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The Silk Road and Silk on the Silk Road
Susan Whitfield(IDP, UK)
How important was silk for our understanding of the Silk Road? Over the past few years the term 'Silk Road(s)' has become a convenient shorthand to discuss all aspects of long-distance trade and interaction across Afro-Eurasia in the pre-modern period. But scholars have repeatedly questioned its usefulness, arguing that it is misleading because silk was not necessarily the primary article of trade and sometimes not even traded at all. This paper will review this discussion and argue that, whether or not it was the main trading commodity, silk remains a pertinent candidate for encompassing the idea of interaction that is exemplified by the concept of the 'Silk Road(s)'.


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