If one thought, as I admit I did, that a book with “Silk” and “History” in its title would be (yet another) about China and the Silk Road, one will soon be disabused. Aarathi Prasad, a biologist and science writer, opens with the Lepidoptera floors at London’s Natural History museum. Silk, argues Prasad, has a much more complicated story that the conventional one of China and the Chinese silkworm Bombyx mori: “there is not just one silk, there is not just one story of silk. Not one road, one people who found it, nor who made it.” Indeed, some of the earliest silk cocoons ever found, from Xiyin Cun some two hundred kilometres west of Shuanghuaishu and dating from 3500 BCE, aren’t Bombyx mori at all.

It is easy to forget, in the linear narrative of the British Raj leading to an independent India, that there were other, albeit much smaller, bits that hung on as colonies of other European countries (let’s not call them “powers”) for some time longer. One of these, the most venerable, dating back almost five centuries to 1510, was Goa. The succinctly titled Goa, 1961 tells the story of India’s forceful expulsion of the Portuguese, focusing in considerable detail on the year it happened.