Silk Road DBQ
The interconnected network of the Silk Road has had a vast role in broadcasting the major aspects of all the past, present, and future civilizations. The Silk Road has left a huge dent in the world’s blueprint in development. It also was a distinguished trading route that allowed friends and people to spread ideas, religions, and inventions for the greater good of mankind. Although the fact that many people believe that the Silk Road was one-dimensional, in that they think that it was an important trading route, it had affected the world in many ways such as, an economic, social, religious, and intellectual aspects.
Economically, the Silk Road had a colossal effect on the world’s economy which established how and where most of the major imports and exports go. More often than not, the economics of whole nation swayed on the importance of the Silk Road. In sources 2,4, and 6 this is expressed in a way that is very thoroughly. In source 2 the area of Anzi (modern day Parthian Persia) had become a very successful area in that through their ability to survive and cultivate off the land in farming and especially in making wine out of grapes. In source 4 a Chinese merchant’s assistant concluded that in Hangzhou, their market was of having a high diversity in high magnitude of goods provided. In source 6 it is also characterizing about the city of Hangzhou, but it differentiates in that it illustrates the great volume of market in the area, and is also expressing the there is a moderate market system that gives great insight into how it is an interconnected network. An anonymous assistant to a Chinese merchant, presumed to be male, he considered that through the Silk Road a higher diversified culture was coming throughout the world as a whole and he also conceived that the students who didn’t “make it big” were most of the merchants. This is factual because we know the time period that the assistant, was an age of high cultural diffusion...
Did you think that international trade was a product of modern globalization and capitalist markets? Or did you ever assume that the Columbian Exchange was the first historical instance of the trade of people, plants, animals, and diseases between two vastly different continents? Well, this AP World History guide is going to help to dissuade you of any of these misconceptions as we cover one of the central AP World History concepts: the Silk Road.
The name Silk Road comes from masses of Chinese silk that was traded between eastern Asia and Europe during the Roman Empire (Romans were big fans of the smooth, luxurious fabric), but this AP World History concept has a much deeper history to tell.
That’s why we’ve created this AP World History review just for you, to let you in on all the details of the Silk Road. But perhaps most importantly, we have also created a quick overview of how the term itself might pop up on the AP World History exams and how to best think about the concept while you study. So, join us on a journey that spans thousands of miles, across vast forests, mountains, and deserts and discover the amazing history of the Silk Road!
What is the Silk Road?
Simply put, the Silk Road was an ancient trade route that connected Asia with Europe. It became a main artery of cultural, economic, and political exchange starting roughly around 200 BCE. Until around 1400 CE, the Silk Road connected the Pacific Ocean on the shores of eastern China to western Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.
As a quick note, the term itself wasn’t used until the 19th century until a German geographer named the route after the Roman Empire’s insatiable relationship with the luxuries that life had to offer. So, don’t go thinking that this was the term that the ancient peoples used.
Also, this was not just one road, but many. The AP World History concept, the “Silk Road” is used mostly to reference the trade that occurred all along several key trade routes that connected east to west. Sometimes, historians have used the term “Silk Routes” as a replacement to avoid confusion. The AP World History people won’t care too much about terminology, but just remember that it was more than one route.
Why was the Silk Road created?
The landscape and geography that existed in between this vast amount of terrain was diverse and harsh. Merchants had to cross dangerous terrain, ranging from the Taklimakan Desert to the Himalayan Ranges. And although the Silk Road didn’t really emerge until 200 BCE, merchants often traversed this tricky landscape at their own peril. But they did so in small chunks and with caution.
Take, for example, the Persian Royal Road, which was used during the Persian Empire, and would be incorporated into the Silk Road as time went on. And when the Greek conqueror, Alexander the Great, conquered the Persian Empire (around 339 BCE), he left troops all over the region. Suffice it to say, they came into contact with the Persian Royal Road and benefitted from its trade. But more on that later.
Anyways, as with much of human history, it would take an effort in military expansion to create a unified route that connected the eastern world to the west. The origins of the Silk Road started in warfare.
During the Han Dynasty in Chinese history (202 BCE – 220 CE), the empire of China was constantly harassed by nomadic warriors, especially from the north. So, the Chinese emperor Wu sent out a general to go west and gather support for attacking the pesky northerners. And we are talking, way west. Like northwest of current-day India west.
It was so far that the military mission also turned into an information-gathering event, as new sights and sounds were taken in by these early explorers. One of these new sights and sounds were the descendants of Alexander the Great’s men. And their horses.
See, told you they’d come back into this story.
Emperor Wu and his general ended up being really impressed with what he saw, especially how well these westerners used their horses in warfare. So, he decided to start a network of trade between the areas, since there had to be more to learn and see from Europe.
And as time wore on, empires rose and fell, as they always do. But many in Europe and Asia contributed to the development of the Silk Road. When the Roman Empire spread throughout Europe, they connected their own routes with the Persian Royal Road with others developing east of their empire. Merchant cities popped up all along these trade routes, flourishing as traders hawked their wares to one another. Its activities and profits peaked from about 670 CE to 700CE, but like all good things, it would slowly go downhill from there.
The Silk Road and Its Legacy
We know that this was a quick and dirty synopsis of the Silk Road’s origins and history, but if we covered the entire historical narrative of AP World History concepts like these, you’d be stuck here reading, like, 12 books. Plus, we’ve got to save room in our AP World History crash course to cover the exam itself.
But first, let’s get to the juicy bits: why the Silk Road is important. The Silk Road is one of those key AP World History concepts because it allowed for a massive exchange of information, goods, and peoples across a vast amount of space. These interconnected routes made hugely different peoples and societies in touch with one another. Kind of like a 2,000 year old internet.
The information that was transmitted between the trading societies allowed for the flourishing of empires and cities throughout China, Europe, India, Somalia, and many, many more places. Cities along and connected to the route became cosmopolitan, where someone in Hong Kong could be wearing a Mediterranean indigo-dyed scarf, or be sipping Asian-ginger tea in Barcelona.
But goods weren’t the only things traded. Ideas spread like wildfire. Military technologies were exchanged, including the introduction of gunpowder to the western world. Talk about hugely influential.
But disease spread as well. The bubonic plague made its way along the Silk Road and directly contributed to the destruction of the Byzantine Empire.
Eventually, the Silk Road saw its demise. Political chaos throughout the region meant that the trade routes were difficult to maintain and water access ran dry in many of the trading centers. But most importantly, (remember this part of our AP World History review for your upcoming exam) mercantilism started to become a thing.
Why buy products from 5,000 miles away that were taxed at every stop if you can sail a ship directly to the source? The Age of Discovery made ocean-based trade routes the thing of the future and land-based merchant dealings like the Silk Road a thing of the past. Plus, as a sad twist of fate, the gunpowder weaponry that Europeans learned via Silk Road routes meant that their new ships could also be vessels of war, contributing to the flourishment of Europe and the decline of East Asia.
The Silk Road and the AP World History Exam
We know that AP World History concepts like the Silk Road, being both physically and intellectually massive undertakings, can be difficult to study for. But that’s why we’ve created this AP World History crash course on the Silk Road, to cut to the chase.
So, when it comes to your upcoming AP World History exam, you are going to want to think about the big picture here. How can you not? Take this AP World History review’s discussion about the legacy of the Silk Road to heart and remember the ways that these trade routes opened not only the exchange of goods, but communication byways between all sorts of regions across Europe and Asia.
You also want to remember how it faded away. Sea voyages were the new thing in terms of merchant trade. Why do you think Columbus wanted to go west in search of easier trade routes to Asia? Because the Silk Road had basically become a non-option, that’s why.
Now, let’s take a look at a previous AP World History exam question.This one can be found in the AP World History Course Exam and Guide on pages 147 and 148, question #11:
The variety of temples shows on the map of Chang’an was most likely the result of which of the following broader processes from 600 to 1450 CE?
a) Diffusion of cultural traditions along the Silk Roads
b) Conquests by nomadic Central Asian groups
c) Religious conflict resulting from the AN Lushan rebellion
d) Nonconfusian influence on the Tang government.
Make sure you actually click on the link and take a look at the image being referenced.
After reading this AP World History crash curse on the Silk Road, the answer should pop out as A. As we discussed in this AP World History crash course, cities like that of Chang’an became metropolitan, with diverse ideas, products, and peoples penetrating its walls. Plus there are guest rooms for foreigners. Totally the Silk Road.
Take another look at this AP World History crash course before your exam, and make sure you’ve got the big ideas down for the Silk Road. Good luck with your upcoming AP World History exam!
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