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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Medieval Travellers in the Mediterranean, Africa and Asia (PGHC11491)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will focus on medieval Christian, Muslim and Jewish travellers, who journeyed within and beyond the limits of their known world, from western Europe and the Mediterranean to distant places in Asia and Africa. Through reading the accounts of these individuals, students will explore some of the motives for medieval travel, which included trade, diplomacy, pilgrimage, mission and the lure of the unknown, as well as the reasons for the reports of fantastical peoples, kingdoms and marvels which embellish so many of these travel accounts.
Course description The course will be organised into three sections. The first will set the scene by looking at travel and pilgrimage in the Mediterranean, the Crusader States and the Middle East, focussing on the journeys of the Jewish traveller Benjamin Tudela (1165-73) and of the Christian and Muslim pilgrims John of Würzburg (c.1170) and Ibn Jubayr (1183-5). The purpose of this section is to introduce students to the genre of medieval travel narratives from different cultural backgrounds as well as to provide an overview of the eastern Mediterranean at the turn of the thirteenth century. This will provide essential context for the next section, which focusses on the arrival of the Mongols in the Middle East and Europe and the contacts made between western rulers and the Mongol great khans. Here, attention will be given to the journeys of John of Plano Carpini (1245-7) and Marco Polo (1271-95), and especially that of Friar William of Rubruck (1253-5) whose account of his mission to the court of the Great Khan Möngke is perhaps the most fascinating and entertaining of all medieval travel narratives. The final section will examine the travels of the great Arab adventurer, Ibn Battuta, who made three separate journeys through Asia and Africa from 1325-54.

In class, students will study the accounts of these travellers, all of which are available in translation. They will examine key questions, such as the motives for medieval travel and the attitudes of rulers to their visitors, as well as themes, such as the lives of pilgrims, missionaries and traders in Asia. They will also analyse the various modes of travel, equipment and methods of navigation used in the period, and consider the expectations and experiences of medieval travellers on their journeys. In doing so, students will gain an valuable insight into perceptions of different cultures and religions from the perspective of Jewish, Arab and Latin-Christian travellers, as well as an understanding of the vast webs of commerce, intellectual exchange, and personal relationships which stretched across the medieval world.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate by way of coursework and seminar participation a detailed and critical command of the body of knowledge concerning medieval travellers and the interconnectedness of the medieval world;
  2. Demonstrate by way of coursework and seminar participation an ability to analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship concerning medieval travellers and the interconnectedness of the medieval world, primary source materials concerning medieval travel, pilgrimage and mission, and conceptual discussions about cross-cultural history;
  3. Demonstrate the ability to develop and sustain original scholarly arguments in oral and written form in seminar discussions and coursework by independently formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence considered in the course;
  4. Demonstrate in seminar discussions and coursework originality and independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers; and a considerable degree of autonomy.
Reading List
Adler, E. N., Jewish Travellers in the Middle Ages (New York, 1989).

Allen, R. (ed.), Eastward Bound: Travel and Travellers, 1050-1550 (Manchester, 2004).

Constable, O.R., Housing the Stranger in the Mediterranean World: Lodging, Trade and Travel in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2003).

Dunn, R.E., The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century (Berkeley, 1986).

Ibn Battuta, The Travels, trans. H.A.R. Gibb et al., 5 vols (Cambridge, 1958-2000).

Jackson, P., The Mongols and the West, 1221-1410 (Harlow, 2005).

Jerusalem Pilgrimage 1099-1185, trans. J. Wilkinson et al. (London, 1988).

Labarge, M.W., Medieval Travellers: The Rich and Restless (London, 1982).

Morgan, D.O., The Mongols, 2nd Edition (Oxford, 2007).

Netton, I.R., Seek Knowledge: Thought and Travel in the House of Islam (London, 1996).

Rodriguez, J. (ed.), Christian Contact in the Middle Ages: A Reader (Toronto, 2015).

William of Rubruck, The Mission of Friar William of Rubruck: His Journey to the Court of the Great Khan Möngke, 1253-1255, trans. P. Jackson (London, 1990).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Kirsty Day
Course secretaryMrs Lindsay Scott
Tel: (0131 6)50 9948
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