The Silk Road
"The Silk Road" is a rather misleading term coined in 1877 by Ferdinand von Richthofen. What it actually refers to is a vast network of trade routes that connected East, South, and Southeast Asia with the Mediterranean region, North Africa, and Europe. While travel and migration along these routes date back to prehistoric times and of course continue today, communication via the land routes across the Eurasian continent primarily flourished from the second century BCE through the fifteenth century CE, most notably linking China with western Asia and the Mediterranean region. And while silk was one of the major products transported from China to the West as far back as the Roman Empire, the trade, especially in such other luxury goods as spices (from India) and gemstones (from western Asia), was active in both directions. Along with the trade in material goods, the Silk Road was the medium for cultural exchange. One of the prime examples of this was the spread of Buddhism from India into Afghanistan, China, Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia. As an extensive and many-layered system of economic and cultural exchange, the Silk Road can therefore be considered a premodern example of what today we call globalization.\nThis course will survey the history of economic and cultural exchange along the Silk Road from prehistoric times to the present day. We will specifically examine geographic factors, the various ethnicities and empires that contributed to Silk Road history, the exchange of goods and technologies, the religions of the Silk Road, and the spread of artistic traditions across Asia. The general aims will be to enable students to think critically about Asia (or Eurasia) in a more holistic way, to understand the interconnections of our various academic disciplines, and to appreciate some of the rich cultural heritages and exchanges that have contributed to our world. No prerequisites. Offered every year.