I am Susan Whitfield — a scholar, writer, traveller, and lecturer on the Silk Roads. Currently, I am Professor in Silk Road Studies at the University of East Anglia and Honorary Associate Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Before this, I worked for twenty-five years at the British Library as curator of the Central Asia manuscript collection from the explorations of M. Aurel Stein and others in the early twentieth century. From 1993 to 2016, I helped develop and then directed the International Dunhuang Project (http://idp.bl.uk): an international collaboration to make these manuscripts and other artefacts dispersed in collections worldwide freely available online.

My research interests are broad: starting with Chinese historiography, censorship and forgeries, and moving on to include all things Silk Road, from archaeology, history, art, religion, geography, as well as contemporary issues such as the UNESCO Silk Road World Heritage inscriptions, BRI and human rights. I have travelled widely on the Silk Road, including field trips to many of the archaeological sites. Sadly, I no longer feel able to travel to the PRC—I have posted a statement on this decision on this site.

I have also curated several exhibitions, including ‘The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith’, a British Library/British Museum joint exhibition held at the British Library in 2004, and ‘La route de la soie’ a Europalia exhibition, held at Musées royaux d’art et historire in Brussels in 2009-10.

My current projects include a history of Khotan and a project and online exhibition (launched in June 2022), Nara to Norwich: Art and Belief at the Extremities of the Silk Roads.


By the Amu Darya (Oxus River), Wakhan corridor, northeastern Afghanistan.
Photograph: John Falconer

Most of my posts will be works in progress. After decades of research and travel I have too many ideas and leads ever to follow up in a single lifetime and I welcome others to cite and expand them.