Department of History



1043 Heller Hall

Telephone: 624-3314

Office hours: M 11:15-12:00; F 1:15-2:00

or by appointment





The Cultures of the Silk Road

Spring 2013

HIST 3504; ALL 3920


Conceptual Frame:

        The cultures of the Silk Road, which stretched from China to Rome, flourished after the invasion of Alexander the Great. The Silk Road was the hub of activity from the time of the Sassanids to the demise of the Mongol rule, when movement of goods by caravans came to a halt. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been an attempt to revive the Silk Road by creating a fiber-optic network that would connect the markets of the East and West through prominent international banks. The potential for the exchange of ideas is as promising today as it was real during the ancient and medieval times.




·      Equip students with the means for understanding and interpretating the ideas and actions of a major segment of the population of the world

·      Teach students to distinguish different trends and accept them for what they are

·      Discuss issues that have led to amity and cooperation, on the one hand, and animosity and war, on the other hand.

·      Examine the contributions of the cultures of the Silk Road to world civilization.


Class Sessions:


23     Introduction to the course, course content, materials to be covered, office hours, tests, reports, paper, grades, attendance sheet, etc. Part of the session will be used for introductions. The students will fill out a questionnaire indicating their areas of interest.

         Assignment:  Bashiri, pp. 55-67; Frye, pp. 3-49; Whitfield, pp. 1-26

E-Reserve link:


25     Geography of the Silk Road—natural and man-made features—Tarim Basin, Ferghana Valley, Bactrian Plain

         Assignment:  Frye, pp. 53-63; Whitfield, pp. 27-54

         Assignment of Oral Reports

28     Peoples of the Silk Road (nomadic, settled)

         Assignment:  Bashiri, pp. 108-118; Frye, pp. 67-96; Whitfield, pp. 55-75


30     History of the Silk Road—Alexander's march to India

         Assignment:  Frye, pp. 99-118; Whitfield, pp. 76-94




1       Languages of the Silk Road (Arabic, Turkish, Persian)

         Assignment:  Bashiri, pp. 3-9, 123-159; Frye, pp. 121-150


4       Activities on the Silk Road (Coming of the Indo-Europeans, Zoroastrianism)

         Assignment:  Frye, pp. 135-166; Whitfield, pp. 95-112


6       Oral Reports I


8       Oral Reports I


11     Oral Reports I


13     The Life of the Prophet of Islam

         Assignment: Frye, pp. 169-198; Whitfield, pp. 113-137


15     The Islamic Conquests

         Assignment: Frye, pp. 201-232; Whitfield, pp. 138-154


18     Discussion (Stories in Life Along the Silk Road by Whitfield)


20     Islamic Beliefs and Practices

         Assignment: None


22     In Search of Grass

         Assignment: Chambers, pp. 1-45; Case, "I Became a Bakhtiari";  W111. The Bakhtiaris of Iran" ; Whitfield, pp. 155-173

         Study Guide I is posted


25     Woven Gardens

         Assignment: Chambers, pp. 45-84;  W110. "The Qashqais of Iran"; Beck, pp. 27-73 (optional)


27     TEST ONE

         Assignment: Chambers, pp. 84-135; Whitfield, pp. 174-188




1       The Kyrgyz of Afghanistan

         Assignment: Chambers, pp. 136-202; W112."The Kirghiz of Afghanistan"; Whitfield, pp. 206-222


4       The Kazakhs of China

         Assignment: W113. "The Kazakhs of China"


6       The lifestyles of the tribes are compared

         Assignment: none


8       Development of literature on the Silk Road is discussed

         Assignment: Spuler, pp. 71-114


11     Chang’an to Khotan (48 min)

         Assignment: none


13       Oral Reports II


15       Oral Reports II    


18-22             Spring Break


25     Oral Reports II


27     Open

         Assignment: Ibn Fadlan, pp. 3-58


29     Kucha to Margilan (38 min)

         Assignment: same




1       The Mongol invasion of Central Asia

         Assignment: none


3       "Storm from the East"

         Part one of a four-part series dealing with the Mongol

         invasion of Central Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

         Assignment: W114. History of the Manghits I


5       Invasion of Europe and the Middle East

         Assignment: W115. History of the Manghits II

         Study Guide II is posted


8       The Fall of the Mongol Empire

         The Manghits of Bukhara


10     Discussion (The Devil's Horsemen by Chambers)


12     TEST TWO

         Assignment: W101. "Central Asia: An Overview"; Rashid, pp. 25-77


15     The significance of Central Asia and its resources

         Assignment: W103. "Iran: A Concise Overview"


17     The Westernization of Iran

         Assignment: W102. "Afghanistan: An Overview"


19     History and Culture of Afghanistan from the end of the 19th century to the present.

         Assignment: W104. "Tajikistan: A concise Overview"; Rashid, pp. 159-185


22     Tajikistan: the land and its people/current state of economy, privatization, health,            etc

         Assignment: W108. "Uzbekistan: A Concise Overview" ; Rashid, pp. 78-106


24     The roots of the Tajik-Uzbek conflict

         Assignment: W106. "Turkmenistan: A Concise Overview"; Rashid, pp. 187-206



26     The Islamic and Communist faces of Turkmenistan/current state of economy, privatization, health, etc.

         Assignment:W105. "Kazakhstan: A Concise Overview" ; Rashid, pp. 107-135


29     Kazakh and Russian relations

         Assignment: W107. " Kyrgyzstan: A Concise Overview"; Rashid, pp. 136-158




1       Discussion of the Kyrgyz/ current state of economy, privatization, health, etc.


3       Oral Reports III


6       Oral Reports III

         Book Report is due


8       Oral Reports III


10     Discussion (The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism? by Rashid)

         Study Guide III is posted

         Final Paper is due


         Final exam (test 3) is on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 1:30-3:30 p.m.




There will be 1 book report, 3 tests, 1 oral report, and one final paper. Attendance and active participation in classroom discussions also carry points.


Book Report

Any book on the cultures of China, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran or about the interactions among these cultures, among each other or with India, China, Russia, and the Middle East is acceptable. The book for the book report must have the instructor's approval. The book report is due on May 6, 2013. It carries 10 points. Guidelines for Writing Book Reports



There will be 3 tests. The dates for the tests are geared to the completion of the sections of the course devoted to each main topic. The exams will cover classroom discussions, reading assignments, and written and oral reports for the specific section. There will be no make-up tests. Exceptions will be made for hardship cases on an individual basis. The instructor should be informed, in advance, about the reason for not taking the test at the time it is administered. Each test carries 12 points.


Oral Reports

Each student participates in the gathering and delivering of information for 1 oral report.  After topics are assigned, each student prepares a presentation to be given to the class. The report (comprehensive PowerPoint presentation or full text) is emailed to the instructor for review 2 days ahead of time. Following the report the instructor will grade the report, correct or adjust it as necessary and send it to all the students. Students are responsible for knowing the content of all the reports they receive for tests. Look at Guidelines for Oral Reports for information on writing the oral report.

The oral report is graded for the quality of its overall contribution to the class. Failure to participate at the time assigned results in the loss of 5 points. Failure to provide the class with a copy of the report results in the loss of the rest of the points. Each oral report carries 15 points. The report should not be more than 15 minutes.


The paper should be 10 pages double-spaced, typed, and presentable. It should deal with aspects of the Silk Road and its contribution to the promotion of commerce and knowledge. The paper should include an introduction, a reasonable development of the topic proposed, and a clear indication of diligent research. The bibliography is NOT included in the 10 pages. Look at Guidelines for Writing Papers for information on writing the paper. The Paper is due on May 10, 2013. The paper carries 30 points as follows:

Aspects of paper

# of points



relevance and originality










footnotes & bibliography





Attendance and Active Participation in Discussions

Attendance is taken by passing a roster to be legibly signed. Each absence is worth half a point. Attendance carries 3 points.

Three books are discussed at the times indicated in the Syllabus. Students are expected to show their knowledge of the content of the books by commenting on points related to the books. Active participation in discussions carries 6 points.

Absences affect the number of points for participation and, indirectly, affect the outcome of the tests.

Grading Scale

4.0 scale


































Selected Bibliography


            The following books are available as a packet at the bookstore:

1.      Chambers, James. The Devil's Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe, Oxford University Press, 1988.

2.      Rashid, Ahmed, The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism?, Oxford University Press/Zed Books, 1994.


The following book is available from Cognella Publishers:

Bashiri, Iraj. Ancient Iran: Cosmology, Mythology, History, Cognella Publishers, 2012 through their website:

(available at the bookstore only for students who have scholarship/grant money for purchase of books).


The following books are available at the bookstore:

Bashiri, Iraj, Ancient Iran: Cosmology, Mythology, History

Frye, Richard N., Heritage Of Central Asia

Esposito, John, Islam: The Straight Path, 4th

Whitfield, Susan, Life Along The Silk Road


The following books are available through the Reserve Room at Wilson Library:

1.      Allworth, Edward. Central Asia: 120 Years of Russian Rule, 1989.

2.      Bashiri, Iraj. Ancient Iran: Cosmology, Mythology, History, Cognella Publishers, 2012.

3.      Beck, Lois. Nomad: A Year in the Life of a Qashqa'i Tribesman in Iran, University of California Press, 1991.

4.      Blunt, Wilfrid. The Golden Road to Samarkand, Viking Press, 1973.

5.      Case, Paul Edward. "I Become a Bakhtiari," National Geographic Magazine, 1946/47, pp. 325-358

6.      Chambers, James. The Devil's Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe, Oxford University Press, 1988.

7.      Dawson, Christopher, ed. The Mongol Mission: Narratives and Letters of the Franciscan Missionaries in Mongolia and China in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1955.

8.      Dunn, Ross E. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

9.      Engels, Donald. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, University of California Press, 1978.

10.  Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 4th edition, 2010.

11.  Foltz, Richard C. Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange From Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

12.  Franck, Irene M. and David M. Brownstone. The Silk Road: A History, Facts on File Publications, 1986.

13.  Frye, Richard N. The Heritage of Central Asia: From Antiquity to the Turkish Expansion. Princeton: Marcus Wiener Publishers, 1996.

14.  Grousset, Rene. The Empire of the Steppe, Indiana University Press, 1986.

15.  Heissig, Walther. The Religions of the Mongols, University of California Press, 1980.

16.  Hopkirk, Peter. The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

17.  Ibn Fadlān, Ibn Fadlān and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North, Tr. Paul Lunds and Caroline Stone, Penguin books, 2012, pp. 3-58, pp. 195-197.

18.  Knobloch, Edgar. Beyond the Oxus: Archaeology, Art and Architecture of Central Asia, London, 1972.

19.  Marsden, W. ed. The Travels of Marco Polo. New York: Dorset Press, 1987.

20.  Rashid, Ahmed, The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism?, Oxford University Press/Zed Books, 1994.

21.  Spuler, Bertold. History of the Mongols, Dorset Press, 1968.

22.  Thubron, Colin, Shadow of the Silk Road, HarperCollins Publisher, 2007.

23.  Waley, Arthur. The Secret History of the Mongols, and Other Pieces. London: Allen and Unwin, 1963.

24.  Whitfield, Susan. Life Along the Silk Road, University of California Press, 1999.