a1 Keele University
The year 1998 marks the seven-hundredth anniversary of the initial composition of the book associated with Marco Polo, Le devisament dou monde. As the first European to claim that he had been to China and back (not to mention that he had travelled extensively elsewhere in Asia), Polo has become a household name. He has been credited with the introduction of noodles into Italy and of spaghetti into China. With perhaps greater warrant, he has been cited as an authority onȔinter aliaȔthe capital of the Mongol Great Khan Qubilai, on the Mongol postal relay system, on the trade in horses across the Arabian Sea, and on political conditions on the north-west frontier of India in the mid thirteenth century. The Marco Polo bibliography published in 1986 contained over 2,300 items in European languages alone.
1 Earlier versions of this study were read to my colleagues in the History Department at Keele University, and to the Seminar on the History of the Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, in April 1996. I am grateful for the stimulating questions and discussions that followed.