Professor Peter Frankopan

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

The sun is setting on the Western world. Slowly but surely, the direction in which the world spins has reversed: where for the last five centuries the globe turned westwards on its axis, it now turns to the east. For centuries, fame and fortune was to be found in the west - in the New World of the Americas. Today, it is the east which calls out to those in search of adventure and riches. The region stretching from eastern Europe and sweeping right across Central Asia deep into China and India, is taking centre stage in international politics, commerce and culture – and is shaping the modern world. This region, the true centre of the earth, is obscure to many in the English-speaking world. Yet this is where civilization itself began, where the world's great religions were born and took root. The Silk Roads were no exotic series of connections, but networks that linked continents and oceans together. Along them flowed ideas, goods, disease and death. This was where empires were won – and where they were lost. As a new era emerges, the patterns of exchange are mirroring those that have criss-crossed Asia for millennia. The Silk Roads are rising again. A major reassessment of world history, The Silk Roads is an important account of the forces that have shaped the global economy and the political renaissance in the re-emerging east.


The First Crusade: The Call from the East

The First Crusade: The Call from the East

The First Crusade is one of the best-known and most written-about events in history but in this new book Dr Peter Frankopan asks vital questions that have never been posed before.  This is the only book to address the history of the First Crusade from the perspective of the east, examining the role of the Byzantine Empire and its ruler, Emperor Alexios I Komnenos. Peter Frankopan's focus on the imperial city of Constantinople and events in Asia Minor is the result of a major reinterpretation of eastern sources which reveal the crucial role of Byzantium in the genesis and execution of the First Crusade.  Frankopan’s revelation of a close cooperation between the pope in Rome and the emperor in Constantinople constitutes an important revision and brand new evidence of the history of the Church. This book questions the traditional view that the Catholic and Orthodox churches had broken definitively in 1054. Rather than viewing the Crusades as a conflict between Christianity and Islam, the book reveals a complex triangular relationship between the west, Byzantium and the Muslim world.

So, The First Crusade  constitutes a paradigm shift – it radically re-shapes our understanding of the aims, expectations, and long-term implications of the First Crusade and the Crusades as a whole.
Most importantly it answers why was there a First Crusade?

  • The Byzantine Empire
  • The Silk Roads, past, present and future
  • Russia, from its origins to the present day
  • The role of faith and religion in the ancient, medieval and modern world
  • Economic, cultural and intellectual history 

It feels like we are living in turbulent times: climate change, religious fundamentalism and new technologies seem to challenged the way we live. Major geopolitical change to is unsettling, with economic stagnation and dissonance in the western world a sharp contrast to the rising economic, political and military ambitions of countries in Asia. If we are to understand the world around us, we need to study its past.

I have spent more than two decades at Oxford working on peoples, countries and regions that have been ignored for too long: children at school and even undergraduates at university spend precious little time on Russia, Iran, the Byzantine Empire, the Gulf region, Central and South Asia and China – if they spend any time on them at all.

My work centres on looking at connections and exchange, and trying to better make sense of the way the world hangs together. I do this by using as many different sources I can find and use reliably, from narrative written accounts to archaeological surveys, but paying particular attention to recent scientific advances: we can learn a great deal from pollen counts, ice core evidence and even from parasitic deposits in latrines that show how people actually travelled – rather than how they were said to travel.

I love being a historian. What I love best is being able to ask questions about anything and everything. I love being able to follow my instincts and to look into topics that interest me – even when that means having to go back to the basics and start from the beginning. I have learnt how important it is to have an open mind and how to beware of pre-conceived ideas that have either already formed in my mind or which have been pressed into it by my own experiences, biases and assumptions.

Studying history does not have to involve the present; as it happens, the area that lies between the Eastern Mediterranean and the Pacific coast of China is experiencing a time of profound change. Following what is happening, and trying to see what we can learn from the past is better than the best coffee you can find in Oxford.  And these days you can find really, really good coffee in Oxford.

Every day is different – that is something I really love. I might be trying to write something about the Theodosian walls of Constantinople or the delivery of fresh water along the city’s aqueducts; or about the gift of a Christian psalter to a Persian ruler in the 16th Century; or thinking about which parallels (if any) might be useful for the Chinese acquisition of the port of Piraeus. Any which way, it’s wonderful to be at a university there will be someone else who is interested in the same thing and has something interesting to say that will help take my ideas and research moving forwards.

  • The Silk Roads A New History of the World

  • The First Crusade The Call from the East

  • The Alexiad of Anna Komnene

  • Croatia Through Writers' Eyes

  • More

I would be willing to hear from potential Masters students looking at Late Antique & Byzantine History 


I currently teach:

FHS Masters

SS 3: Byzantium in the reign of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus

History of the Byzantine Empire, 300-1453

FS 5: The Crusades

Byzantium and its Northern Neighbours

General History IV: 900-1150

Byzantine Sigillography

Ivan the Terrible Statue, BBC World Service, 5 August 2016 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p043pffn


‘Is 2016 the Worst Year in History?’, Slate, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history/2016/07/is_2016_the_worst_year_in_history.html


Baiting the Russian Bear, Chalke Valley History Festival, 1 July 2016 https://programme.cvhf.org.uk/programme/events/58-baiting-the-russian-bear/


Russians Abroad Old and New, History Today, 20 June 2016 http://www.historytoday.com/peter-frankopan/russians-abroad-%E2%80%93-old-and-new


Brexit and the collapse of Empires, Inker, 18 June 2016 http://www.inkermagazine.com/brexit-collapse-empires/


The Return of History and the Death of Democracy, Intelligence2, Royal Institution, 9 June 2016 http://www.intelligencesquared.com/events/the-return-of-history-and-the-death-of-democracy-peter-frankopan-kwasi-kwarteng/


The Silk Roads, Hay Literary Festival 30 May 2016 https://www.hayfestival.com/p-10971-peter-frankopan.aspx


The End of Hyperglobalisation: The New Conditions for the Economic and Financial Landscape, Astana (Kazakhstan), 26 June 2016 http://forum-astana.org/en/program/theme/1


Extremism: The Untold Story, Sydney Writers’ Festival 22 May 2016 https://www.swf.org.au/program/swf2016/extremism-the-untold-history-240


The End of Europe, Sydney Writers’ Festival, 20 May 2016 https://www.swf.org.au/program/swf2016/the-end-of-europe-152


Re-mapping the world, ABC Radio, 18 May 2016 http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2016/05/19/4465267.htm


An Ancient Route Rolls On, NPR Radio, 8 April 2016 http://www.npr.org/2016/04/08/467419445/an-ancient-route-rolls-on-questions-for-peter-frankopan-author-of-the-silk-roads


The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Lahore, 3 April 2016 http://www.khaleejmag.com/education/afkar-e-taza-rescuing-the-past-shaping-the-future/


The Return of History, Financial Times, 24 March 2016 https://next.ft.com/content/f286fb8c-f06c-11e5-9f20-c3a047354386


A Silk Road View of the World, NPR, 25 February 2016 http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2016/02/25/new-silk-road-china-world-history


Patriarch Kyril and the Pope Meet in Cuba, BBC World Service 11 February 2016; Radio 4, 12 February 2016


The Gibraltar Lecture, Gibraltar, 15 November 2015 http://gibraltarliteraryfestival.com/news/historian-peter-frankopan-to-give-gibraltar-lecture-2


Islam and the Silk Roads, Salaam Centre 13 November 2015 http://www.salaam.co.uk/?p=1024


The Future of the Middle East, Kilkenomics, 8 November 2015 http://www.kilkenomics.com/contributors/peter_frankopan


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