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History: Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta

Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta were the great medieval travelers, probably, the most famous around the globe. The heritage of these prominent persons changed the life of Europe and all Muslim countries. The routes of their journeys were formed by the existed geopolitical and religious trends in the world in the 13th and 14th century. If Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta had made their journeys in the 17th century, they would have visited other countries. The world in the 17th century posed new obstacles. The primary goal for the generation of travelers in the 17th century should be the New World, though there were some challenges in Asia.  .

While planning the journey in the 17th century, a merchant and a Muslim scientist had to understand two issues: the personal aim and the global situation. Marco Polo was born in the rich Venetian merchant family. He spent more than 20 years on the journey and could stay in Asia for good. However, he returned to Venice because he loved his native city and was a patriot. The descendant of Marco Polo should also put the priority on the national interests. Ibn Battuta was the Muslim teacher and scientist. He understood his mission as the duty to travel from one Muslim country to another and taught the laws of Islam, especially in the newly Islamized states. The second matter to comprehend about the journey in the 17th century is the new situation in the world. The start of Trans-Pacific trade shifted the center of global trade to Europe. Both European merchant and Muslim teacher should consider the travel to the New World as the opportunity.

The importance of China as the global trading center decreased in the 17th century in comparison to the 13th century. Back then, China had the best-developed trading system. Besides, there were three global trade centers in Eurasia; one of them was Cairo, Egypt, and two other Chinese cities, Quilong and Quanzhou (Pollard, Tignor, & Rosenberg, 2015). The land route from China to Europe was called the Great Silk Way. However, the rise of the Mongol Empire almost stopped the trade along the way. The Mongols killed everybody who was not their official ally. Therefore, Marco Polo did not have many competitors in his journey, he received the official permission from the Mongol Emperor and served for 17 years to get the title. Moreover, he was a talented linguist. His knowledge of many languages and great communicative skills in negotiations helped him to boost his political career and business. Marco Polo did not deliver many goods to his native city, but he brought the ideas. Primarily, he introduced the paper money. Another idea concerns pasta, Chinese used it as food in the army during long journeys. Nevertheless, these ideas were undervalued during his life because of the lower development level in Europe, but they came in demand later. Nevertheless, the situation in China in the 17th century was completely different. The late Ming dynasty ruled at that time. The growing population of China faced the famines that were slightly relieved due to the Columbian exchange. High-productive corn and potatoes saved millions of people from dying. Notwithstanding, the intensive trade with Europe led to financial collapse. Silver and gold from Americas that already caused the hyperinflation in Europe reached China. Farmers had to pay their taxes with silver. The paper money that was considered the great innovation in the 13th century was not trusted anymore. Hence, the descendant of Marco Polo would not choose China as the primary destination in his journey in the 17th century.

In the search of the new trade routes and connections, the descendant of Marco Polo the in the 17th century should decide on North and South America and Oceania as the destination. The 17th century was the period of intensive European colonization of Americas. Europeans from England, France, and the Netherlands founded the settlements. They exported crops, mainly corn, tobacco, sugar cane and alcohol, gold and silver, as well as other resources. Marks (2015) regards the states in Americas and Sub-Saharan Africa as poorly developed sources of the raw for Europeans and Asians. However, the man like Marco Polo could change the situation. For example, new merchant could serve to the Native American chiefs and get some benefits for the European newcomers. Another option for the European merchants in the 17th century was the travel to Oceania. At that time, Dutch and British East Indian Companies opened the first trading posts in Indonesia and strengthened the presences in Polynesia. The Netherlands and Great Britain competed for the access to the expensive Eastern spices. Before the Columbian exchange, the Indian Ocean trade was the main generator of prosperity for China, India, and Africa (Marks, 2015). Later, it was inbuilt into the trading system, but China lost its leading position. Great Britain started its expansion in Asia, in India and Indonesia. Additionally, the traveler of the 17th century could increase the Italian presence in this region and bring some benefits to his country. Back then, Italy experienced the period of the Great Italian Wars, and Venice was attacked by the French military. Hence, supporting the native city with money, the Polo’s descendant could change the history of the state. Thus, the adventurist merchant like Marco Polo should go to Oceania to enter the new markets, to find favorable business opportunities and to discover new lands.

Muhammad Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan scholar, started his journey from the traditional Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Then for twenty-nine years, he traveled from one Muslim country to another helping the local rulers and merchants. His mission was to collect and share the knowledge about the lands and traditions, so he served as the consultant, the ambassador, the companion, as well as the judge.

Furthermore, three main options would be possible for the descendant of Marco Polo in the 17th century. The first and the most significant option incorporates the journey to the New World. In the 17th century, some European countries, namely England, France and the Netherlands, started vigorous colonization of Americas. Many of them died from the hunger, diseases and military conflicts with the locals; however, gradually they developed the export trade with the Old World. While the previous centuries were the preliminary stage of the globalization, in the 17th century, people gained the first benefits from the globalized world. Nonetheless, a great negotiator could decrease the number of military conflicts and could make the colonization more peaceful.

 
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Ibn Battuta could move to one of three powerful Muslim Empires, and even change the history of these countries. Thus, the main challenge of the Ottoman Empire at that time was the heredity of Suleiman the Magnificent. The powerful ruler left the multinational and multiconfessional empire to his children, and it was hard to keep the state within its borders. After losing the position of the main sea trade player in the region, the Ottoman Empire started losing its lands in Eastern Europe, in Spain, and in the Balkans. The reformation could help the Empire to prolong its existence, and the descendant of Ibn Battuta could travel to faraway provinces of the Empire to support Islam and the rule of the Ottomans. He could also visit Isfahan, the new capital of the Safavid Empire in Persia. At last, he could stay in India and serve for Mogul Empire. After the great rule of Akbar (1556-1605) the Empire was led by his son Jahangir, who was addicted to alcohol and opium. Therefore, Shan Jakhan, the grandson, returned to the policy of religious intolerance and ordered to destroy the Hindu temples.

However, the best choice for the descendant of Ibn Battuta was to go to America. While European invaders did not accept local religion, any new religion could be established there. Catholic Church was not very strong in the region, and the traveler of the 17th century could bring Islam to the colonists. In reality, Islam reached the peak of its influence in America in the late 20th century. Hence, the descendant of Ibn Battuta could achieve this goal in the 17th century.

With regard to the method of journey, both merchant and spiritual leader would not travel through the steppe. 17th century was the time when the sea lanes were better developed than the overland routes. The advancement of the Trans-Atlantic trade stimulated shipbuilding while travelling on the land travel was the same as in the 13th century. Moreover, there were no more reasons to travel by the steppe. Great Asian Empires were on the point of collapse. Therefore, the New World became the main destination for all prominent people.

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In conclusion, in the 13th and 14th century only a few travelers from Europe and Morocco could reach the faraway countries. That is why Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta made significant contributions to their nations. In the 17th century, their descendants should move to the New World. The spiritual leader like Ibn Battuta could bring Islam to Americas with the support of the Muslim population in the new British colonies. Meanwhile, the voyage to the poorly developed parts of the Muslim Empires, such as the provinces of the Ottoman Empire, was possible for a Muslim leader. The descendant of Marco Polo with his commercial view should go to the New World and contribute to the development of the Trans-Atlantic trade. However, the journey to Oceania would also be the good option for the merchant in the 17th century.

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