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The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of a Revolutionary Invention (Paperback)
The Paper Trail is the two-millennia-long history of how a simple Chinese invention changed the course of human events. Tracing the emergence of paper from the imperial court of Han China to its subsequent journeys to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, through the empire of the Abbasid Caliphate and eventually, by way of the Silk Road, to Europe in the late thirteenth century, Alexander Monro shows how the medium allowed religions and revolutions, philosophies and propaganda to spread like never before. A sweeping, richly detailed, and vividly written tale populated by holy men and scholars, warriors and poets, rulers and ordinary men and women, here is the story not only of paper, but of human culture itself.
About the Author
Alexander Monro has worked as a Parliamentary researcher, on The Times (London) foreign desk and wrote general news and features for Reuters Shanghai. He was previously a China analyst at Trusted Sources, where he wrote on political risk in China. Monro has edited a classical poetry collection, Laments of Four Cities of China, and has coedited an anthology of poetry about ‘the East’ called Desert Air. In 2002 he was sponsored by the Captain Scott Society to trace the route of Genghis Khan through Mongolia on horseback. His articles have been published by The Times (London), The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian Arts blog, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, New Scientist, Agence France-Presse and Reuters. He speaks French and Mandarin Chinese, having studied the latter at the universities of Cambridge and Peking, and continues to write on contemporary China.
“Fascinating.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Monro dives deep into the Asian and Middle Eastern cultures to examine how the discovery and spread of paper permitted civilizations to blossom and also how paper broke down isolation.” —Chicago Tribune
“Elegantly presented. . . . Monro’s focus is China, which he knows well. When the Greeks and the Romans were carving on stone and writing on papyrus scrolls, Chinese scholars were using paper.” —The Economist
“Page-turningly readable. . . . The chronological narrative, beginning with prehistoric charcoal scribbling on cave walls and ending with e-paper, is laden with research carried admirably lightly. . . . A terrific read.” —Literary Review
“Timely. . . . Monro’s expertise as a European historian and scholar of Chinese gives this book a uniquely broad perspective, which would mean less if he were not also a picturesque writer with an eye for a good story.” —The Times (London)