Looking Beyond Western-Centric History, Thanks To Peter Frankopan

This post strikes to one of my beefs about how much of the telling of history is undertaken.


I bought this book today–a few years after it was first published (2015).  I started it this evening. Most of the world we know is from a Western-centric perspective. So much of history is never taught in our schools, especially from the eastern Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea, and then eastward.  The thinkers, culture, and rich ideas and glorious cities which dominated this area are never even once considered by most of the students who peculate though our education system. But the history of the Persians, for example, was so spectacular that the Greeks were in awe when they wrote of their history.

The lack of balance and perspective of East vs. West has long been a complaint of mine when studying history.   Yes, I grasp the currents of the history we all have come to know.  Greeks, Romans, Christians, Renaissance, Enlightenment, rights of man, and the curve of history continues. I am not stating the significance of that series of developments do not merit study or respect. They very much do.  It is just that I know there is more to the story that points East.  That is what needs to be understood, too.

Therefore, I strongly concur with author Peter Frankopan that too much has been left out of the history courses which always study the West, but devalue the East. I will, doubtless. be sharing ideas and portions of this read over time as it ties in with CP and my passions about history, and the way the past is portrayed.

As perhaps a selling point to my readers I grabbed some of the reviews which made for the book jacket, and inside pages.  I think this a valuable read for those who want a complete view of history–and to think anew about the way the East influenced the West.

“One of Mr. Frankopan’s gifts as a storyteller is his ability to draw unusual connections across his vast canvas . . . . Frankopan has written a rare book that makes you question your assumptions about the world.” —The Wall Street Journal

“This provocative history challenges the view of the West as heir to a pure Greco-Roman culture. . . . Frankopan marshals diverse examples to demonstrate the interconnectedness of cultures, showing in vivid detail the economic and social impact of the silk and the slave trades, the Black Death, and the Buddhist influence on Christianity.” —The New Yorker

“In his new book, The Silk Roads, Frankopan has created something that forces us to sit up and reconsider the world and the way we’ve always thought about it. . . . The book takes us by surprise right from the start.” —NPR

“This is deeply researched popular history at its most invigorating, primed to dislodge routine preconceptions and to pour in other light. The freshness of . . . Frankopan’s sources is stimulating, and their sheer range can provoke surprising connections. He likes to administer passing electric shocks.” —Colin Thubron, New York Review of Books

“This is history on a grand scale, with a sweep and ambition that is rare. . . . A remarkable book on many levels, a proper historical epic of dazzling range and achievement.” —William Dalrymple, The Guardian

“A glorious read. . . . Frankopan is an exhilarating companion for the journey along the routes which conveyed silk, slaves, ideas, religion, and disease, and around which today may hang the destiny of the world.” —Vanity Fair

“Dazzlingly rich and accessible. . . . By reorienting the history of the last few millennia to the east, and by resolutely keeping the camera rolling there, Frankopan unhooks us from the usual story of ‘Western Civ’ and gives us a startling and brilliant perspective on events that may once have been familiar—and plenty that aren’t.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Beautifully constructed, a terrific and exhilarating read and a new perspective on world history.” —History Today

My Vietnam Story Printed in Urban Milwaukee

My article was published in Urban Milwaukee today. It concerns Kim Phúc, then nine-years old, who ran down a road near her village in South Vietnam, following an aerial napalm attack, and AP journalist Nick Ut who took the Pulitzer Prize wining photograph. The two were in Madison Saturday for a talk on the 47th anniversary of that awful day–June 8th.

I do like to have a byline.  It makes me smile.