One of the things I knew I wanted to do in Feudal, Feudal World was to look at the connections between medieval Europe and East Asia. Marco Polo is famous for writing about his journey to China, but he was only one among many to make the trip: there were several communities of Italian merchants and Franciscan missionaries living in China.
It was important for me that the Silk Road not be presented as a one-way flow. Telling the story of Rabban bar Sauma was perfect for this, since Bar Sauma was both a traveller from east to west and a representative of the Nestorian Christian community in China. But Rabban bar Sauma’s story was only one aspect of the Silk Road story. Luckily there is a fantastic book of recent research on the Silk Road trade routes, Valerie Hansen’s The Silk Road: A New History. Hansen’s book led me to the market price lists that appear in Feudal, Feudal World, as well as to all sorts of interesting information on the towns and traders of Central Asia.
Hansen’s focus was on the early medieval, pre-Mongol trade, but it was that empire and the pax Mongolica that made the trips by Marco Polo and Rabban bar Sauma possible. You can see the influence of the Mongols in all the places they pop up in Feudal, Feudal World, whether the topic is long-distance travellers, warfare, Crusades, the Black Death, or the Silk Road.
It’s a Feudal, Feudal World: A Different Medieval History is available for pre-order from Amazon.ca and your local bookstore, to be released in July 2013.