Traveler: William of Rubruck

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Traveler: William of Rubruck
This activity corresponds to the "Traveler: William of Rubruck" feature in your textbook. The questions below are designed to help you learn more about the topic. Once you have answered the Comprehension questions, submit your answers and move on to the subsequent questions included in the Analysis and Outside Sources sections. Each section is designed to build upon the one before it, taking you progressively deeper into the subject you are studying. After you have answered all of the questions, you will have the option of emailing your responses to your instructor.

The Mongol conquests of the thirteenth century were so spectacular that it is hardly surprising that they drew a great deal of attention to themselves. Although William of Rubruck wrote the longest and most accurate account of the Mongols and their empire, he was hardly unique in his interest in their customs and achievements. Before he left for Mongolia, other European monks had gone on missions into the Mongol empire and written accounts of what they experienced there. At the same time, Muslim writers in Central Asia set down their reactions to the seemingly unstoppable Mongol war machine. Later, the Italian merchant Marco Polo wrote of his journey to Mongol-controlled China in one of the most famous travel narratives in Western literature. Use the questions and links below to learn more about the variety of responses to the Mongols and their remarkable achievement.


1. To whom did William address his letter?

2. From where did he depart for Mongolia?
3. Who accompanied him on his journey through the Mongol empire?

The following questions ask you to consider further excerpts from William of Rubruck's letter to Louis IX.

1. Read the passage at What is William's attitude toward the Mongols' social and religious customs?
2. Read the passage at Who participates in the religious debate? What are their points of view? Is there a winner? If so, who, and how does he win?
3. Read the passage at What is William's view of Buddhism, and how does he interact with Buddhist monks?
Outside Sources

1. A few years before William of Rubruck traveled to Mongolia, an Italian envoy named Giovanni da Pian del Carpini journeyed into Mongol territory. Learn more about him at What was Giovanni's experience in Mongol territory?

2. For a Muslim perspective on the Mongols go to What is Ibn al-Athir's view of the Mongols? How does his view differ from that of William of Rubruck?
3. At, read the excerpts from Marco Polo's narrative. How does he represent the origins of the Mongols and their empire? What is his view of Chinggis Khan and of Mongol customs?

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