Source: Marco Polo (through ghostwriter Rustichello), Italian merchant who spent 17 years in the court of Kublai Khan, in his book, A Description of the World, 1298.
The grand khan, having obtained this signal victory [over a challenger to his rule], returned to great pomp and triumph to the capital city…[as] was his usual practice [performing rituals for holy books] upon each Christian festival…he observed the same at the festivals of the Saracens [Muslims], Jews, and idolaters [polytheists who worship idols]….
Upon leaving the city …during which you are continually passing towns and castles, of which the inhabitants are idolaters, have silk in abundance, and export it in considerable quantities, you reach the city of Unguen. This place is remarkable for a great manufacture of sugar, which is sent…for the supply of the court. Previously to…being…under the dominion of the grand khan, the natives were unacquainted with the art of manufacturing sugar of a fine quality, and boiled it in such an imperfect manner, that when left to cool it remained in the state of a dark-brown paste…. But at the time when this city became subject to his majesty’s government, there happened to be at the court some persons from Babylon [Cairo, Egypt] who were skilled in the process…instructed the inhabitants in the mode of refining the sugar.
…After five days’ journey, you arrive at the noble city of Zai-tun [now Quanzhou, China] , which has a port on the seacoast celebrated for…shipping, loaded with merchandise….The quantity of pepper imported there is so considerable that what is carried to Alexandria to supply the demand of the western parts of the world, is trifling in comparison….
Use the passage above and your understanding of World History to answer the following questions:
- Identify ONE interregional exchange in Afro-Eurasia in the period before c. 1450 CE that is NOT described in the passage.
- Explain ONE cause of the interregional exchanges described by Marco Polo in the passage.
- Explain how ONE aspect of the sourcing–Historical situation, Intended audience, author’s Point of view, OR author’s–of this document influenced the passage.
The AP World Exam loves trade questions. Here’s an original question for practice! Note: this is more primary source text than the amount that accompanies most AP History questions, but it is good for practice.
Religion was transported along the trade routes in Afro-Eurasia in the period before 1450 CE. An example of this is the transmission of Buddhism from South Asia to Southeast Asia. The religion was brought over by merchants who sailed along the Indian Ocean trade routes.
One cause of the interregional exchanges described by Marco Polo was because of the Mongol’s power and influence. The Mongol’s conquered and extended their power all throughout Eurasia. The Mongol’s power and peace throughout Eurasia allowed all of the trade routes to flourish.
Marco Polo being a part of Kublai Khan’s court influenced his description of the various cities he visited. He wrote about the abundance of silk and amount of exports at their ports. He was influenced by the seventeen years he spent at the court influenced the positive manner in which he wrote about the Chinese ports.
1. You have multiple pieces of evidence that satisfy the “identify” prompt: Buddhism, South Asia to Southeast Asia, and merchants along Indian Ocean trade routes.
2. This answer clearly explains causation. The word “allowed” in the last sentence is key as it signals that you are explaining cause and effect.
3. Effectively analyzes Polo’s point of view as a former member of Kublai Khan’s court.
- An example of exchange in Afro-Eurasia in the period before 1450 AD is, knowledge. Leading up to 1450, there was the creation of many new states, which unlike some previous states had periods of stability and peace, because of that knowledge was easily spread through merchants along trade networks to important cities such as Baghdad and later Cairo.
- The passage says have “silk in abundance, and export it in considerable quantities” which shows that Silk was being exported from China. The reason states exported such a great quantity during the time before 1450, was because there was much greater safety in trade. That is because states such as the Mongol empire provided political stability which reduced the risk of foreign invaders coming and trying to steal from merchants . Secondly trade was safer because of new innovations such as flying cash, so merchants did not have to carry money making them less likely to be robbed therefore making trade safer.
- The intended audience of Polo’s work were Europeans who were generally unaware of what went on outside of Europe. Before 1450, Europe was slowly breaking away from feudalism where many peasants never left their self-sufficient manors. Because of that there the general public did not know much of what went on or was even there beyond their little communities. Because of that Polo went into great detail to describe the beauty and what goes on, because he knows most of the Europeans reading his book don’t know much about anything outside of Europe, which is how this influence his writing.
1. “Knowledge” is not quite specific enough to count as evidence. You would need an example to count as evidence.
2. You successfully explain why the Mongol empire created the conditions for greater exchange. Flying cash was a Chinese institution, not interregional, but there is enough in the sentences on the Mongols to earn the point.
3. This would earn a sourcing point, because you are explaining how context and audience influenced Polo’s work.
One inter regional exchange in Afro-Eurasia is technological improvements in agriculture. For example, Champa rice was exchanged from India to China and Vietnam. Champa rice is a fast ripening and drought resistant strain of rice. This created a population boom in many different regions because the rice was a reliable food supply.
The interregional exchange described by Marco Polo is the Mongol Empire. The Mongol Empire expanded greatly in Eurasia. This caused the empire to have the majority control on trade routes, making them safe and more popular to travel.
Marco Polo’s intended audience, fellow Europeans, influenced the passage. Polo wants to appeal and intrigue his audience so in order to do this he writes about his impressive journeys and what they look like. This influences the passage by how he describes certain things. For example, Polo goes into great detail about how the city of Unguen looked and what was happening there because he knows that most of his audience has never left Europe, nor can they grasp the reality of non-European life so he gives them a sense of what it’s like.
1. Champa rice is an example of exchange, but it went from Champa, in today’s Vietnam, to China. You are correct about the effects. I think that this would probably count as evidence on the AP Exam despite the mistake.
2. This explanation could use one more thought that connects “safe” with greater trade.
3. This is an effective analysis of the intended audience affected the passage.
The diffusion and exchange of religions and religious beliefs is an example of interregional exchange. For example, the diffusion of Islam during the Indian Ocean trade connected and unified many cities and was brought by traveling merchants along with their traded goods. Timbuktu, became wealthy from trade and developed centers of Islamic learning as a result of the religious diffusion that reached many parts of West Africa.
One specific cause of interregional exchange described by Marco Polo is the expansion of the Mongol Empire. As the largest land based empire in history, the Mongol Empire empire expanded vastly and quickly. As they expanded into Asia and Europe, new people became involved with the economy. The Mongol Empire improved the efficiency of the Silk Road routes by banishing bandits and reopening new roads. These improvements allowed interregional exchange to develop and advance.
Marco Polos point of view influenced this passage. Marco Polo is an Italian merchant, so his point of view reflects how he tells his stories. As a merchant, Polo experienced trade in the many cities he traveled to. Specifically in this source, he expands on the abundance of goods provided by the the city of Unguen including silk and manufactured sugar. As an experienced merchant, Marco Polos point of view influences the accountability and accuracy of his writing.
1. You have twice as much as need, but both parts are effective: Indian Ocean and Timbuktu.
2. This is effective because you explain how the Mongol Empire boosted Silk Road trade.
3. This effectively connects Polo’s POV as a merchant to the content of the text: details about commerce.
- One interregional exchange in Afro-Eurasia before 1450 CE not described in the passage is the exchange of knowledge that took place within Dar-al-Islam. During this time period, huge amounts of knowledge from places like India, Greece, China was accumulated and written down in Baghdad. Many scholars met in Baghdad’s House of Wisdom and discussed and translated works (Translation Movement).
- One cause of these exchanges was the unification of a huge part of Afro-Eurasia under the Mongols. These nomadic pastoralists of Central Asia took over Central Asia, parts of the Abbasid Caliphate, northern China (Jin Empire), etc. using strong military tactics. Their horse-riding and archery skills was led to them gaining the upper-hand on enemies. The Mongols adopted parts of culture and technology from across their empire including ways to refine sugar like Polo said as well as observing rituals from different religions (religious tolerance) giving way to exchange. The Mongols also promoted trade and made it more safe causing wide exchange.
- The author’s point of view was that of a merchant and this causes him to focus on trade throughout the passage. The author primarily talks about the production and exportation of goods like sugar, pepper, silk. He describes the goods as being produced in huge quantities and being of high quality. He describes huge amounts of pepper and silk as well as the efficient way fine sugar was produced. The author’s occupation causes him to view what he saw from the lens of a merchant and makes him focus on economical aspects.
1. You have more than enough evidence, and the House of Wisdom is an appropriate example.
2. The middle section of this is not necessary for the prompt, although it is accurate. Be sure to focus on analysis, as opposed to description. The last two sentences do effectively address the prompt by explain how the Mongol Empire facilitated exchange.
3. Excellent analysis of the impact of Polo’s POV as a merchant. The first two sentences would probably be enough to earn the point.
- One interregional exchange in Afro-Eurasia in the period before c. 1450 CE that was not described in the passage was the spread of Islam. Many Muslim men traveled to other countries because they were there to trade, but ended up staying for a longer period of time because the monsoon winds needed to sail were not in their favor. Since they were stuck in these countries, they decided to marry women who believed in other religions. Their children were raised with Muslim traditions and the religion of Islam continues to spread.
- One cause of interregional exchanges described by Marco Polo in the passage is the Mongol Empire. The Mongols punished bandits along the Silk Roads, which helped to make travel safer. The safe and revived Silk Roads increased trade and travel throughout Eurasia.
- The intended audience of this passage is Europeans. Marco Polo was impressed with the trade, products, and technology in Asia. He wanted to write about the amazing experience he had in Asia so he can inform other European merchants about how advanced other countries were.
1. Diffusion of Islam by merchants is evidence of exchange. This would be stronger with a place, ex. Indian Ocean, and has more explanation than is needed for an “identify” question. Earns the point.
2. This efficiently explains the role of the Mongol Empire in supporting exchange. Earns the point.
3. Here you are shifting from audience to purpose in your analysis. There is no reason to think Polo’s book was targeted at merchants, because it was written by a ghostwriter who we can assume wanted a wide audience.
One interregional exchange in Afro-Eurasia in the period before c. 1450 CE that is not described in the passage was the spread of religion. With the migration of people, religion started to fuse and coexist with other religions to create new ones. One religion in China fused the abstract ideas of Daoism and Buddhism to create Neo-Confucianism.
One cause of the interregional exchanges described by Marco Polo was the Pax Mongolica. The Pax Mongolica was a time of peace and prosperity among the Mongols. They settled into cities and leader, Genghis Khan ordered soldiers to protect the Silk Roads for safe trade. This started the third golden age of the Silk Roads, which facilitated the immense spread of interregional exchanges.
Marco Polo’s intended audience were the Europeans. He wrote about all of the wonders he experienced in China to show Europeans how lavishly they were living. The Europeans were skeptical of Polo’s stories of China being a place of innovation and prosperity on such a grand scale. Polo inspired Europeans to follow his routes through China to see the wonders of things such as silk clothing, paper money, and it being an immense center of trade.
1. Buddhism going to China and mixing with indigenous belief systems is evidence of cultural diffusion. This would earn a point.
2. This answer is more descriptive than analytic. It might earn a point, but it would be strong with an explanation of how Mongolian rule, including safety, contributed to the third age.
3. Polo did inspire Europeans, including Christopher Columbus, but this is not necessarily sourcing analysis. We’re not sure what Polo’s purpose was, but it could have been to entertain since this started as stories that he told in prison.
One interregional exchange in Afro-Eurasia that occurred before 1450 CE was the spread of religions, especially that of Islam. Islam spread through missionaries, conquests and merchants through the Indian Ocean. A more specific example would be the signs of adaptation and acceptance of Islam in Africa, where the city of Timbuktu became a center of Islamic learning, and the blending of Bantu and Arabic for the Swahili language.
A cause of the the interregional exchanges described by Marco Polo in the passage would be the social policies implemented in the Mongol Empire. During the expansion of the Mongol Empire, there was a period of peace, where there is religious tolerance and safety along trade routes. Because there were soldiers protecting trade routes, like the Silk Roads, more people sought to trade because there was a lower rate of crime occurring in these routes.
The intended audience of the author, Marco Polo, were fellow Europeans. During this period, Europe was behind other continents in technology, science, etc. When Polo, a European, visited the advanced Asia, he was blown away with the technology and ideas that took place there. He describes the place with great detail, so the European audience can learn about the great advancements abroad.
1. This includes multiple pieces of specific evidence, although Swahili is in East Africa, not West Africa. This mistake would not cancel out the other accurate evidence.
2. This explains how Mongol rule encourage trade, especially the sentence beginning “Because there were…” This signals causation, and since you back it up with analysis and evidence it works.
3. This may be successful sourcing. We don’t really know what Polo’s intent was, but you are right that he was probably surprised at the higher level of development. On the other hand, Venice was a fairly prosperous and sophisticated.
- One interregional exchange not described in the passage is the spread of religion. Islam spread from the Middle East to West Africa by Islamic merchants who interacted with people of the region. An example of this assimilation is Mansa Musa, the ruler of the Mali Empire. He had converted to Islam and religiously pilgrimaged to Mecca. The spread of Islam was an interregonal exchange in Afro-Eurasia before 1450 CE.
- One cause of the interregional exchanges described by Marco Polo is the abundance of silk. Silk was imported from China, and the reason for its abundant supply was because merchants were able to have freer trade due to the safety of travel on the silk roads. The Mongol Empire’s stability allowed merchants to expand in their trade, promoting interregional exchange along the Silk Road.
- The intended audience of Marco Polo’s work were the Europeans, because documenting his work as a merchant in other countries was an unfamiliar aspect of interregional trade for the Europeans. Many were not aware of the cultures of these foreign trading cities. Polo describes his experience in observing the “festivals of the Saracens”, a perspective Polo has to offer in his book as an Italian merchant in 1298 to the people in his homeland.
1. West Africa, Islam, and merchants work together as evidence; and, you use Mansa Musa correctly has an example of the effect of cultural diffusion.
2. This answer stays focused on explanation. Words like “allowed” and “due to” set you up to reason historically.
3. You are right that Polo’s audience would have been unfamiliar with Eurasia (though many would have had some idea from other accounts or merchants). This doesn’t explain his focus or word choice, though.
- One interregional exchange in Afro-Eurasia in the period before 1450 not identified in the passage was the transfer of religion over trade routes. An example of this transfer would be the transfer of Islam by missionaries from the Islamic Caliphate. Because of these missionaries’ use of any of the trade routes, as they travelled and stopped in port cities, new states and people were heavily influenced by their religion.
- One cause the interregional exchanges described by Marco Polo in the passage would be the power of the Mongol Empire. Not only did the Mongols do a great deal of expanding for their empire, by doing this, they revolutionized trade because of the vast land they had power over. Not only that, but the Mongols facilitated trade over trade routes like the Silk Roads, allowing trade to flourish because of safety of merchants along that trade route.
- Marco Polo’s point of view while writing this plays a large role because of the fact that he is a European in a land that is not Europe. Polo describes China with a sense of awe as well as in such a way that shows he has never been to a place like this before. He speaks of their skilled in the process of refining sugar, the large quality of imports like pepper, etc.
1. Islamic missionaries are evidence of cultural diffusion. This would earn a point.
2. I’m not sure if this would earn a point, because it is more descriptive than explanatory. You do cover key points about the Mongols and trade, but aim for stronger language that fills in how or why change happened.
3. This analysis of Polo’s POV helps to understand his view of China. Well done.
- One interregional exchange in Afro-Eurasia in the period before c. 1450 CE that was not described in the passage was the spread of Islam over Trans-Saharan trade routes. Mansa Musa was the leader of Mali and also a Muslim. He traveled along Trans-Saharan trade routes on his pilgrimage to Mecca and helped to spread Islam as well as Gold.
- One cause of the interregional exchanges described by Marc Polo in the passage was the Mongols. When the Mongols created their Empire they promoted trade and protected the Silk roads so that trade in China would flourish and it did. This is why people were able to travel to and from China and places like Egypt and Alexandria.
- Marco Polo’s intended audience has influenced the passage because he is writing to convince Europe to travel and trade with Asia. He writes about refined sugar and an abundance of silks to show other Europeans that there is money to be made and that there civilization is up to Europe’s standards. This would promote trade and would make merchants like Marco Polo richer.
1. Trans-Saharan trade + Mansa Musa + Mali + Islam = evidence, which was what an “identify” question measures.
2. You clearly explaining how Mongol rule led to more trading.
3. This analysis shifts from intended audience to purpose. Although Polo was a merchant, his audience was broader. Polo told these stories while in prison and his ghostwriter was most likely looking to sell as many books as possible.