via Medium.com, 05 November 2019: An opinion piece from Medieval Indonesia on why the term “Maritime Silk Route” doesn’t make sense. I should add that the term “Silk Route” was only coined in the second half of the 19th century and the term “Maritime Silk Route” really only came into popularity much more recently – from a 1988 Unesco project on studying the Silk Roads between Asia and Europe (see here and here).
These days the phrase ‘Maritime Silk Road’ is used a lot when talking about medieval trade on the Indian Ocean. It crops up in the titles of books and articles, including recent work on shipwrecks and archaeological sites in island Southeast Asia, and it’s used by the Chinese government in an attempt to link China’s current expansion into the South China Sea with supposed historical precedents. The term even has a Wikipedia article. If you work on this kind of thing you can’t miss it.
I get the feeling ‘Maritime Silk Road’ has been adopted in the absence of decent alternatives rather than because of any positive advantages that it might have.