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In a time of great powers and empires, just one region of the world experienced extraordinary economic growth. How?
Omar ibn Said c1850. Digitally colourised. Omar ibn Said’s autobiography is the only known extant autobiography of a slave written in Arabic in America. It was not edited by his owner, as those of other slaves written in English were, and is therefore surmised to be more authentic. It also attests to the high level of education that existed in Africa at the time and also reveals that many Africans who were brought to the United States as slaves were followers of Islam. Public domain via the Beinecke Library/Yale University
At a tea house in Kashgar's Old City, China, 2009. Kashgar, now in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, has a rich and ancient history and was an important city on the Silk trading routes. Photo by Michael Christopher Brown, Magnum
Portrait of an African Man ( c1525-30), by Jan Jansz Mostaert. This is the only known portrait of a black man in early European painting. He is thought to be Christophle le More, an archer who was a member of Emperor Charles V’s bodyguard. Photo courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
To counter racism, scholars must trace the idea of ‘race’ to its origins, but asking the right questions is half the battle
Detail from Nagasaki Harbour (c1833-6), by Kawahara Keiga. Ink and colour on silk. On the left is the crescent-shaped island of Deshima (flying the national flag), from which the Dutch were the only Westerners to trade with Japan from 1641 to 1859. Courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
For centuries, Europeans in Asia were guests, trading partners and subordinates. Only much later did Empire seem imaginable
Shaheen Qureshi works in Mumbai’s (Bombay) Wadala fish market by day and studies at night school (21 January 2009). Mumbai’s night schools date back to the 19th century, providing educational opportunity to the poor. Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images