The Battle of Talas

9 Oct, 2014 950 History of Asia

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Talas, a significant encounter between Arab and Chinese forces which took place in central Asia in 751 AD. It brought together two mighty empires, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Tang Dynasty, and although not well known today the battle had profound consequences for the future of both civilisations. The Arabs won the confrontation, but the battle marks the point where the Islamic Empire halted its march eastwards, and the Chinese stopped their expansion to the west. It was also a point of cultural exchange: some historians believe that it was also the moment when the technology of paper manufacture found its way from China to the Western world.

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  • Hilde de Weerdt 6 episodes
    Professor of Chinese History at Leiden University
  • Michael Hockelmann No other episodes
    British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at King's College London
  • Hugh Kennedy 11 episodes
    Professor of Arabic at SOAS, University of London

Reading list

  • Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present
    Christopher I. Beckwith (Princeton University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times
    Jerry H. Bentley (Oxford University Press, 1993) Google Books →
  • Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World
    Jonathan Bloom (Yale University Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • Warfare in Inner Asian History (500-1800)
    Nicola Di Cosmo (ed.) (Brill, 2001) Google Books →
  • Tang China and the Collapse of the Uighur Empire: A Documentary History
    Michael R. Drompp (Brill, 2004) Google Books →
  • Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road
    Johan Elverskog (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Silk Road: A New History
    Valerie Hansen (Oxford University Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • The Great Arab Conquests: How The Spread Of Islam Changed The World We Live In
    Hugh Kennedy (Phoenix Books, 2007) Google Books →
  • The Silk Road in World History
    Xinru Liu (Oxford University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • Mapping the Chinese and Islamic Worlds: Cross-Cultural Exchange in Pre-Modern Asia
    Hyunhee Park (Cambridge University Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • Sui-Tang China and Its Turko-Mongol Neighbors: Culture, Power and Connections, 580-800
    Jonathan Karam Skaff (Oxford University Press, 2012) Google Books →

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In the steppes of Central Asia, in a remote setting near the border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, is a river called the Talas.