I admittedly don't know many of the details of history-- I'm more of a big-picture guy-- but I am smart enough to recognize that Peter Frankopan's tour de force book Silk Roads: A New History of the World is not only precise and vivid with the details, but it will also make you revise your big-picture ideas as well . . . here are a few passages that I liked:
1) Early Christians had to battle against prejudice, bringing anguished cries from writers such as Tertullian (c. 160-225 AD), whose appeals have been compared by one distinguished scholar to Shakespeare's Shylock: we Christians "live beside you, share your food, your dress, your customs, the same necessities as life as you do," he implored . . . just because we do not attend Roman religious ceremonies, he wrote, does not mean that we are not human beings . . . "Have we different teeth or organs of incestuous lust?";
2) Once, wrote the historian al-Mas udi, the ancient Greeks and Romans had allowed the sciences to flourish; then they adopted Christianity . . . when they did so, they effaced the signs of learning, eliminated its traces, destroyed its paths" . . . science was defeated by faith . . . it is almost the precise opposite of the world as we see it today: the fundamentalists were not the Muslims, but the Christians; those whose minds were open, curious, and generous were based in the east-- and certainly not in Europe;
3) The reality of the story was very different . . . although the days that followed the assassination of Franz Ferdinand saw a series of misunderstandings, discussions, ultimata and permutations that would all be impossible to recreate, the seeds of war grew out of changes and developments located many thousands of miles away . . . Russia's rising ambition and the progress it was making in Persia, Central Asia and the Far East put pressure on Britain's position overseas, resulting in the fossilization of alliances in Europe.