From the modern perspective, the medieval era can seem distant and alien, a time when people knew little of the world around, living in a kind of reactionary, instinctive state, not bothering to wonder or venture out of their local sphere.  This generalization, while tempting, and for the better part of the last hundred years, the prevalent viewpoint within the historical profession, misses the actual level of connectivity in this time and space.  From as early as the third century BCE, people were traveling far afield to engage in commerce and to procure goods unavailable in their homelands. As centuries passed, and with the addition of new economic actors like the Vikings in the ninth and tenth centuries, the pace of trade and exchange quickened and intensified, as merchants and sailors found new goods and new ways of getting them from one place to another.  Along with the material goods traded within and between these networks, there were also intangible goods passed between these peoples, among these, ideas, religious movements, and thoughts about the nature of man and his place in the universe.

            


 

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Song Dynasty, "Song Dynasty Silk Robes"

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Song Dynasty, "Song Dynasty Silk Robes", Kahn Academy, approx 1130 CE

Chinese silk, like that made during the Northern Song Dynasty, was one of the many luxury goods traded along the Silk Roads networks. Luxury goods…

Estrid Sigfastsdotter, Runestone of Osten Sigfastsdotter

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Estrid Sigfastsdotter, Runestone of Osten Sigfastsdotter, Princeton University Press, Eleventh Century CE

A runestone describing the death of OstenSigfastsdotter while on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Illustrates the breadth of travel experience for people at…

Kai Ka'us, Slavs and Russians as slaves

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Kai Ka'us, Slavs and Russians as slaves, Bloomington: Indian University Press, 1082-83 CE

This passage from "A Different Mirror for Princes" was written by Kai Ka'us in 1082-83. Meant to be a guide to his son and successor, Gilan Shah, the…