Teaching/Learning Guides
Surveys and General Interest

Books and Articles

  • Luce Boulnois, The Silk Road (Dutton, 1966). A translation from French, still considered by many to be one of the best introductions to the Silk Road.
  • David Christian, A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, Vol. 1: Inner Eurasia from Prehistory to the Mongol Empire (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998). A sweeping "world history" overview of Eurasian History, with significant attention to patterns of nomadic-sedentary interaction.
  • David Christian, "Silk Roads or Steppe Roads? The Silk Roads in World History," Journal of World History, 11/1 (2000), pp. 1-26. An important argument for the antiquity of the Silk Roads (going back to at least 2000 BCE), the role of "trans-ecological" exchanges, not merely "trans-civilizational" ones, and the crucial role of the pastoral nomads in establishing a unity of Afro-Eurasian history.
  • Irene M. Franck and David M. Brownstone, The Silk Road: A History (Facts on File, 1986). A good overview on the level of, perhaps, a high school textbook.
  • Xinru Liu, The Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Interactions in Eurasia (Washington, D. C.: The American Historical Association, 1998). A pamphlet-length overview by a Chinese specialist who has studied carefully the archaeological information..
  • Daniel C. Waugh "The Silk Road Observed and Imagined," a non-credit lecture series presented in Winter 2002
  • Along the Silk Road (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002)


    The single most valuable Web site for Silk Road topics is that maintained by the Silkroad Foundation. It contains a great variety of material: chronologies, bibliographies, web pages on particular topics written for general readers, articles, links to news stories, and much more. References to specific material on the Silkroad Foundation site will be included in various other parts of our guide.


    Several general interest magazines quite frequently run articles pertaining to various aspects of the Silk Road. This list can be much expanded, of course.

  • The National Geographic is always a good source for interesting articles and photographs. Often the older issues from the 'teens and 'twenties provide visual impressions that capture traditional life as it may have been centuries earlier. An example is the November 1928 issue, which had articles tracing Marco Polo's travels across Eurasia and describing Buddhist ceremonies in Tibet. The index to the magazine is now available on-line. Where there is web material related to an article, a link is included in the bibliographic entry for that article. Each entry has several subjects/keywords listed, on which one can click to bring up related articles and other NGS materials in the database. The NGS has begun to post "feature pages" to its web site at least for the current year's issues of the magazine (it is not clear whether this material will be archived for a longer period). The web pages provide a few paragraphs condensed from the articles along with some photos, a map which can be downloaded and printed for personal use, and both web links and well selected bibliography. These feature pages for the recent Marco Polo series are very valuable resources to guide users to additional material.

    Among recent NG articles of relevance are:

  • Audrey Topping, "China's Incredible Find: The First Emperor's Army," NG, Aug. 1992, pp. 440-459, which describes the discovery of the famous terracotta army at the Qin tombs near Xian
  • Louis Mazzatenta, "China's Warriors Rise from the Earth," NG, Oct. 1996, pp. 68-85, an update on the excavations of the terracotta army, with good pictures of the way they are displayed today
  • Louis Mazzatenta, "A Chinese Emperor's Army for Eternity," NG, Aug. 1992, pp. 114-130, on another of the important tomb excavations near Xian.
  • Thomas B. Allen, "Xinjiang," NG, March 1996, pp. 2-43, with wonderful photos by Reza showing famous cities such as Kashgar and the ethnic diversity of Xinjiang, including the mountain Kazakhs, whom we visit near Urumqi. In the same issue, the related article, "The Silk Road's Lost World," pp. 44-51, introduces the famous mummies of the Taklamakan and shows artifacts from their culture.
  • Mike Edwards, "Genghis Khan," NG, Dec. 1996, pp. 2-37, illustrates (in the superb photographs of James Stanfield) the history and contemporary culture of the Mongols, who conquered China in the 13th century and presided over a flourishing period in the history of the Silk Road. This issue contains an excellent map supplement on the Mongols. The same team produced the sequel article, "The Great Khans," NG, Feb. 1997, pp. 2-35, which discusses, among others, Kubilai Khan.
  • Mike Edwards, "The Adventures of Marco Polo, Part I [Venice to China]," NG, May 2001, pp. 2-31; "Marco Polo, Part II: In China," June 2001, pp. 20-45; "Marco Polo, Part III: Journey Home," July 2001, pp. 26-47.
  • Saudi Aramco World (formerly Aramco World), distributed at no charge to those who request to be on the mailing list, is a valuable source of good articles and splendid pictures for all parts of the Islamic world. The publisher, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, has begun to put recent issues on the web in pdf format. A listing of some recent articles of interest will be added here.


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

    Silk Road Seattle is a project of the Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington.