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The Story of Marco Polo for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Dec 31, 2023

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The Story of the explorer, Marco Polo, is an illustrative example in the Cultural Consequences of Connectivity topic of Unit 2 of AP World History. Read more about Marco Polo below!



Marco Polo
1446920660/Shutterstock


Marco Polo, the Venetian explorer, merchant, and storyteller, occupies a prominent place in world history. His extensive travels across Asia during the 13th century, documented in his seminal work “Il Milione” (The Travels of Marco Polo), provide a fascinating account of the diverse cultures, landscapes, and trade routes of the medieval world.


Marco Polo was born in Venice in 1254, into a family of merchants with a keen interest in trade. In 1271, at the age of 17, Marco accompanied his father, Niccolò Polo, and uncle, Maffeo Polo, on a journey to the East. Their travels were initially motivated by commercial interests, as they sought to establish trade relations with the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan.


The Polo family embarked on an epic journey that spanned several years, crossing the vast expanse of Central Asia and the treacherous Pamir Mountains. In 1275, they reached the court of Kublai Khan in Shangdu (also known as Xanadu), the summer capital of the Mongol Empire. Marco Polo’s accounts provide vivid descriptions of the opulence, administrative systems, and cultural diversity within the Khan’s realm.


Impressed by Marco Polo’s intelligence and resourcefulness, Kublai Khan employed him as a trusted envoy and emissary. Marco Polo undertook numerous diplomatic missions and gained a deep understanding of the Mongol Empire’s vast territories, including China, Tibet, and Southeast Asia. His roles ranged from government administrator to tax collector, allowing him a unique perspective on the inner workings of Kublai Khan’s administration.


After serving the Khan for over 17 years, the Polos decided to return to Venice. Their journey included maritime routes, traversing the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. Upon their arrival in Venice in 1295, Marco Polo’s stories of their travels captivated the city’s residents. In 1298, Marco participated in the Battle of Curzola, where he was captured and imprisoned by the rival Republic of Genoa. During his imprisonment, he narrated his experiences to Rustichello de Pisa, a fellow prisoner and writer, resulting in the compilation of “Il Milione.”


Marco Polo’s book, commonly known as “The Travels of Marco Polo” or “Il Milione,” became one of the most influential travel narratives of the Middle Ages. It detailed his extensive travels, offering Europeans a glimpse into the wonders of the East, including descriptions of paper money, coal, and the Great Wall of China. The book fueled European interest in Asian trade routes and cultural exchange.


Marco Polo’s life and travels exemplify the spirit of adventure and curiosity that defined the Age of Exploration. His journey along the Silk Road not only facilitated cultural exchange between East and West but also left an indelible mark on the European imagination. Marco Polo’s legacy endures through his writings, which continue to captivate readers and historians alike, providing valuable insights into the interconnectedness of the medieval world.



Printable Reading Passage on Marco Polo 

Would you prefer to share a printable passage with your students? Click the image below to grab it!

Marco Polo Free Reading Passage



Would you rather watch a video about Marco Polo?



The Effects of Cross-Cultural Interactions

Unit 2: Networks of Exchange

AP World History



Marco Polo

#APWorldHistory #Asia #Europe #MarcoPolo

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Dec 31, 2023

0

0

0

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