A Spaniard in Samarkand, 1404

Special note: an earlier version of this post appeared on a new blog I helped develop in partnership with Not Even Past of the University of Texas at Austin and Origins (Ohio State University). Check it out here: historymilestones.tumblr.comOn September 8, 1404, the Castilian diplomat Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo reached the Silk Road city of Samarkand. He had travelled over […]

Early Chinese World Maps

 I recently came across this fascinating world map while researching the history of the Jesuit missions in seventeenth century China. Apparently developed by the Italian Jesuit Giulio Aleni while he was working as a missionary in 1620s China, the map strikes me as being remarkably advanced for its time.  Witness, for instance, the fact that […]

Vanished Civilization II: The Tocharians

These people, they said, exceeded the ordinary human height, had flaxen hair, and blue eyes, and made an uncouth sort of noise by way of talking, having no language of their own for the purpose of communicating their thoughts. – Pliny the Elder on the report of an embassy from Sri Lanka on the people who […]

Europeans as ‘Other’

They eat with their fingers instead of with chopsticks such as we use. They show their feelings without any self-control. They cannot understand the meaning of written characters. – From Charles R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650 (London, 1951). Chinese and Japanese representations of sixteenth century Europeans have always fascinated me. We’re used […]