Peter Frankopan: The New Silk Roads. The present and future of the world, Bloomsbury 2019, updated and revised edition of Silk Roads (2017).
Not to the Egyptians, Greeks or Romans is western civilisation mostly indebted, but to Persia and Central Asia, which formed the true centre of world events throughout most of antiquity, the middle ages and again in the present world. What made this area so influential were and are its connections with neighbouring as well as far-away regions. Along these routes people, goods, ideas and techniques travelled back and forth cementing connections and impacting material culture and world views. Empires rose and fell, political configurations extended and contracted but always this area, which is mostly absent from western history books, played a crucial role in the world order. The revised version of Peter Frankopan's exciting account of some three thousand years of history of this region emphasises even more how developments along the 'new silk roads' will have an impact on all our lives for years to come.
Peter Frankopan: The silk roads. A new history of the world illustrated edition. Illustrated by Neil Packer, Bloomsbury 2017.
Master story teller Peter Frankopan teamed up with illustrator Neil Packer to create an even more accessible version of his story of the ways in which East and West are inseparably connected through Central Asia in this very attractive illustrated edition of his history of the Central Asia and its connections to Asia and Europe. If you thought it is impossible to put 3,000 years of history into some 650 pages, you will be amazed how well this story is told on large beautifully illustrated pages with just enough text. The book is published by in the Bloomsbury Children's books series, but grown-ups will also enjoy leaving through it.
Scents and Flavors - A Syrian Cookbook. Translated by Charles Perry, NYU Press 2017.
Cook books from antiquity are limited to a handful of Roman and Babylonian ones, but they really took off in the Arab world, reaching a peak in popularity in the thirteenth century when this book was written. The Arabic text edition and English translation already appeared three years ago, but this year the very accessible English version was published as an attractive stand-alone paperback. It collects 635 recipes presented in the order in which they would be consumed during a meal starting with appetizers and beverages, such as those made of apricots, and moving on through the main courses and side dishes, such as pistachio chicken, coriander stew and stuffed eggplant, and ending with desserts such as melon crepes and almond pudding. But there is more: thanks to instructions on how to prepare perfumes, hand-soaps and antiperspirant powders, it is not only the dishes whose fragrant spices and other ingredients make them almost jump of the pages, their consumers are also enveloped in attractive smells.
Amitav Gosh: In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale, Vintage 1994.
This book connects the personal experience of the anthropologist author during field work in the Egyptian Delta with a historical quest into the life of the Indian slave Bomma. In 1132 Bomma's owner, Abraham ben Yihju, had settled in Bangalore on the south-western Indian coast. Bomma was his agent for the lucrative trade in spices and metal objects between Bangalore, Aden in Yemen and Egypt, whereby he frequently represented his master's business in Aden. Bomma moved back with Abraham to Cairo in the 1150s. Bomma's activities were recorded in letters and other documents preserved in the Cairene Ben Ezra synagogue for centuries, until they were recovered in the nineteenth and early twentieth century and studied by scholars around the world. As Gosh uncovers Bomma's life and activities, he uses his encounters with the Egyptian villagers whose daily activities are in many ways comparable to those encountered in the centuries-old letters, with all the ambitions and frustrations of a modernising society. The mixing of genres - travel literature, novel, historical study make this a very engaging book.
Jessica Maier: The Eternal City: A History of Rome in Maps. University of Chicago Press 2020.
This original and visually very attractive book emphasises the unbroken history of the three thousand year old city of Rome. Ten chapters treat distinct historical phases or urban reinventions represented in maps and illustrations by artists of all times. From its origins through the Roman empire, middle ages and the period of the grand tours and archaeological explorations to the contemporary city of mass tourism we see how there are in fact many different Romes to discover. The author peels off the different layers which are then visually represented by one dimensional maps, which in turn can be stacked one on top of the other to display clearly the expansions, contractions, re-organisations and remodellings of residential areas, roads and public spaces. It is exactly the awareness of how the different phases impacted the city scape as well as how they are intertwined that paradoxically allows for a holistic view of this eternal and infinitely changing city.