In December 1948, a panel of 12 judges sentenced 23 Japanese officials for war crimes. Seven, including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, were sentenced to death. The sentencing ended the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, an over-two-year-long trial over Imperial Japan’s atrocities in China and its decision to attack the US.

In its eclectic choice of subjects, Filipino writer Lio Mangubat’s collection of historical essays Silk, Silver, Spices, Slaves betrays its origins as a podcast. It resembles, not least due to Mangubat’s skill at spinning a good yarn, a collection of short stories rather than non-fiction pieces; and what the book lacks in an easily recognizable throughline, it more than makes up for in a readable prose style that manages to be both erudite and conversational. 

Railways are major public infrastructural projects; one would therefore think it should therefore be easy to find out which rail lines exist and at what times trains are running. Not in Myanmar. Aside from the well-known main lines, Clare Hammond a myriad of smaller branch lines in remote parts of the country, with little information as to when the trains will run or if the lines are even operational. 

There are over sixty million “left-behind children” in China at present. These children have been “left behind” by parents who moved for work, or sometimes school. Most left-behind children grow up in rural villages, while their parents sojourn in China’s megalopolises. The phenomenon has touched the lives of Chinese families across generations, but especially since the market reforms of the Deng Xiaoping era. One left-behind child of the 1990s was Yuan Yang, the author of Private Revolutions: Four Women Face China’s New Social Order. While her parents pursued higher education, Yuan Yang spent her earliest years living in rural Sichuan Province with her maternal grandparents. Then, at the age of four, she reunited with her father and mother in England, where she would later naturalize as a British citizen.  

Harry Franck died in 1962. This latest edition of his work consists of a few excerpts from his original Roving Through Southern China published in 1925. The original much larger book described two years of roving that took Franck as far as Yunnan, but these excerpts focus on the few months he and his family spent living in Canton in the winter of 1924. The excerpts are supplemented with some very useful footnotes from Paul French explaining some of the things Franck mentions that are no longer familiar to the modern reader.

Although it is the Silk Road that captures most of the contemporary attention and discussion, it was in fact spices, not silk, that drove Western Europeans to seek routes to Asia. “Lightweight and durable, spices” writes Roger Crowley in his new history (appropriately entitled Spice), “were the first truly global commodity … they could be worth more than their weight in gold.”