Book Review: India and the Silk Roads
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India and the Silk Roads by Jagjeet Lally is based on the author’s research for a doctoral dissertation. As the name suggests, this book is an excellent documentation of everything related to overland Silk Roads that connected North India with Afghanistan and central Asia and the history of the world of Caravan trade that shaped the patterns of modern-day globalisation. Silk road was not a single road or a static set of routes. It was more like a thread of cobweb-like trading networks which kept changing through the course of history depending on the ecological shift and change of political powers. These networks were more durable than the political authorities like states and empires.
This book shows how Multan and its inhabitants played a central role within this network. This book also talks about how the goods traded through these networks were not restricted to luxuries to rich people. Rather the merchants’ commercial activities connected urban and rural, gentry and peasantry, nomadic and sedentary etc. It connected local, regional, trans-regional, and global markets which eventually influenced the configuration of political powers of those places. These roads also helped pilgrims, seasonal migrants, mercenaries with their movements. These roads also have a history of violence.
This book is not about any particular era of a political power like Mughal, Safavid, Sikh, Uzbek, Afghan, British India etc. This book focuses on a larger period of time and gives fact-based details of the caravan trade and how it survived and expanded. Personally, I felt this book is too academic and dull for a reader like me who loves history when story-telling is mixed to it. I struggled to keep my interest and concentration even though I choose this book particularly for the topic of this book – Silk Roads. The chapters could have been cut short to half for the readers. Each chapter unnecessarily contains a lengthy mention of what is going to be covered in that chapter. Also, most of the sentences are too long to keep focus. One more point was a bit disappointing to me which I must mention. The author mentioned at length about Indigo plantation and trading but completely forgot to mention the brutal history of torture in Bengal which led to ‘The Blue Rebellion’ which broke out in March 1859.
Nevertheless, this book is a must read if you are interested in the history of Silk Roads and can manage an academic book with full of facts.
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