Susan Whitfield

Professor in Silk Road Studies

Susan Whitfield has been researching, travelling, lecturing and writing about the Silk Road for over three decades.

Following her PhD in Chinese historiography at SOAS, University of London, she became curator of over 50,000 medieval Silk Road manuscripts at the British Library. During her 25 years there, she developed and directed an international collaboration between museums, libraries and other holders of Silk Road artefacts worldwide ( She also led large research and educational projects and curated two major international Silk Road exhibitions in London and Brussels.

She has a wide range of research interests, represented by her publications. Several of her books are widely used in both university and school teaching internationally, as well as finding a wider readership. She holds an honorary position at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL.

Susan is currently part of the project team for Nara to Norwich: Arts and beliefs at the ends of the Silk Roads, 500-1100, an international, collaborative research project that aims to explore the Silk Roads beyond their current limits of the Chinese and post-Roman worlds.


Selected publications


  • La correspondance francophone d’Aurel Stein / The Aurel Stein French-Speaking Correspondence. with Annick Fenet and Helen Wang (eds.). Paris: Hermann. Forthcoming.
  • Silk Roads: Peoples, Cultures, Landscapes (editor). 2019. London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Silk, Slaves and Stupas: Material Culture of the Silk Road. 2018. Oakland: University of California Press.
  • Life Along the Silk Road. John Murray and University of California Press, London and Berkeley 1999 & 2000. Rev. ed. 2015. Oakland: University of California Press.


  • Fashion on the Silk Roads: 500-1300.’ In C. Breward, B. Lemire and G. Riello (eds.), The Cambridge Global History of Fashion. 2023. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp 78-108.
  • ‘Buddhist Rock Cut Architecture and Stupas in the Tarim Basin.’ In S. Huntington (ed.). Buddhist Architecture. Bonn: University of Bonn [Forthcoming]
  • ‘The Silk Road.’ In G. Heng and S. Noakes (eds.). Teaching the Global Middle Ages (MLA Options in Teaching). 2022. New York: MLA.
  • ‘Buddhism and Silk: Reassessing a Painted Banner from Medieval Central Asia in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.’ (co-author with Michelle Wang and Xin Wen), Metropolitan Museum Journal 55 (2020).
  • ‘Alfalfa, Pasture and the Horse in China: A Review.’ Quaderni di Studi Indo-Mediterranei (Bologna) 12 (2019 [2020]) Sino-Iranica’s Centennial. Between East and West, Exchanges of Material and Ideational Culture.
  • ‘The Expanding Silk Road: UNESCO and BRI.’ In Eva Myrdal (ed.) Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. 81 (2018 [2020])

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