middle ages

Marco and the Polos 4: Did You Go to China, Marco?

Marco Polo with Bow and Sword

In this episode, I look at the question of whether Marco actually went to China. Some have thought he did not at all or only made it to Kublai's capital. I also talk about what he was actually doing there if/when he reached China, what he tells us, and what he might have told the khan. There's the Siege of Xiangyang, war with the Southern Song, the theories of Frances Wood, and all that Marco does and does not say of his time with the khan and in his capital at Dadu or Khanbaliq. 


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  • The Travels of Marco Polo, the Venetian, translated by William Marsden, edited by Thomas Wright. George Bell & Sons, 1907.

  • The Travels of Marco Polo: The Complete Yule-Cordier Edition, translated by Henry Yule and revised by Henri Cordier. Courier Corporation, 1993.

  • Haw, Stephen G. Marco Polo's China: A Venetian in the Realm of Khubilai Khan. Routledge, 2006.

  • Larner, John. Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World. Yale University Press, 1999.

  • Man, John. Marco Polo: The Journey that Changed the World. HarperCollins, 2009.

  • Olschki, Leonardo. Marco Polo's Asia. University of California Press, 1960.

  • Rossabi, Morris. Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times. University of California Press, 1988.

  • Vogel, Hans Ulrich. Marco Polo was in China: New Evidence from Currencies, Salts and Revenues. Brill Academic Pub, 2012.

The Travels of Johann Schiltberger 1: The Battle of Nicopolis

Schiltberger Battle of Nicopolis.jpg

We begin the travels of Johann Schiltberger, a 14th/15th century, Bavarian Marco Polo who left his home for the crusade against the Ottomans and didn't make it back for a long, long time. In the intervening 30 years, he travelled widely as a prisoner, first with the Ottoman Sultan, Bayezid, and then with Timur (aka Tamerlane) and those who succeeded him, reporting on the world and its monsters, miracles, and numerous battles.
Schiltberger lived a full life at a fascinating time in history. I'll be telling his story and discussing his times over the course of 4 episodes. With episode one, we'll take Schiltberger up to the Battle of Nicopolis and the first massive shift in his fortunes. Hope you enjoy it! 


If you like what you hear, my Patreon is here, my Ko-fi is here, and Paypal is here.