Cotton Mather’s American Ghosts

The Puritan clergyman Cotton Mather (1663-1728) is one of the boogeymen of early American history. Among his many sins, he helped fuel the Salem witch trials that executed 20 people for witchcraft. In the trials he successfully argued that the contents of magical visions should be considered legally admissible evidence. Mather was a prolific writer. […]

Terrible Mountain Travels in 16th-Century Afghanistan

This week we return to another intriguing moment in the life of Babur (1483-1530). He would go on to found the Mughal Empire in India, but at this point in his story he was fleeing from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan. He would soon claim a new kingdom, then have to make a perilous mountain crossing in […]

Fantastical Islands from a Roman Novel

Lucian of Samosata was a second-century author writing in Roman Turkey. His best-known work is A True History, a satire of ancient historians who breathlessly repeated whatever half-baked tall tales they’d been told about foreign lands. Much as it pains me to see my beloved Herodotus so ill-treated, A True History is both funny and […]

The Wreck of the Convict Ship ‘George III’

In 1835, the British convict ship George III struck an unmapped rock off Tasmania and sank. 134 people died, most of them prisoners being transported to Tasmania to serve their sentences at hard labor. The story has some interesting wrinkles that make this a very gameable template for a sea voyage at your table, and […]

Patrocles’ Caspian Exploration Fraud

The Hellenistic Greek geographer, government official, and military officer Patrocles conducted two voyages of exploration in the Caspian Sea. His account of what he saw had a major influence on European geographers into the Middle Ages. The only problem is that most of the important stuff he reported was flat-out wrong. How he got to […]

Ibn Battuta’s Maldivian Coup Plot

We’ve talked twice before about Ibn Battuta, the medieval Moroccan traveler. This time, we’re going to talk about his adventures in the Maldives, a paradisiacal tropical archipelago south of India. In the Maldives, Ibn Battuta got pressed into service as an Islamic judge, let his bad attitude get him into political trouble, and plotted a […]

Wild Adventures Mapping the Khorasan Border

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Xuanzang and the Five Border Towers

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Emissary to the Mongols

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The Wonders of Sir John Mandeville (Asia)

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The Wonders of Sir John Mandeville (the Mediterranean)

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Tall Tales of the West African Gold Trade

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The Wreck of the Ma’adin Ijafen

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A Play During Travel and Blog News

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The Grail Castle

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