History

Evaluating Your Essay

Use the scoring guide above and the checklist below to evaluate and revise your essay. Remember, this is the essay that you will turn in as a graded assignment.

Essay Prompt:

Analyze the continuities and changes in globalization patterns that resulted from trade on the Silk Road from 200 B.C.E. to 1450 C.E.

Complete your conclusion paragraph and review your work with the following checklist:

Did you provide a provocative and precise thesis that states your main argument and position at the bottom of the introductory paragraph?

Did you write an organizational statement in which you present the three or four topics for the body paragraphs?

Did you place the organizational statement above the thesis in the introductory paragraph?

Did you define any key terms or establish the time frame for the essay in the introductory paragraph?

Did you write a lead that introduces the reader to the topic (first sentence in the introductory paragraph)?

Did you organize your essay either chronologically or topically?

Did you write a topic sentence at the beginning of each body paragraph?

Did you provide at least two concrete and specific examples that support your thesis in each body paragraph?

Did you provide commentary that explains the “so what” of your examples?

Did you write a summarizing sentence to close each body paragraph?

Did you address both continuity and change in your essay?

Did you restate the thesis in the conclusion?

Did you remind the reader of the main topics addressed in the body paragraphs when you wrote the conclusion?

Did you leave all new information out of the concluding paragraph?

Evaluate a Sample Comparative Essay

Finally, complete the same evaluation on the sample essay below. Then compare it to your essay and make any needed changes.

Essay Prompt:

Analyze the continuities and changes in patterns of interaction along the Silk Road from 200 B.C.E. to 1450 C.E.

Sample Essay

The Silk Road, an extensive network of overland and sea routes, provided a geographical link across Eurasia in the Classical and post-Classical periods. For many centuries, the Silk Road was the main road of communication between China, Persia, India, and the Mediterranean. Although named for their most famous commodity, the Silk Road carried numerous trade items along with ideas about technology, philosophy, and religion. From 200 B.C.E. to 1450 C.E., levels of globalization along the Silk Road changed due to transforming technologies and trading techniques, shifting geopolitical boundaries, and the dissemination of religious ideas, while the importance of these routes as conduits of information and ideas remained a continuous and defining feature of the period.

Changing technological and geopolitical organization caused changes that increased globalization from 200 B.C.E. to 1450 C.E. Early in the first centuries C.E., overland trade routes were the primary means of exchanging goods over significant distances. Although rulers of the Classical empires spent great resources building roads and bridges across their vast domains, very few advances in transportation technology occurred during the Classical period. However, that all changed with the post-Classical societies, especially in China and the Middle East. Improvements in the camel saddle allowed for much longer-distance travel through Arab lands. The invention of the stirrup also increased the ease and effectiveness of riding. Improved sailing technology gave rise to a bustling exchange of people and ideas in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea and brought people from vastly different lands in contact with each other. Advances in transportation were not the only changes in technology that impacted how people interacted along the Silk Roads. During the post-Classical period, the Chinese invented paper and printing, which allowed ideas to spread at a new speed and to a growing audience. The Chinese also invented explosives, which changed the interactions of war forever. Although technology marked some significant points of change during this period, people always found ways to exchange important ideas about science, technology, and mathematics. By the fourteenth century, trade was diverted away from the old overland Silk Roads in favor of the more cost-effective and quick maritime routes. As shipbuilding technology progressed, maritime routes became easier and safer. A significant breakthrough came when the Portuguese developed alternate routes to the Ottoman-controlled overland routes to trade with Asian cultures. Increased access to distant lands increased global exchange.

Changing geopolitical boundaries inspired the rise of the Silk Road. The early river civilizations were relatively small, isolated communities with vast stretches of dangerous and unknown land between them. However, when the Classical empires emerged, such as the Han dynasty and the Roman Empire, citizens could move more freely and safely throughout the large empires. They traveled great distances in these empires, but compared to later periods on the Silk Road, trade remained fairly regional in scope. Certain items, such silk and spices, did travel the length of the Silk Road, but regional trade dominated, and very little interaction between cultures took place even when goods did cross geopolitical boundaries. These boundaries changed again around 500 C.E. with the collapse of Classical civilizations. The declining economies resulted in an even greater reliance on regional rather than trans-regional trade. However, as societies began to recover and reemerge, so too did trade along the Silk Roads. And this time trade developed into a trans-regional exchange of both goods and ideas. Accompanying the trade in silk came the gradual diffusion of silk-making capacities, which traveled from China through Central Asia, Persia, North Africa, Anatolia (present-day Turkey), and eastern and southern Europe. The silk-making craft eventually reached the American continents (in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries).

Together with the technological and political globalization that resulted from the Silk Road, religions were introduced into new areas. Religions of the West spread to Asia and Africa. For example, Buddhism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism came to China through exchanges of those who traded and traveled along the Silk Road or Silk Sea Lanes. Buddhism followed the Silk Road from its origin in India, east through Central Asia and to the East. Buddhism eventually secured a foothold in southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. The religion left the world with monuments and wonders in the arts and literature. In the first centuries C.E., Christianity penetrated from the Near East to Central Asia and further into China. In the thirteenth century, Christians transmitted their beliefs through Catholic missions on the Silk Roads. The widespread adoption of Islam beyond the Arab peninsula resulted from trade along the Silk Roads along with the submission of groups to conquering Muslim tribes. Those who converted to Islam were often granted positions in newly-formed religious and political elite groups. By the mid-eighth century, Muslims controlled the western half of the Silk Road. For merchants on the Silk Road, cooperation and shared contacts between Muslims served as an incentive to convert. Global transmission of religious ideals expanded along the silk trade routes.

Most people think of the desirable goods that travelled along the Silk Route, but with the silks, spices, horses, and porcelain came also unintended and devastating passengers: disease. In some ways, disease is a factor that characterized the entire period and provides an element of continuity. Whenever people, animals, or crops travel from once place to another, the pathogens and parasites that call those things home are going to travel with them. Disease undoubtedly travelled back and forth along the trade routes for the entire period. However, massive disease outbreaks also mark important turning points in the period that resulted in drastic changes and devastating population decline. The first of these turning points came at the end of the Classical period. During the fourth and fifth centuries C.E., disease outbreaks spread throughout Eurasia and were one of the contributing reasons for the fall of Classical societies. The most devastating diseases were smallpox, measles, and bubonic plague. The Roman population had likely reached 60 million people during the reign of Augustus (r. 27 B.C.E. to 14 C.E.), but it plummeted to 40 million by 400 C.E. Massive declines in population had correspondingly significant impacts on patterns of interaction. Trade decreased as populations tried to recover socially and economically, and those interactions that did take place occurred on a smaller, regional scale. Disease had a similar impact on patterns of interaction when the bubonic plague broke out in Asia and was transmitted to Europe in the fourteenth century. Unfortunately, the horrific impact of transferring disease to populations with no natural immunity is a recurring theme that can be seen around the globe, including the massive population losses incurred in the Native Americans when Europeans first reached the Americas during the Age of Exploration.

Perhaps more than any other element, technology had drastic impacts on patterns of interaction during the years of the Silk Road. People are limited in their movement based on the technology they have available. The speed and extent of these transfers differed according to the time period, but human ingenuity and imagination prove to spread wherever they exist.

Between 200 B.C.E. and 1450 C.E., the Silk Road increased globalization over time and provided continuity to Eurasia by allowing goods and ideas to travel between distant lands. However, the period was marked by significant changes due to shifting geopolitical boundaries, the unintentional spread of disease, advances in technology and the dissemination of religious belief. The Silk Road played a central role in the history of this period through the transfer of goods and ideas and provided a bridge between the Classical and post-Classical societies.

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