The Silk Roads: A Multi-Part Journey with Dr. Sabahat Adil

The Silk Roads: A Multi-Part Journey with Dr. Sabahat Adil


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This Context Journey will introduce learners to the rich and dynamic history of the Silk Roads, including their origins and impact. We will begin in China and travel westward through Central Asia and into the Middle East as we consider the continued impact of the Silk Roads on present times.

As winter arrives across much of the northern hemisphere, many people will dig up from deep in their pantries spices and scents to warm themselves from the cold. One example includes cinnamon, which is a staple in many kitchens. Few people know, however, that cinnamon arrived in the U.S. as a result of the Silk Roads and the vibrant trade that occurred between East and South Asia into Europe and, ultimately, the Americas.

The Silk Roads refers to an important set of routes along which travelers, goods, and ideas journeyed in the pre-modern era. While many people consider the Silk Roads to be of the past, they are something that has a very real bearing on our lives today. In this multi-part series, we will consider the history of the Silk Roads from the past through the present in myriad ways, including how they came to exist, as well as the rich variety of goods such as textiles and spices that were transported through them by eager merchants.

Not only were goods an important part of the trade, but the Silk Roads were also an important means through which religious, cultural, political, and other ideas and diseases traveled. Finally, we will link the Silk Roads to globalization in the world today and consider the continuities and differences between global exchange in the pre-modern era and present times.

Led by an expert on Mediterranean and Islamic history and culture, Dr. Sabahat Adil, this interactive journey will explore the dynamic history of the Silk Roads across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and beyond. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of how trade and exchange across several continents unmistakably shaped the world that we inhabit today.

Lecture 1: Beginnings in Xi’an and Dunhuang

In our first session,l the focus will be on two important cities in China. The former has long been considered an important starting point (or endpoint, depending on the direction of one’s travel!) along the Silk Roads, while the latter is home to numerous sites such as famous caves featuring Buddhist art.

Lecture 2: Pauses in Bukhara and Samarkand

In this lecture, we will continue our travels by journeying to two major cities in modern-day Uzbekistan in Central Asia. Islam was a prominent religion in the region, and ideas about Islam and Buddhism mingled in fascinating ways here.

Lecture 3: Culmination in Baghdad and Istanbul

In this lecture, our journey will take us to two cities, which were connected in terms of geography and trade with Europe. In both cases, geography and proximity to bodies of water played a central role in their prominence.

Lecture 4: Divergences

The last lecture will explore, as the title suggests, divergent paths along the Silk Roads. Even the route is popularly considered to be one road, there were many routes that connected to it. We will thus consider how the Silk Roads as discussed in the first three lectures were connected to South Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas through a broader network and continue to impact us today.

Passionate about the past and its connections with the present, Sabahat Adil, Ph.D. has expertise in the history of the Mediterranean and Islamic worlds, particularly in terms of cultural history. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has taught extensively at a variety of institutions, including the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Newberry Library. Her research and publications focus on the history of North Africa and medieval Iberia. Sabahat has also worked in museum settings, including the Freer and Sackler in Washington, D.C., and the Field Museum in Chicago.

How does it work?

This is a four-part journey series held on consecutive days and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A. In the two-day intensive, each session is three hours with a short pause to break up the time as well as for interspersed Q&A.

How much is the journey?

$140 for four 90-minute or two 3 hour lectures.

Is a recording available?

In general, our journeys are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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