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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The crashing of an idol, 10 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Did Marco Polo Go To China? (Paperback)
Frances Wood is a scholar and everything she says about Marco Polo is substantiated. To learn that Marco Polo was just a story teller is no surprised. Even Venice was embarrassed by the Polo family. They were just ordinary cunning traders, one of many along the silk road and the Mongol courtiers. It was known that Marco Polo's trip to China did not add up, but in this book you have all the evidence, and more. The mots interesting part for me was to discover the name of many European travellers that reached and lived in China long before Marco Polo. I discovered that Christian Nestorian people were the go-between and that the connection between China and those Christians had been going on for centuries. But Nestorians were not missionaries. It seems our history is only interested in missions and tragedies.
So why Marco-Polo? Well, he was the first non-Arab traveller to publish a travel guide. Maybe we wanted our own "Christian" writer. But even Venice was not very proud of his son. He was not welcome and the Polo family was just nobody in the rich and sophisticated city that was at the pinnacle of its power and influence.
The question today is why do we continue to teach at school that "he" was the first man to discover China, when we know full well it was a scam.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting richly-detailed 'revisionist' text., 6 Jun. 2009
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Rerevisionist (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
I see this is only the second review in Amazon for about eight years!

The other reviewer felt unable to give five stars; in fact, I agree with him/her, but nevertheless give five on the grounds that the book will appeal to anyone interested in revisionism as an activity. The Description of the World, probably dictated by Marco Polo, of Venice, or edited down from his raconteur-style conversation, is believed to have been written in 1298. This is remote enough from us to cut out the biasing effect of modern self- and group-interests. Apart from specialist academics that is - German Mongolists are cited as an example of sceptics about Marco Polo.

The author is/was Head of the Chinese Department at the British Library. She therefore must have/have had access to manuscripts of the most varied type. She seems to have worked at least twenty years on this topic, so her views deserve considerable respect.

The book reminds me slightly of Arthur Koestler on the 'Thirteenth Tribe'. It's a similar account: Turkic languages, Persia, Mongols, silk and other exotic materials, towns with what seem incredibly large populations for the time, paper money as a novelty, mountain ranges and deserts, remote battles and invasions. In what may be an artefact of a scholarly life, or may be a fact based on the absence of modern highly dangerous weaponry, life then in central and east Asia seems relatively amiable and danger-free, at least when Mongol and other hordes were in abeyance. Camel trains of traders, walled cities, religions and princes restrained by the inability to do much damage, the fact that some goods were essential, and others prized by people disinclined by wealth to haggle or exploit overmuch - the whole picture is attractive. It struck me however that Marco Polo's motives could have been explored - it's left unclear whether fame or money could be extracted from books before the advent of printing.

From a revisionist perspective, the book is primarily an example of documentary analysis, including historiography, of course with a large geographical component. I won't describe her conclusions - and I wonder if she would revise her own views now - on the principle of not announcing sporting results before the game is rebroadcast. Very good and recommended also as a mind-expander - it's not only the future that is uncertain.

[Channel 4 made a documentary - 'Silk Road' - on this topic; no doubt some intrepid programme commissioner decided on this. There seem to be quite a few other TV series with very similar titles.]
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, thought-provoking stuff, 9 Oct. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Did Marco Polo Go To China? (Paperback)
Frances Wood has written an excellent book which introduces the layman to the intriquing question of whether Marco Polo actually went to China. I`m sure most people are unaware that there is even an academic debate about this question and the author does an enviable job of putting across her argument in a clear and simple style. However, this simplistic style is at times too simple. Occasionally, I felt that I was reading a school textbook and it is clear that it was written for the armchair as opposed to the academic historian. Having said that, the book is full of fascinating information, for example the fact that Marco Polo did not actually write his famous book, which make the reader want to know more. Indeed, this is probably the greatest compliment I can pay this book. It makes you want to read more, about Marco Polo, about the Mongol Empire and about China.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars marco polo, 17 Sept. 2011
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This interesting book discusses the question of whether Marco Polo ever got to China or if his book"Description of the World"dictated to Rusticello of Piza, while he was in prison in 1298,
came from Arabic,Persian and stories heard from his father and uncle who had made it to Karacorum
The author gives quite convincing evidence that Marco Polo never got past Persia but she can not be absolutely certain this wsa the case.
It would be a pity if the Marco Polo story is killed of as it is so entrenched in our minds.
A first class read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars funny, a thoroughly good, 16 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Did Marco Polo Go To China? (Paperback)
Dazzling, funny, a thoroughly good read
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marco Polo China, 19 Sept. 2011
Worth reading, clear and simple language full of anecdotes about Marco Polo and China, recommended to anyone interested in the silk road.
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Did Marco Polo Go To China?
Did Marco Polo Go To China? by Frances Wood (Paperback - 19 Dec. 1997)
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