Medieval journeys

Medieval journeys

Prof Hannah Skoda

What drove people in Medieval times to journey from their homes? During this lecture you will see examples of the travel people undertook for a variety of reasons. Many people travelled for trade or for diplomatic reasons, although, representatives who also brought back stories of the places they had visited may have been more well received. You will learn how historical sources can be used to understand the journeys people undertook, their purpose, their outcomes and the impact they had on societies (or individuals, such as merchants) during Medieval times.

Further reading

If you want to follow up any of the ideas in the lecture, the resources below are recommended. They are listed in the order of topics addressed in the talk.

  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (there are so many editions available, as well as plenty of resources online).
  • Michael Gomez, African Dominion: A New History of Empire in Early and Medieval West Africa (Princeton, 2018)
  • Marco Polo, trans. Paul Smethurst, The Travels (Barnes and Noble, 2005)
  • Have a look at the National Gallery website too, for the chance to look at the Arnolfini Marriage portrait up close.
  • Peter Jackson, The Mongols and the Islamic World (Yale, 2017)
  • Peter Jackson, The Mongols and the West (Longman, 2005)
  • Malcolm Vale, A Short History of the Renaissance in Northern Europe (Bloomsbury, 2020)

Practice essay questions

If you would like to try answering an essay question relating to this topic, you could use the following questions. These are also useful starting points for research into this topic, or as prompts for discussion.

  • What motivated travel in this period?
  • What kinds of sources can tell us about travel in this period?
  • Did cultural contact increase or diminish mutual understanding and tolerance?
  • How seriously should we take religious motivations?
  • Who benefitted from travel in this period?

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