India and the Silk Roads

The History of a Trading World

Jagjeet Lally

A fresh portrait of a trading world within Eurasia’s continental interior, charting the history of the caravan trade between North India, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Bibliographic Details
India and the Silk Roads Hardback
January 2021£55.00
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This book brings to life the world of caravan trade—constituting not only merchants, but also pilgrims, pastoralists, and mercenaries; flows not only of goods, credit and money, but also of ideas, secret intelligence and fighting power. Contrary to the view that the ages of sail and steam rendered obsolete these more ‘archaic’ forms of overland connectivity, Jagjeet Lally demonstrates how the annual transhumance between North India and the Central Asian steppe was critical to the production and exercise of political power into the nineteenth century.

Central to this narrative is the waning of the Mughal Empire and the emergence in the mid-eighteenth century of a new Afghan kingdom, whose leaders drew their power from the financial flows and force of arms moving through the networks of caravan trade, and who thus patronised the continued traffic between India and inland Eurasia.

India and the Silk Roads is a global history of a continental interior, the first to comprehensively examine the textual and material traces of caravan trade in the ‘age of empires’. Lally tells a story resonating with our own times, as China’s Belt and Road Initiative once again transforms life across Eurasia.


Jagjeet Lally is Lecturer in the History of Early Modern and Modern India at University College London, where he is also Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World.


India and the Silk Roads takes the reader on a tour de force through a two-century history of trade, technology and geopolitics straddling India, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Important and outstanding—it will gain much attention and praise.’ — T.C.A. Raghavan, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan and Singapore, and author of The People Next Door: The Curious History of India’s Relations with Pakistan

India and the Silk Roads goes much beyond trade and looks at the geopolitical, economic and technological environment of the Silk Road. Careful and with a wealth of detail, it is a balance and corrective to existing literature on the silk route.’ — Benjamin D. Hopkins, Associate Professor of History and International Affairs at the George Washington University, Washington DC, and author of The Making of Modern Afghanistan

‘India’s overland interactions with Afghanistan and Central Asia have largely been sidelined by recent decades of sea-facing scholarship. In this astute, holistic analysis, Lally makes a compelling case for the continued impact of the caravan trade on Indian economic and cultural life well into the twentieth century.’ ­— Nile Green, Ibn Khaldun Endowed Chair in World History, UCLA, and author of Bombay Islam: The Religious Economy of the West Indian Ocean, 1840-1915

‘India and the Silk Roads is a scholarly exposition of the Trans-Eurasian caravan trade, providing a fresh look at India’s historical overland trade routes to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Riveting and refreshing—a breath of fresh air amongst existing literature on the Silk Routes.’ — Nasir Raza Khan, Associate Professor, India Arab Cultural Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia (Central University), New Delhi