Teaching/Learning Guides
Silk Road Reference Materials

Current subdivisions:

*Reference Works for the Islamic World
*Other Encyclopedias


  • History of the Civilizations of Central Asia, 5 vols. to date (Paris: UNESCO Publishing, 1992-2000). There is also an Indian reprint of the first volumes but with illustrations of inferior quality to those in the original.
    The coverage is as follows:
  • Vol. I. The dawn of civilization: earliest times to 700 B.C.
  • Vol. II. The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 B.C. to A.D. 250
  • Vol. III. The crossroads of civilizations: A.D. 250 to 750
  • Vol. IV. The Age of Achievement: A.d. 750 to the end of the fifteenth century. Part I: The historical, social and economic setting
  • Vol. IV. The age of achievement: A.D. 750 to the end of the fifteenth century. Part II: The achievements.
  • Although these volumes can be read sequentially, probably most will wish to use them for reference. All are by leading specialists, from various countries and academic traditions (some of the material on religion, for example, seems to be treated from somethng of a Marxist viewpoint). As with any collectively authored work, the individual sections will vary considerably in style and readability. Many chapters are fully accessible to the general reader; but others are much more specialized. One virtue of the material is that it incorporates recent archaeological evidence. Each volume contains abundant illustrations (until the most recent volume, only in black and white) and a number of carefully drawn maps. Every chapter has a substantial bibliography of materials in various languages.

  • Cambridge Encyclopedias and Histories. There are various single and multi-volume histories published by Cambridge University Press. Some are intended for a general audience; others are more specialized. All are written by academic specialists; most volumes are collectively authored. Some of the single volume works are available now in paperback; there may also be more recent editions than the ones I cite. I have chosen to list the "illustrated histories" on my history pages, since those books are generally very good for the beginner wanting general information.
  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, Francis Robinson, ed. (1989)
  • The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Denis Sinor ed. (1990). Essays on pre-Mongol Inner Asia by the best experts on that difficult history. While the volume can be read through with profit, its rather dry and often detailed emphasis on political history does not encourage the casual reader. The value of the book can be really appreciated as one begins to acquire enough knowledge to put the essays into a meaningful broader context.
  • The Cambridge History of China, Denis Twitchett and John K. Fairbank, general editors (Cambridge [Eng.]; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1978-). Of a projected 15 volumes, the following volumes have been published to date: v. 1. The Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C.-A.D. 220 -- v. 3. Sui and T'ang China, 589-906, pt. 1 -- v. 6. Alien regimes and border states, 907-1368 -- v. 7. The Ming dynasty, 1368-1644, pt. 1 -- v. 8. The Ming dynasty, 1368-1644, pt. 2 -- v. 10-11. Late Ch`ing, 1800-1911 -- v. 11. Late Ch`ing, 1800-1911, pt. 2 -- v. 12-13. Republican China, 1912-1949 -- v.14-15. The People's Republic.
  • The Cambridge history of Iran (Cambridge: University Press, 1968-). Contents: v. 1. The land of Iran / edited by W. B. Fisher -- v. 2. The Median and Achaemenian periods / edited by Ilya Gershevitch -- v. 3. The Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian periods / edited by Ehsan Yarshater (2 pts.) -- v. 4. The period from the Arab invasion to the Saljuqs -- v. 5. The Saljuq and Mongol periods / edited by J. A. Boyle --v. 6. The Timurid and Safavid periods / edited by Peter Jackson and Laurence Lockhart--v.7. From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic / edited by Peter Avery.
  • Reference Works for the Islamic World

  • *Index Islamicus, 1665-1905 : A Bibliography of Articles on Islamic Subjects in Periodicals and Other Collective Publications. Wolfgang Behn, comp. (Millersville, Pa.: Adiyok, c1989);
    *Index Islamicus. An ongoing bibliography starting with coverage from 1906. Some libraries have a CD-ROM version which covers 1906-1999 and may be accessed on-line by members of the subscribing institution. Quarterly supplements are issued in hard copy.
  • *The Encyclopaedia of Islam. 10 vols. to date (2nd ed.) (Leiden: Brill, 1960-). For the end of the alphabet, one can still consult the first edition, but the material there is now quite dated. The first 9 volumes of the second edition (A-S) and supplements are now most conveniently accessed on a CD-ROM at workstations in many libraries. The CD-ROM version has the advantage of linked cross-referencing. This is an authoritative reference work, somewhat difficult of access until one learns the correct formal transliteration system which is used for the entries. A Turkish translation of the first edition exists, to which new entries have been added concerning Turkish topics.
    *Islamic Desk Reference. Compiled from The Encyclopaedia of Islam by E. van Donzel (Leiden ; New York: E.J. Brill, 1994).
  • Other Encyclopedias

  • The Encyclopaedia Iranica. 9 vols. to date (10th was promised for publication in Spring 2001) of a projected 25-30 vols. (London; Boston; Costa Mesa, 1982-). Vols. 1-8 (A-E) are also available on-line: vols. 1-6 in pdf format requiring the Adobe Acrobat reader and 7-8 requiring downloading of a special font in order to view the proper transliteration of the names. Of particular interest are the long entries on "Central Asia" and on "Chinese-Iranian Relations" in Vol. 5.

    2001 Daniel C. Waugh. Last updated December 23, 2001.

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