How Did Marco Polo Change the World?

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Marco Polo changed the world by writing a book about his travels from Venice to the court of Kublai Khan in China. His account of his journeys inspired other adventurers, such as the explorer Christopher Columbus, who always carried a copy of Polo’s book. Maps he brought back helped to develop European cartography, and he introduced Europe to Chinese innovations such as paper money, coal, eyeglasses and a postal service.

Polo’s father and uncle, who were merchants, first traveled to Kublai Khan’s Mongol Empire in 1260. Kublai sent them back with instructions to return with 100 priests. Although the Pope would not send the priests, when Polo’s father and uncle returned to the East, they took 15-year-old Marco with them. First they journeyed to present-day Israel, and then they made their way overland through deserts and over mountains along the route that would later become the Silk Road. It took them three years to reach Kublai Khan’s summer palace of Xanadu. Kublai employed Marco as a tax collector and special envoy, enabling him to explore vast parts of the Mongol empire. After 17 years in the court of Kublai Khan, the Polos returned by sea to Persia, escorting a Mongol princess who was to marry a Persian prince.

After returning to Venice, Marco was captured in battle and imprisoned in Genoa. There he met another prisoner named Rustichello who was a writer. Rustichello helped Marco compose a book about his travels called “Description of the World,” also known as “The Travels of Marco Polo.”