesting robing ceremony with ancient roots. In a bazaar in western Afghanistan, a group of women gave his wife “an antique, fully embroidered black cloak,” the patterns of which “signaled that the wearer was under the protection of one of the most powerful border tribes of western Afghanistan, and thus anything less than courtesy might provoke retaliation.” Gordon searches for the roots of this robing ceremony as he continues through Asia in Batutta’s footsteps and discovers all sorts of things about textiles.
- The Game of Kings: Also from Saudi Aramco World. Another story by Gordon. In this story, he looks at the origins of chess and how it spread so quickly throughout Asia. “What was this game that crossed boundaries of language, religion, culture, geography, ethnicity and class, and was woven deeply into the fabric of the greater Asian and wider world?”
- The Dawn of Global Trade: In this essay, Gordon explores the ways in which Asia dominated trade in the post classical period between 600 and 1450. “But it was its networks that made the great Asian world unique. Bureaucrats, scholars, slaves, ideas, religions and plants moved along its intersecting routes. Family ties stretched across thousands of miles. Traders found markets for products ranging from heavy recycled bronze to the most diaphanous silks.”
- The Dawn of Global Trade II: How did Asia dominate the world 1000 years ago? Stewart examines the political, economic and social ways Asia dominated much of the world. In politics, for examples, Gordon notes “states experimented with bureaucracies and taxes…and developed currencies and defined new legal status for conquered peoples.” In science, Asians dominated with new innovations, while entrepreneurs experimented with new textiles. Poets and artists focused on love and “the fleeting nature of beauty.”
- "Rediscovering Central Asia" from Wilson Quarterly: Here’s a engaging review of the contributions and achievements of Central Asia during the post classical period. The author, S. Frederick Starr, chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, reviews achievements in chemistry, math, science, and the movement of central Asians to intellectual centers in Bagdad under the Abbassid Caliphate