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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 Asia's 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 Asia's many travelers.
About the Author
Stewart Gordon is Senior Research Scholar at the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan and the author of three books on Asia. He lives in Ann Arbor.
"In this slim volume, Stewart Gordon takes readers on a journey from Morocco to Manchuria, acquainting them with the lives, experiences, and reflections of eight great travelers from the centuries between 618 and 1521. The splendors of courtly life, the austerity of Buddhist monasteries, and the rigors of sea travel and the silk roads all come to life through these travelers' eyes. Gordon's narratives are leavened with just the right amount of historical context to help readers navigate."--J.R. McNeill, Georgetown University, author of The Human Web and Something New Under the Sun
"If trade is what unites the modern global system and if Asia is the focal point for the new century, then the people and events so carefully described in When Asia Was the World are the ones we need to know in order to understand where we are now. It is a book as much about our future as our past."--Jack Weatherford, author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
"The scholarship is remarkable in
that the author has done an excellent job of digesting the mainstreams of
current debate in the differing regions. There is good organization and an
overall flow to this work--both in terms of a flow in time as also in topical
address. It's all here: technology, warfare, diplomacy, trade networks,
intellectual traditions, etc. The chapters are just the right length. They are
engaging and informative without being overly academic. This is truly unique."--Kenneth
Hall, Professor of History, Ball State University, South and Southeast Asia
"The central question the author
asks is at once profound and disarmingly simple--namely, how best to organize
our knowledge of world history between the 6th and 16th centuries? The author
addresses the above goal by concentrating on the lives of individuals (or in
one case, a ship) who were constantly in motion, most of them traveling many
thousands of miles in their lifetimes. By humanizing its subject matter in this
way, the book makes complex historical processes immediately accessible to the
reader. The work's accessibility is one of its greatest strengths. It neither
talks down to the reader nor roams through a jargon-filled thicket of social
theory."--Richard Eaton, Professor of History, University of Arizona, Asian and
world historian, author of several books on India
"This is a new way of viewing and
understanding global history: follow the wide travelers, go with them to new
places, join them in their conversations, see the world as they came to see it.
Stewart Gordon comes to history with fresh eyes and covers ground as few
historians have been able to do. The result is new insights, especially into
the remarkable developments of Asian worlds in a millennium of Asian
predominance. This is thoughtful, innovative history at its best, a call to
future work along similar lines in European history."--David Landes, Professor
of Economics and History, emeritus, Harvard University
"Provide[s] an intimate complement to David Levering Lewis's God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 (2008)."
"An excellent examination of civilizations whose achievements are probably unfamiliar to many in the West."—Booklist
"An extraordinary look at the Middle Ages."
"Stewart is a compelling writer...When Asia Was the World will help raise popular awareness that the Earth's history didn't begin in Europe."—Milwaukee Shepherd Express
"Gordon writes clearly...Due to Gordon's straightforward prose and the interweaving of journal entries from each traveler, chapters come alive with humanness, personality, and suspense. The book is well-documented...Gordon packs this slim volume with fascinating facts."—Charleston Post & Courier
"[A] reliable collection. The author provides background information and explanation so that complex interactions become accessible to the reader, and the book is enhanced by good illustrations and a very useful bibliography."
—Saudi Aramco World Magazine
"[Gordon's] stories of travelers and explorers of Asia provides a compelling, lively account."
—Midwest Book Review
"Refreshing...Reframes the genre...with zest, graceful scholarship, and great skill in providing illuminating contexts."
"Engaging and compact book arrives in the nick of time to expand our knowledge of world history...Gordon reveals the vibrancy and sophistication seen in the vast territory...The first-person accounts provide vivid and distinctive perspectives on each epoch and set of territories without overwhelming us with encyclopedic details. A chapter on one particular person, in Gordon's hands, becomes a miracle of compression...[A] short but fascinating survey."
"A timely book to encourage open-mindedness toward different cultures."