The University of Arizona

The Age of Self-Discovery: Western Cultural Discourse in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Travel Narratives

James Green


A distinct period of travel from Western Europe to the Far East occured during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as a result of the continental stability of the Pax Mongolica. Durign this time, individuals from both the Christian and Islamic world traveled as far as modern day China under the auspices of dipolmacy, trade, missionary work, and other duties. Encountering the myriad of cultures and diverse geography of the Far East prompted many of these travelers to apply their own religious and cultural frameworks in order to reconcile the unfamiliar. This essay explores some of the documentation that records these dynamics and seeks to explain how such interactions formed a foundation for the succeeding eras of imperialism and colonization.

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