Marco Polo (b. 1254–d. 1324), from a family of Venetian merchants, was only one among many merchants and missionaries who visited east Asia during the 13th and 14th centuries, but the account of his journey—variously rendered into English as The Travels or The Description of the World—became one of the most influential books of its time. No original text survives, but around 135 manuscript copies of translations into many European languages made over the following centuries are extant. Both Marco Polo’s Authorship and the Authenticity of the text have been subject to much discussion. The book continues to be influential in the modern era, giving rise to a rich field of scholarship, inspiring literary works, and being used as a brand to encapsulate luxury travel to exotic destinations.
Olschki 1960, Larner 1999, and Ménard 2009 all provide detailed and reliable introductions covering the many aspects of Marco Polo studies. Heers 1983 is a modern translation with an informed introduction while Jackson 1998 reviews the book in terms of its editions and purpose. The papers in Akbari and Iannucci 2008 and in Masini 2006 give more detail on most Themes. Critchley 1992 sets the book in the context of Marco Polo’s time and place.
Akbari, Suzanne Conklin, and Amilcare A. Iannucci, eds. Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West: Based on the Conference Held at the University of Toronto 24–26 May 2002. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.
Conference papers from 2002 containing eleven essays in three sometimes disparate but still useful sections: 1) Marco Polo and the experience of wonder; 2) the reception of Marco Polo; and 3) cross-cultural currents.
Critchley, John. Marco Polo’s Book. Aldershot, UK: Variorum, 1992.
In this textual analysis, Critchley argues that Marco Polo’s text tells us less about Asia and more about the minds of Western Europeans.
Heers, Jacques. Marco Polo. Paris: Fayard, 1983.
This is an accessible translation and introduction to Marco Polo, his life, his travels, and his work, as well as his influence on later travelers, placing the travels within the tradition of books of marvels and Marco Polo in the role of a tax official.
Jackson, Peter. “Marco Polo and His ‘Travels’.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 61.1 (1998): 82–101.
The author considers the editions and purpose of this book, arguing that it is a description of the world known to Europeans rather than an accurate account of Polo’s itinerary. Available online by purchase or subscription.
Larner, John. Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.
An excellent and informed introduction to Marco Polo. He considers the editions, the purpose and Authenticity of the account, the cultural world of Marco Polo, and the text’s circulation and reception in later times.
Masini, Federico, ed. Marco Polo 750 Anni: Il viaggio, il libro. il diritto: Atti del Congresso tenuto a Roma e Venezia nel 23–25 novembre 2004. Rome: Tiellemedia Editore, 2006.
Three volumes of scholarly papers on a wide range of subjects from a conference on the 750th anniversary of Marco Polo’s birth. With the participation of Università degli Studi di Roma Tor Vergata and La Sapienzia and Università Ca’Foscari di Venezia.
Ménard, Philippe. Marco Polo: À la découverte de l’Asie. Grenoble, France: Éditions Glénat, 2009.
One of the most prolific scholars on Marco Polo, this is a general introduction to Marco Polo’s journey making use of illustrations found in collections worldwide.
Olschki, Leonardo. Marco Polo’s Asia: An Introduction to His “Description of the World” Called “Il Milione.” Translated by John A. Scott. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960.
Taken largely from a lecture series, this gives a detailed and scholarly introduction to western travelers prior to Marco Polo, his relationship to Rustichello, and subjects covered in the text, including the natural world, religion, politics, and medicine.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- 1989 People's Movement
- Agriculture, Origins of
- Ancestor Worship
- Anti-Japanese War
- Architecture, Chinese
- Assertive Nationalism and China's Core Interests
- Buddhist Monasticism
- Central-Local Relations
- Chiang Kai-shek
- Children's Culture and Social Studies
- China and Africa
- China and Peacekeeping
- China and the World, 1900-1949
- China's Agricultural Regions
- China’s Soft Power
- China’s West
- Chinese Communist Party Since 1949, The
- Chinese Communist Party to 1949, The
- Chinese Diaspora, The
- Chinese Nationalism
- Chinese Script, The
- Christianity in China
- Classical Confucianism
- Confucius Institutes
- Consumer Society
- Contemporary Chinese Art Since 1976
- Criticism, Traditional
- Cross-Strait Relations
- Cultural Revolution
- Daoist Canon
- Deng Xiaoping
- Dialect Groups of the Chinese Language
- Disability Studies
- Drama (Xiqu 戏曲) Performance Arts, Traditional Chinese
- Dream of the Red Chamber
- Economic Reforms, 1978-Present
- Economy, 1949-1978
- Economy, 1895-1949
- Emergence of Modern Banks
- Environmental Issues in Contemporary China
- Environmental Issues in Pre-Modern China
- Establishment Intellectuals
- Ethnicity and Minority Nationalities Since 1949
- Ethnicity and the Han
- Examination System, The
- Fall of the Qing, 1840-1912, The
- Falun Gong, The
- Family Relations in Contemporary China
- Fiction and Prose, Modern Chinese
- Film, Chinese Language
- Film in Taiwan
- Financial Sector, The
- Folk Religion in Contemporary China
- Folklore and Popular Culture
- Foreign Direct Investment in China
- Gender and Work in Contemporary China
- Gender Issues in Traditional China
- Great Leap Forward and the Famine, The
- Guomindang (1912-1949)
- Han Expansion to the South
- Health Care System, The
- Heritage Management
- Heterodox Sects in Premodern China
- Historical Archaeology (Qin and Han)
- Hukou (Household Registration) System, The
- Human Origins in China
- Human Rights in China
- Imperialism and China, c. 1800-1949
- Innovation Policy in China
- Intellectual Trends in Late Imperial China
- Islam in China
- Journalism and the Press
- Landscape Painting
- Language, The Ancient Chinese
- Language Variation in China
- Late Imperial Economy, 960-1895
- Law, Traditional Chinese
- Li Bai and Du Fu
- Liang Qichao
- Literati Culture
- Literature Post-Mao, Chinese
- Literature, Pre-Ming Narrative
- Local Elites in Ming-Qing China
- Local Elites in Song-Yuan China
- Management Style in "Chinese Capitalism"
- Mao Zedong
- Marketing System in Pre-Modern China, The
- Marxist Thought in China
- Material Culture
- May Fourth Movement
- Media Representation of Contemporary China, International
- Medicine, Traditional Chinese
- Medieval Economic Revolution
- Middle Period China
- Migration Under Economic Reform
- Ming Dynasty
- Ming-Qing Fiction
- Modern Chinese Drama
- Modernism and Postmodernism in Chinese Literature
- Music in China
- Needham Question, The
- Neolithic Cultures in China
- New Social Classes, 1895–1949
- One Country, Two Systems
- Opium Trade
- Orientalism, China and
- Poetics, Chinese-Western Comparative
- Poetry, Early Medieval
- Poetry, Traditional Chinese
- Political Art and Posters
- Political Dissent
- Political Thought, Modern Chinese
- Polo, Marco
- Population Dynamics in Pre-Modern China
- Population Structure and Dynamics since 1949
- Poverty and Living Standards since 1949
- Printing and Book Culture
- Prose, Traditional
- Qi Baishi
- Qing Dynasty up to 1840
- Regional and Global Security, China and
- Religion, Ancient Chinese
- Renminbi, The
- Republican China, 1911-1949
- Revolutionary Literature under Mao
- Rural Society in Contemporary China
- School of Names
- Sino-Hellenic Studies, Comparative Studies of Early China ...
- Sino-Japanese Relations Since 1945
- Social Welfare in China
- Sociolinguistic Aspects of the Chinese Language
- Su Shi (Su Dongpo)
- Sun Yat-sen and the 1911 Revolution
- Taiping Civil War
- Taiwanese Democracy
- Technology Transfer in China
- Television, Chinese
- Terracotta Warriors, The
- Tertiary Education in Contemporary China
- Texts in Pre-Modern East and South-East Asia, Chinese
- Township and Village Enterprises
- Traditional Historiography
- Tribute System, The
- Unequal Treaties and the Treaty Ports, The
- United States-China Relations, 1949-present
- Urban Change and Modernity
- Warlords, The
- Water Management
- Yan'an and the Revolutionary Base Areas
- Yuan Dynasty
- Zhu Xi