Book Review: When Asia was the World by Stewart Gordon

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Non-fiction / translated biographies

Age Recommended: 13 and up

It’s this time of year again… summer assignments. This book wasn’t as boring as I expected it to be, and I enjoyed reading the accounts of people who lived many centuries ago. However, the author could have done a better job linking the different chapters of the book to each other, as they were all independent stories, and the only thing similar about them was the fact that they all took place in Asia and were in consecutive time periods.

When asia was the world

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This book focuses a lot on the change and continuities over time in the Asian world from 500 to 1500 CE. Some chapters discuss the evolution of religion as an ideology of empires, and others cover the political and social effects of religion.

My favorite chapter in this book is chapter eight, because while it discusses Islam, a sensitive topic in society today, it also clears up a lot of the mystery surrounding this religion and its way of thinking.

Here is an excerpt from my assignment that talks about the a possible reason for the decline of an empire.

The later destruction of the royal library (140) showed an almost Nazi-like hatred for things of the past, or things of other cultures. It displayed a very rapid decline in the levels of tolerance that rulers had for people of other cultures, or people from other world regions.
This decrease in tolerance also led to “whole regions permanently altered (141)” and the “end of Buddhist culture (141)” which was inevitably detrimental to Asia in the long run. It led to the failure of conquest because of the lack of belief in an ideology, followed by great wars that split kingdoms up even more.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend this for people who like history.

If you would like to read this book, you can purchase it here: When Asia Was the World: Traveling Merchants, Scholars, Warriors, and Monks Who Created the “Riches of the “East”