PERSPECTIVES ON THE PAST
Transcript of Audio Clip
Jerry H. Bentley, University of Hawai'i
The Silk Roads and the Gold Roads and the Turquoise Roads were all wonderful avenues for the exchange of trade goods and the spread of religious traditions but they also facilitated some less healthy transfers.
The Silk Roads, for example, not only enabled Marco Polo to travel from Venice to China and they not only enabled Buddhism to spread throughout most of Asia but they also served as conduits for the transmission of Bubonic plague from China and central Asia all the way over to the Mediterranean Basin and Europe and indeed even to lands throughout most of the Eastern Hemisphere.
The resulting epidemics had absolutely devastating consequences for all of the societies that plague managed to reach. Later on small pox traveled other trade routes to infect populations and spark epidemics in the Americas and Oceania.
Now this pattern continues even in the present day with viruses like those that cause AIDS and SARS benefiting enormously from modern transportation systems and spreading even faster than their historical predecessors.