Frankopan is ultimately outlining the shifts in gravity through the centuries from East to West, and argues that today that gravity is shifting back to the East. He does this, as the title suggests, by analyzing how the ancient and modern trade routes have influenced world history. In light of China’s recent moves to open new “silk roads” on three continents, reaching 60% of the world’s trade, his argument has enormous weight for our future in the West, especially as Trump retracts into his “America first” shell.
I struggled with the enormous amount of detail in the book because I did this one on audiobook during a road trip. I don’t recommend it in this case, unless you’re pairing the audiobook with a paper text. There’s just so much material that the least loss of focus means you will miss major connections, names, and events. And for me, wandering attention happens a lot during a 24-hour audiobook while driving.
That’s not a weakness of the book. I’m just discovering that I struggle with focus on audiobooks unless I pair them with a paper copy. But note well, this is a long, complicated history. It’s so well done, however, that it repays the effort.
I don’t have an extensive history background. It should be no surprise that the parts of this history that clicked best for me are the sections on topics I’ve read other books about (like the Mongols), and the portions of the 20th and 21st Centuries that I have been alive for.
If you’re a history buff, or just interested in global trade and where we seem to be going today, this is one not to miss.