It has been more than three decades since the passing of the great French economic historian, Fernand Braudel, but his adventurous influence runs deep in Angus Forsyth’s remarkable illustrated essay on the Silk Road—the lanes of transport between East and West that linked China, India, Africa and the Mediterranean before the era of motor vehicles. Braudel’s genius was in his ability to highlight the intimate detail against the grand canvas of history, and his approach to storytelling fundamentally shifted the way history is presented, whether in the curating of museum exhibitions or histories of leaders and transformative events. It’s the detail that counts.
Humanism, secularism, pluralism: these were the spirit of the age in the exchange system known as the Mongol Empire. So Roxann Prazniak finds in Sudden Appearances: The Mongol Turn in Commerce, Belief, and Art. Prazniak’s starting place is art history, but her study of artistic exchange opens out into a wide view of the intellectual and cultural world under Mongol globalization in the 13th century.