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When Asia Was the World
Synopses & Reviews
While European intellectual, cultural, and commercial life stagnated during the early medieval period, Asia flourished as the wellspring of science, philosophy, and religion. Linked together by a web of religious, commercial, and intellectual connections, the different regions of Asias vast civilization, from Arabia to China, hummed with commerce, international diplomacy, and the brisk exchange of ideas. Stewart Gordon has fashioned a fascinating and unique look at Asia from A.D. 700 to 1500, a time when Asia was the world, by describing the personal journeys of Asias many travelers-the merchants who traded spices along the Silk Road, the apothecaries who exchanged medicine and knowledge from China to the Middle East, and the philosophers and holy men who crossed continents to explore and exchange ideas, books, science, and culture.
"Gordon, a Senior Research Scholar at the University of Michigan, recalls Thomas Cahill's 'Hinges of History' series in this accessible history-in-portraits. Covering 'the thousand years from 500 to 1500, when Asia was an astonishing, connected, and creative place,' Gordon bases each chapter on the actual memoir of someone who lived, worked and traveled there. Each story has its own unique appeal, the most compelling of which is probably Abraham bin Yiju's: a Jewish spice trader living in southwestern India around 1140 CE, his life proves dramatic and transient, and his letters poignant, as in this plea for news of relatives caught up in the Crusades: 'No letter... detailing who died and who remained alive, has arrived. By God, write exact details and send your letters with reliable people to soothe my mind.' It's a rare joy-and a slight shock-to find such rich evidence of lives lived 1,000 years ago; given the way time erases personal history, however, it makes sense that each man's story feels incomplete. Gordon lacks the vision and distinctive voice of a Cahill, but history buffs will find this book more than worthwhile." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Gordon (South Asia studies, U. of Michigan) provides glimpses of Asia over the millennium from 500 to 1500 AD with nine chapters each based on the memoirs of a man who lived, worked, and traveled in it. Some are better known, at least to historians, such as Ibn Fadlan, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ma Huan, and Babur. A final chapter summarizes the period. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
How Asias great civilization spread when its traveling merchants, scholars, and holy men brought their shining civilization to Europes Dark Ages
While European civilization stagnated in the Dark Ages,” Asia flourished as the wellspring of science, philosophy, and religion. Linked together by a web of spiritual, commercial, and intellectual connections, the distant regions of Asias vast civilization, from Arabia to China, hummed with trade, international diplomacy, and the exchange of ideas. Stewart Gordon has fashioned a compelling and unique look at Asia from AD 700 to 1500—a time when Asia was the world—by relating the personal journeys of Asias many travelers.
Gordon fashions a fascinating and unique look at Asia from 700 to 1500 C.E., a time when Asia was the world, by describing the personal journeys of Asias many travelers--merchants, apothecaries, and philosophers. 16-page b&w photo insert.
About the Author
Stewart Gordon is Senior Research Scholar at the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan, and author of three books on Asia. He lives in Ann Arbor.
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