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Anthony Bale

A Travel Guide to the Middle Ages: The World Through Medieval Eyes

A Travel Guide to the Middle Ages: The World Through Medieval Eyes

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A captivating journey of the expansive world of medieval travel, from London to Constantinople to the court of China and beyond.

Europeans of the Middle Ages were the first to use travel guides to orient their wanderings, as they moved through a world punctuated with miraculous wonders and beguiling encounters. In this vivid and alluring history, medievalist Anthony Bale invites readers on an odyssey across the medieval world, recounting the advice that circulated among those venturing to the road for pilgrimage, trade, diplomacy, and war.

Journeying alongside scholars, spies, and saints, from Western Europe to the Far East, the Antipodes and the ends of the earth, Bale provides indispensable information on the exchange rate between Bohemian ducats and Venetian groats, medieval cures for seasickness, and how to avoid extortionist tour guides and singing sirens. He takes us from the streets of Rome, more ruin than tourist spot, and tours of the Khan’s court in Beijing to Mamluk-controlled Jerusalem, where we ride asses across the holy terrain, and bustling bazaars of Tabriz.

We also learn of rumored fantastical places, like ones where lambs grow on trees and giant canes grow fruit made of gems. And we are offered a glimpse of what non-European travelers thought of the West on their own travels.

Using previously untranslated contemporaneous documents from a colorful range of travelers, and from as far and wide as Turkey, Iceland, North Africa, and Russia, A Travel Guide to the Middle Ages is a witty and unforgettable exploration of how Europeans understood―and often misunderstood―the larger world.

20 illustrations; 6 maps

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Editorial Reviews

"A global Middle Ages for our times. Anthony Bale reinvents and redefines the period through its intrepid travelers.… A joyful, erudite book."―Jerry Brotton, author ofA History of the World in Twelve Maps

"A Lonely Planet book for the medieval traveler, full of tips, conversion rates, and lists of what to pack. In this deeply researched but witty and readable guide, Anthony Bale brings us face-to-face with medieval travel―the sights and smells, the thrill and the homesickness―in a way that feels instantly recognizable even at so many centuries’ distance."―Dennis Duncan, author ofIndex, A History of the: A Bookish Adventure from Medieval Manuscripts to the Digital Age

"Rich and wonderful.… This is the world as you have never seen it before―and as it will never be seen again. And it’s more surprising, extraordinary, and bizarre than anything you can possibly imagine."―Ian Mortimer, author ofThe Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England

"Intrepid, entertaining, unfailingly curious…balancing sympathy with skepticism, Anthony Bale marvelously reconfigures the contours of our forebears’ knowledge."―Marina Warner, author ofOnce Upon a Time

"An enthralling journey into the past and across the world, packed with incidents that any reader will find deliciously exotic, yet wryly familiar."―Seb Falk, author ofThe Light Ages

"Beautifully written and vividly imagined,A Travel Guide to the Middle Agesis a book to be savored."―Helen Castor, author ofShe-Wolves

"A gorgeous and fascinating storybook and a richly satisfying journey into the medieval mind."―Michael Pye, author ofThe Edge of the World

"This endlessly delightful book replicates the promises and pleasures of real travel, as we bump into and then lose sight of familiar faces in unfamiliar places. Anthony Bale is an adroit, companionable, and non-judgmental host on the road; he wears his deep knowledge lightly."―James Simpson, professor of English at Harvard University

"Vivid, exciting and astonishing, Anthony Bale’s medieval world is one populated by marvels and fantasies. Bale’s exploration is informed always by gentle and empathetic reflection upon what it means to be a fragile human being in motion through strange lands, both then and now."―John Arnold, professor of Medieval History at the University of Cambridge

"What a fascinating read! A new fact to be discovered on every page, written with enthusiasm and wisdom."―Rev. Kate Bottley

About the Author

Anthony Bale is professor of medieval studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. The author ofMargery Kempe: A Mixed Life, he has received research fellowships from Harvard University and the Huntington Library, among others, and was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize. He lives in London.

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