The Sasanians ruled an empire stretching from the Mediterranean to the Aral Sea. Under them, the Zoroastrian religion developed its most subtle metaphysics. Greek philosophers flocked to their capital in Ctesiphon, while in Babylon, the Jewish Talmud ripened. Iranian painting, metalwork and music were received enthusiastically in China and India.

A perusal of the bios of the contributors provides the first indication that Tropical Silk Road is not a typical collection of academic papers. In addition to the professors and researchers one might expect, the list also includes Sabrina Felipe, an independent investigative reporter; Paúl Ghaitai Males, “born in the Indigenous community of C­ompañía-Otavalo and is currently an anthropology student at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito”; Rina Pakari Marcillo, “a Kichwa-Otavalo student of cultural anthropology at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito”; Alessandra Korap Silva Munduruku, “one of the most respected Indigenous leaders in Brazil and a law student at the Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará (Ufopa)”; Jefferson Pullaguari, “vice president of the Indigenous Shuar Federation of Zamora Chinchipe” as well as Zhou Zhiwei, deputy director of the Department of International Relations at the Institute of Latin American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Over the last decade or two, publishing has seen an increase in graphic novels and comics from Asian American writers and illustrators that addresses both contemporary and historical topics. Eleanor Ty has put together a collection of nine essays, including one of her own, in Beyond the Icon: Asian American Graphic Narratives, to demonstrate how these graphic novels and comics also tell a larger story than the ones depicted in their pages. 

The history of Indian queens—or ranis—has so far been left largely unexplored because mainstream history deals primarily with the annals of the kings. Queeny Pradhan’s Ranis & the Raj presents a perceptible shift in focus as it views the British Raj in 19th-century India from the perspective of six Indian queens—Rani Chennamma of Kittur, Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, Maharani Jindan of Punjab, Begum Zeenat Mahal, Guleri Rani of Sirmur and Queen Menchi of Sikkim—from geographically and culturally varied regions which offer a pan-Indian dimension to the history of the ranis. 

The world would likely be a better place if there were more people like Jeff Fearnside in it. Ships in the Desert is a collection of essays based on and informed by four years that Fearnside spent in, mostly Kazakhstan early in the century, first as a teacher for the Peace Corps and later managing a fellowship programme. He comes across as concerned, thoughtful and, above all, tolerant.

The core of the Ottomans’ political culture could never be replicated. Based on military slaves, forcibly recruited from non-Muslim subjects, a harem full of nubile captives hoping to become sultanas, an emperor who had to murder his brothers to secure his throne, and a pliant clergy that reconciled these extra-legal practices with religion, the “Eternal State”, devlet-e ebetmüdat, ruled over immense territories and numberless peoples for 600 years.