Medieval Travelers on the Silk Road (HIS4116.01)

Carol Pal

In this course, we examine six moments of intellectual encounter between “east” and “west” along the storied route of the Silk Road. These encounters spanned a millennium, from the fifth century BCE to the fourteenth century. We will be reading primary sources written by these scholar-travelers – Herodotus, Xuan Zang, Al-Biruni, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, and Sir John Mandeville – and considering them as both historical and ethnographic sources. Proceeding chronologically, we witness encounters between vastly different intellectual, scientific, cultural, and religious traditions, and consider the ways in which critical thinkers in the past analyzed the wonderful strangeness of their world.

Prerequisites: One course in History. Interested students should email Carol Pal ( with Silk Road in the subject line. Include a few sentences to tell me: (1) how you meet the prerequisite; and (2) how this course fits into your Plan. Enrollment in this class will be made on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the information in your email.
Credits: 4
W 2:10pm - 6:00pm
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency:
This course is categorized as 4000, All courses, Areas of Study, Carol Pal, Four Credit, History, Society Culture and Thought, Wednesday Afternoons.