A new book for the global Middle Ages
The medieval period - broadly conceived from the Fall of Rome to the Reformation, in a European context - has produced some of the most dazzling and transformative feats of travel and exploration: the Papal embassies that took over one year of overland travel to reach Mongolia, Ibn Battuta’s thirty years of voyaging to Africa and East Asia, or Christopher Columbus’ landing in the New World, to name a few spectacular instances. Medieval travel writing, in particular, has contributed many of the most widely studied narratives in literary history, including John Mandeville’s Travels, Boccaccio’s Decameron, Marco Polo’s voyage account, or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Medieval Travel Writing: A Global History, edited by Sebastian Sobecki and contracted by Cambridge University Press, will be published in 2023. This will be the first pan-European, Middle Eastern, and global guide through the bewildering maze of early travel narratives. Each chapter will be written by a leading specialist in their geographical area. At the same time, the geographical scope of this collection, with chapters on travel writing produced by Persian, Arabic, and Chinese writers, will challenge Western periodisation and the term ‘medieval’. Using the dates 1200 and 1550 CE as boundaries for a global period of intercultural and intercontinental contact, the volume (despite its combined European and Middle Eastern centre) will not attempt to interpret ‘medieval’ beyond marking a chronological spectrum.
Individual chapters will pay particular attention to questions of gender, manuscript transmission, and language choice and multilingualism.
The book will be prefaced by a substantial introduction to medieval travel writing, with maps of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Atlantic. Next follows Part 1 - Contexts, a thematic section with 8 chapters that cut across periods and regions, covering such topics as geography in late Antiquity, women travellers, race, or manuscripts.
The organising principle behind the 21 chapters in the book's central section, Part 2 - Traditions, is one of comprehensive geography, structured by 5 regions: the Nordic World and the British Isles; France, Italy, and Iberia; the Empire and the Low Countries; Poland-Lithuania, Eastern Europe, and Byzantium; the Middle East and Asia. Each of the geographical chapters in the main body of the volume will have a primary focus on travel accounts produced by travellers from this region or texts that were commonly read and copied in this region and a secondary focus on voyages made to the region under discussion.
in the third and final section, Part 3 - Destinations, a total of 9 chapters will examine the travel narratives exploring particular places and regions. These will include distinct places such as Rome, Jerusalem, and Mecca, but also larger areas, among them the Mongol Empire, West Africa, and Southeast Asia. An Afterword will close the book.