Friday, August 30, 2013

The Silk Road, A New History

The Silk Road, A New History –by Valerie Hansen

304 Pages
Footnotes / Endnotes: Yes
Illustrations: Yes
Suitable for eReaders: No*
4 Stars

This is a well-written book about a subject that has long intrigued me, The Silk Road – which really wasn't. At least it was not a single road, it was several roads, and none of them were called The Silk Road. The term Silk Road was given to the various caravan routes in the late 1800s, if I remember correctly.

Ms. Hansen has obviously spent a great deal of time researching her book, and writing it. She takes us from oasis to oasis, and tells us who and what really travelled on the various roads. They were not major routes for huge caravans carrying silks and spices and valuable gems. Instead, they were, for the most part, used as routes from one oasis to the next. Caravans were usually quite small, travel was hard and dangerous.

China, and the various kingdoms kept track of who and what entered and exited their territories. All people, animals, and goods were recorded, as well as detailed itineraries of where they were going, where they would stop, what their business was. Most of the trade was local.

There are several maps, which I found fascinating to read, and will go back to them often. I would hate to try to read them on an eReader. In fact, they would be difficult to impossible to read on one, I think, unless one read them in sections and not as a whole.

The illustrations are well done, and explained. There are drawings, black and white photographs, and several plates of color photos, which I found almost as intriguing as the maps. It would be a shame to lose the beauty in an ebook.

*My biggest complaint is the lack of footnotes and the use of endnotes. I really hate having to flip and flap the pages to find what chapter I'm reading, then find the damn endnote that I'm looking for to see if it's merely a citation or something worth reading, then go back to the page I was reading in the first place. Unfortunately, she used her endnotes for both citations and interesting information, much of which I missed because I got too frustrated with the flipping and flapping. I rant on the subject, and I know it, but I can find no socially redeeming value to endnotes. (Some ebooks are hot-linked to the endnote/footnote, but frequently they are not linked back to the text, and hitting the 'last' button doesn't get you their either.)

Anyone interested in the history of the Silk Road will find this book fascinating. Especially if they don't read in bed, like I do, and don't mind double bookmarks to easily find the endnotes. (My bookmarks kept falling out.)

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