The Silk Road
is a touchstone for world history. It was a rich trans-regional vehicle for the
transmission of art, religion, science and disease that also affords a glimpse
into the politics and economic systems of the pre-modern world. It is a topic
rarely given short shrift by instructors and a rich source for student
scholarship and learning. So rich, that few students are likely to
consider a document-based question on the subject a shot in the dark, and they
are thus more likely to be able to apply the analytical skills that are a
necessary component of secondary and post-secondary courses in world history
and also for the development of life-long learning that is the ultimate goal of
question will be instantly recognizable to instructors of Advanced Placement
World History, but will not be seen as alien to any world history classroom
format. The time limitations are suitable to other formats, such as a
college-level final examination.
The Silk Road in World History
(Suggested writing time – 40 minutes)
You should spend at least 10 minutes reading,
analyzing, and grouping the sources.
Directions: The following
question is based on the accompanying Sources 1 - 6. (The sources have been
edited for the purpose of this exercise).
The question is designed to test
your ability to work with and understand historical sources. Write an essay
· Has a relevant thesis and
supports that thesis with evidence from the sources.
· Uses all of the sources.
· Analyzes the sources by
grouping them in as many appropriate ways as possible. Does not simply summarize the sources
· Takes into account both
the sources of the documents and the authors' points of view.
You may refer to relevant
historical information not mentioned in the sources.
what extent did the Silk Road create an interconnected network?
What kinds of additional documentation would
help assess the role of the Silk Road in creating interconnected network from
the 2nd century C.E. to the 13th century?
SPACE MAY BE USED FOR PLANNING YOUR ANSWER.
Roman historian, Cassius Dio, 164 - 224 C.E., commented on a celebration the
Roman emperor, Julius Caesar, staged in his own honor around 50 B.C.E.
mention one feature of his [Caesar's] extravagance at that time, I shall
thereby give an idea of all the rest. In order that the sun might not annoy
any of the spectators, he had curtains stretched over them made of silk,
according to some accounts. Now this fabric is a device of barbarian luxury,
and has come down from them even to us to gratify the fastidious taste of fine
Sima Qian, The Records of the Grand Historian, about Zhang Qian, a
diplomat who traveled to the court of the Yuezhi for the Han Emperor Wudi, 1st century B.C.E.
Qian was the first person to bring back a clear account of the Dayuan [present
day Krygystan and Uzbekistan].
[Parthian Persia] is situated several thousand li [a little more than a third
of a mile] west of the region of the Great Yuezhi. The people are settled on
the land, cultivating the fields and growing rice and wheat. They also make
wine out of grapes. ....
Faxian, A Chinese Buddhist Monk's Travels in India and Ceylon, 399 - 411
place [Central Asia], we traveled southeast, passing by a succession of very
many monasteries, with a multitude of monks .... When stranger monks arrive at
any monastery, the old residents meet and receive them ....
Anonymous assistant to a Chinese merchant, A Record of Musings On the
Eastern Capital, about Hangzhou, capital of the Southern Sung Dynasty,
the morning hours, markets extend from Tranquility Gate of the palace all the
way to the north and south sides of the New Boulevard. Here we find pearl,
jade, talismans, exotic plants and fruits, seasonal catches from the sea, wild
game -- all the rarities of the world seem to be gathered here.
the hustlers are students who failed to achieve any literary distinction.
Though able to read and write, and play musical instruments and chess, they are
not highly skilled in any art. They end up being a kind of guide for young men
from wealthy families, accompanying them in their pleasure-seeking activities.
Friar John of Monte Corvino, Letter to the West, one of two letters
written to his fellow Franciscans around 1295. John was sent by Pope Nicolas
IV to try to make an alliance with the Mongols against the Mamluk rulers of
John of Monte Corvino, of the Order of Friars Minor, departed from Tauris, a
city of the Persians, in the year of the Lord 1291, and proceeded to India.
And I remained in the country of India, wherein stands the church of St. Thomas
the Apostle, for thirteen months, ....
proceeded on my further journey and made my way to Cathay, the realm of the
emperor of the Mongols who is called the Great Khan. To him I presented the
letter of our lord the pope, and invited him to adopt the Catholic faith of our
Lord Jesus Christ, but he had grown too old in idolatry. However he bestows
kindnesses upon the Christians, and these two years past I am abiding with him.
Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant who may have
worked for the Yuan dynasty, the Mongol rulers of China, late 13th century. This excerpt is a description of Hangzhou, a southern city that was
part of the Yuan empire.
within the city ten principal squares or market places, besides innumerable
shops along the streets. .... On the nearer bank ... stand large stone
warehouses provided for merchants who arrive from India and other parts with
their goods and effects. They are thus situated conveniently close to the
market squares. In each of these, three days in every week, from forty to
fifty thousand persons come to these markets and supply them with every article
that could be desired.
Sharon Cohen is World History Connected's editor for
scholarship on teaching and learning in world history. She is an Advanced
Placement World History teacher at Springbrook High School in suburban
Maryland. From 2002 – 2006, she was on the AP World History Test
Development Committee. She can be contacted at email@example.com.