Communications Insight For More Inspiring Leaders Wise Words from Peter Frankopan

Wise Words from Peter Frankopan

 19th Aug 2023
Wise Words from Peter Frankopan
Perspective is reality.

"I could not understand why I kept being told of the importance of the Mediterranean as a cradle of civilization, when it seemed so obvious that this was not where civilization had really been forged. The real crucible... was not a sea separating Europe and North Africa, but right in the heart of Asia."

With these words in his Preface to "The Silk Roads", Peter Frankopan struck a chord with me.

As a boy, Frankopan would gaze for hours at a world map on his wall - unable to fathom why lessons at school focused on the rise of the West, through the eyes of Paris, London, Washington and Berlin.

While his REAL interest was the world as seen from Damascus, Samarkand, Beijing or perhaps Tehran.

For Frankopan, it was a map. For me, a lit globe.

As far back as I can remember, my father would test me on world capitals - Ulaanbaatar was a firm favourite. As an undergrad in Modern History in Oxford in the late 1990s, I remember my own frustrations at western bias. (The fact I spent 6 years of my childhood living an hour's drive from Mecca, Saudi Arabia may have been a factor).

Of the dozens of options available within the Oxford history degree back then, I recall not a single course focused on Central Asia. Nor Africa - aside from the imperial Scramble For Africa, of course.

As for East Asia, there was one.


The History of 20thC Japan. I chose it. Only to be talked out of the decision by my college tutor.

In the end, I settled on the Near East in the Age of Justinian & Muhammad, 517-700 AD. Which I loved. A Masters degree in 20thC Chinese Studies at SOAS followed :-)

Never seen the world in quite the same way since.

Today, I finished reading "The New Silk Roads", successor to Frankopan's original work, mapping global affairs in the early 21st century.

My hopes were high. The book bursts with contemporary detail. Information aplenty on specific projects, developments and initiatives - from Turkey to Pakistan, from Astana to Riyadh, from Washington DC to (of course) Beijing.

I expected a penetrating and insightful analysis of where the world might be heading. What I got was more an anthology. Examples of contemporary Asiatic economic, political, military and technological decision-making.

Readable? Certainly.

But not quite what I'd hoped for. Coming out the other end, I find myself perhaps like many western decision-makers... a bit lost.

Nevertheless, Frankopan's core insight and central premise remain compelling. And refreshing.

That the lens through which we view "our world" matters. For years in the West, that lens has been profoundly warped.

When it comes to how we think & feel about our OWN world, the choice of lens also matters.

Whether it's global affairs, domestic politics, our employer, career or even our family & personal life.

Because perspective is reality.

#communication #centralasia #silkroad #leadership #history #internationalaffairs

The best course I have ever attended. I definitely recommend it.


Rashid Salem Al Saedi | Chief Administrative Officer, Ministry of Presidential Affairs, United Arab Emirates

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