Traditions and Encounters, AP Edition (Bentley), 5th Edition

Chapter 21: Reaching Out: Expanding Horizons of Cross-Cultural Interaction

Interactive Map Quiz


Map A. The Silk Roads

The Silk Roads, a network of ancient trade routes across the formidable terrain of Central Asia, were the stage upon which classical societies encountered each other. Beginning in 500 BCE, the long military and economic reach of two powerful empires -- Rome in the west and Han Chinese in the East -- transformed these prehistoric trade routes into consequential conduits for an ever growing volume of goods, ideas, people, flora and fauna. Within these empires, however, the trade routes accelerated commercial, cultural, political, and biological development of their formerly more autonomous societies. They linked individuals from West to East into far reaching economic, imperial, and religious networks that thrived well into the 15th century. This map highlights the various empires that flourished along these routes, as well as the journeys traveled by some of the world's most famous early explorers.

The establishment of both overland and sea-routes of silk roads led to a great expansion of traded goods between the China and Mediterranean areas. What else did these regions exchange besides goods like silk and perfumes?


Of the many factors that explain the collapse of the Han and Roman empires, how important do you think the silk roads and their consequences were? In explaining the collapse of both empires, do you think internal or external problems were more important? Why?


What kinds of internal problems had greatly weakened the Roman Empire by the 3rd century C.E.?


Map B. Black Death

This interactive map illustrates the spread of the Black Death during the fourteenth century. The plague, carried by fleas on Asian black rats, originated in the East and was brought to Europe by Genoese trading vessels in the late 1340s. From there, it quickly spread throughout Europe via trade routes, both land and sea. In a time when overpopulation, poor sanitation, and malnutrition were common, Europe easily fell victim to the Black Death.

What part might geography have played in controlling or moderating the spread of the Black Death?


What are some of the reactions that a fatal and indiscriminant killer, such as the Black Death, might provoke?


With some statistics suggesting that as much as fifty percent of Europe's population fell victim to the plague, what are the social implications that such a death toll might have?

Traditions & Encounters, 5e
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