views updated May 29 2018



Impact. All of medieval communication over distance required travel. Most travel took place by walking, but horse and cart, cog, and carrack all played an important role in medieval mobility. Even if undertaken by traders, some long-distance journeys could rightly be thought of as exploration. While the longer-term effect was frequently economic, the initial impact of exploration and explorers themselves was more often cultural and linguistic.

Characteristics. Travel in the Middle Ages was characterized by slowness, effort, and uncertainty. By whatever means, it was seasonal. Travelers walked, and if unaccompanied by animals, carried or dragged any luggage or wares. Farmers walked to their fields and back. Shepherds also walked at least a stretch each day to move livestock to pasture. On a daily basis, medieval craftsmen moved about only within town. Medieval urban dwellers usually resided directly above or next to their shops. In virtually every respect medieval nobles had the greatest mobility.

Hearth and Home. Farming and husbandry were the most-common concerns of the populace, and travel on foot to accomplish these tasks was definitely reduced in winter in the Middle Ages. Crops presented few cares, however, except for root vegetables to be dug as needed. Livestock was in the close or low pastures, and otherwise animals were tended to in the farmyard, including the slaughtering and curing of them, as feed dwindled. For the peasantry, winter was the season to stay out of the weather, a time to sit by the fire and spin, sew, carve, or cane. In winter almost no peasant traveled.

Time Equals Distance. In spring, as soon as the ground could be broken, fields for sowing had to be plowed. Except within a short range, medieval distances were measured in terms of time rather than distance. In this agricultural context of walking and prodding draft animals, however, “travel time” was equated to “travel distance.” The early, and slower, draft animals’ pace, that of yoked oxen, determined the field measure of an acre. The area that a yoke of oxen could plow in a day originally defined the “acre,” an Old English word meaning a field. Virtually every medieval vernacular language had a name for the same area of land. Kjoch (from the same word in German for yoke) amounted to a somewhat larger area, about 1.4 acres. The journal, from the French word for day, journée, varied from region to region, amounting at most to 1.1 acres (or one-third of a hectare).

Agricultural Standards. Horses and mules were the other medieval draft animals. Their pace, a good deal faster than that of oxen, gave another agricultural “travel distance.” By at least the year 1200, a medieval acre came to mean the area of a field of standardized dimensions: one furlong (40 rods or 10 chains) in length by 4 rods (or 1 chain) in width. The rod was equal to a full step, or the length of two strides {gressus), anywhere from 10 to 16 feet long. By about the twelfth century it became standardized at 16.5 feet and was also known as 3. perche, or perch. The word furlong, from the Old English fubrlang, was originally defined by the length of the furrow (or plowed line) made on a square field of 10 acres, hence a field of 40 rods (one furlong or 100 chains) by 40 rods. It has also been suggested that the length of a furlong and hence of both the common square and rectangular fields was determined by the distance a horse could pull a plow in a straight line before needing to stop for a rest (approximately one-eighth of a mile). This medieval emphasis on distance in the agricultural sphere makes it possible to estimate the average travel of a plowman and his drover to about two miles per day.

Seasons. To the European peasantry, summer between planting and harvesting left some free time, depending on the locale and climate. Warmer weather was usually more conducive for a visit to relatives, perhaps as far away as a neighboring village. By June those with herds to graze moved to higher elevations. The herdsmen of the medieval transhumance, the annual migration of sheep flocks in southern France and Spain, were true travelers, walking as much as 250 to 400 miles into the hills and back. Since they would not go home for long stretches, their families might also make the trip to be among the shepherds for the late spring shearing or to relocate them to their temporary summer quarters by helping them build their orri, tiny, round stone huts. The herds’ return trip in October coincided with the fall harvest season and imminent winter, for all a period of activity again close to home.

Travels of the Nobility. Town dwellers were the least traveled of medieval society. Their pattern of relatively little movement was virtually the same all year around. The nobility, however, varied its travel patterns seasonally, depending upon what type and how much land they held and who populated the lands. Nobles frequently summered at one property and wintered at another, checking on their villages, fields, or the farming peasantry.

Footsteps. The majority of all travel in the Middle Ages was on foot, but just how far and fast an average person on a trip walked is a matter of some speculation. It has been said that the ordinary medieval person walked ten to twenty or more miles per day, depending on the quality of the road. Just as today, there is clearly a difference in what someone who is used to walking can accomplish and the average achievement. It has been recorded that a highly trained walker can complete seventy miles in a twenty-four-hour period.

Foot Soldiers. In the Middle Ages, the most accomplished walkers were probably foot soldiers and merchants. The whereabouts of the infantry and their speed are critical issues to any army, and ever since the Persians and Romans, the capabilities of trained foot soldiers have worked their way into distance calculations and military strategy. The Romans adopted the ancient Celtic unit of the league, which was intended to represent roughly the distance a person could walk in an hour.

Its length seems to have varied from one and one-half to three miles. The Persian parasang, equal to an hour of march, was roughly 4 miles in length and subsequently divided into 3 milia in Roman times.

Harold’s Lightning March. Although foot soldiers rarely played a major role during most of the Middle Ages and not much time was spent drilling them in fighting or presumably in marching efficiently, there is one instance of superior achievement of a medieval infantry. Just before the Battle of Stamford Bridge (1066), Harold II of England marched some seven thousand men from London to York. The army moved even faster than news of its approach, in a feat still known as “Harold’s Lightning March.” The rate of the march was about thirty miles a day, which means that those medieval foot soldiers were marching at the same rate as fourteen Roman infantry cohorts at a long league an hour for ten hours a day, or a Persian armies’ at a parasang an hour for a seven-and-a-half-hour day. For the period, a sustained rate of thirty miles per day for seven days was in most circumstances unheard of. A sustained twenty miles per day would have been considered extraordinary.

Rise to Eminence. The Muslims hired mercenaries to be their foot soldiers, and in the Douro Valley of Spain free peasants were becoming foot soldiers in the late tenth century. By the eleventh century the rewards were often great enough to elevate infantrymen to nobility and knighthood, as is reflected in the Poema de mio Çid, where the hero, El Cid, makes knights of those who had fought on foot and gives them land in Valencia. The peasantry is described as trudging along in quilted battle coats to fight on foot with pikes and pole axes. Still in the fourteenth century the speed and ability for surprise attack of the foot soldier made him a valuable military asset.

Pilgrimage. Religion motivated many travelers. Christians wished to visit places associated with the life of Jesus Christ or the early martyrs; Muslims were obliged, as they are today, to make the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, once in a lifetime. These journeys in search of physical or spiritual succor were undertaken by all who could be mobile. For Christians, seeking grants of indulgence for the remission of sins was an added late medieval stimulus to travel. The act of moving around or between holy sites was a common one for pilgrims, and direct contact in the form of a touch or kiss of the object of veneration at a pilgrimage site was the goal. Pilgrimage landmarks also became associated with sites of local religious importance en route to the ultimate destination. As the movement of pilgrims increased, religious foundations provided shelter and food at punctuated intervals along the way.

Labor Itineris. The travel of pilgrims on foot was undeniably hard, but its discomfort was welcomed as a kind of penance (labor itineris). Some pilgrims went to the extreme of going barefoot. The purest of pilgrims plodded on foot, girded with the staff and shoulder sash they were given by a churchman upon departure, even if they could afford a horse, wagon, cart, or carriage. For some, riding on horseback was thought to invalidate the medieval pilgrimage. Abu al-Husayn ibn Jubayr, who went to Mecca from Spain in 1184, reflected on how popular the Hajj was at the time. “Pilgrims were arriving from various countries, so many that only God could count them. Mecca lies in a valley a bow shot wide. It expands miraculously to hold them all-like the womb for the fetus, as scholars say.”

Pilgrims’ Gait. For a sense of how far and how quickly common people traveled on foot in the Middle Ages, the experiences of medieval pilgrims are a good indicator. Although their travel in groups could have moved along to the cadence of prayers or songs, pilgrims do not seem to have traveled as steadily as the foot soldier. The progress of walkers depended heavily on their pace, stamina, and desire to have some rest days. Given the distances between the overnight refuges provided near a monastery, parish, or town hall, it seems that the average rate for an extended pilgrimage was about twelve to fifteen miles per day, based, for example, on a thirty-five-day trip along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The long gaps between places of accommodation on the Camino de Seville, however, indicates that its pilgrims had to be able to walk longer distances on a regular basis, upward of twenty miles a day. While a few pilgrims, such as Bertrand, a French knight who was on permanent pilgrimage as punishment for murdering his lord, never stopped anywhere for long, many early medieval pilgrims, especially those traveling to Rome, saw their journey as a one-way trip, intending to spend the rest of their lives near the holy site they had reached.

Pilgrims and Shrines. Although shrines to local saints and holy persons were known only within a narrow region, there were several internationally known pilgrimage destinations within medieval Europe: the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in England, the city of Rome itself, and the tomb of Saint James of Compostela in Spain. The pilgrimage site connected with Archbishop Thomas Becket was the Cathedral of Canterbury where he was martyred on 29 December 1170. It comprised five different stations within the cathedral, four of which commemorated phases of his murder and burial. With miracles immediately credited to the archbishop, by 1179 King Louis VII of France traveled to Canterbury to pray for a cure for his son. Lothar de Segni, the future Pope Innocent III, went north as an Italian student in Paris.

The Eternal City. Of the 414 churches of medieval Rome, pilgrims went mainly to visit the early basilicas of Saint Peter’s, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Saint Mary Major, Saint John Lateran, and the churches making up the Forty Stations. Pilgrimages to Rome grew and waned depending on the stability of the papacy and on the possibility of visiting the sites of the Holy Land. As a pilgrimage goal, Rome lost in popularity with the Crusaders’ capture of Jerusalem in 1099, but it regained its

prestige by the thirteenth century as travel to the Holy Land became ever more precarious under the Muslim Turkish presence. It is estimated that around two million pilgrims visited Rome for the first Jubilee, called by Boniface VIII in February 1300.

Santiago de Compostela. Routes from France and from Portugal and southern Spain all guided pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. There is evidence that a tradition of some form of pilgrimage through northern Spain may have had roots in Roman or even prehistoric times, because instead of stopping at Santiago de Compostela, many pilgrims continued due west some fifty miles more to Finisterre, or “the End of the Earth,” a point with mythical or mystical connotations. The end of the medieval Christian pilgrim’s route was, however, the Cathedral of Santiago (Saint James) de Compostela (from Latin compostum, meaning burial place), the site where the body of Jesus’ disciple, James (the Great) was buried. In Spain, James was the most popular of all saints. One of the several legends that evolved among his cult told how he came to be buried in Galicia in the northwestern corner of the Iberian Peninsula, where he had preached the Gospel before returning to Palestine where he suffered a martyr’s death in around 44. Another legend recounted how in the ninth century a hermit called Pelagius received a vision of miraculous starlight (hence, possibly Compostela from campus stellae, or star field), which revealed to him the forgotten burial place of Saint James. Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Bridget of Sweden were among the medieval thousands to make the pilgrimage of about four hundred miles from the Pyrenees to Santiago.


Ross E. Dunn, The Adventures oflbn Battuta, a Muslim Traveler of the 14hCentury (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986).

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Before Columbus: Exploration and Colonization from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, 1229–1492 (Philadelphia: University of California Press, 1986).

Marcia Kupfer, “Medieval World Maps: Embedded Images, Interpretative Frames,” Word and Image, 10 (1994): 262–288.

Margaret Wade Labarge, Medieval Travellers: The Rich and Restless (London: Hamilton, 1982).

Arthur Percival Newton, ed., Travel and Travellers of the Middle Ages (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1968).

J. R. S. Phillips, The Medieval Expansion of Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).

Marco Polo, The Travels, translated by Ronald Latham (London: Penguin, 1958).

Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades: A Short History (London: Athlone Press, 1987).

Marjorie Rowling, Everyday Life of Medieval Travellers (London: B. T. Batsford, 1971).

G.V. Scartimeli, The World Encompassed: The First European Maritime Empires, c. 800-1650 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

Kristen A. Seaver, The Frozen Echo: Greenland and the Exploration of North America ca. AD 1000–1500 (Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1981).

Bertold Spuler, History of the Mongols, Based on Eastern and Western Accounts of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, translated by H. and S. Drummond (London: Routledge, 1972).


views updated Jun 08 2018


TRAVEL. During the course of history, the impact of travel on the relationship between food and man has been manifold. Encounters with new foods have often caused reactions of dissociation or of rejectionnot only of the foods themselves, but also of the people eating them. The widespread idea that the food consumed by a group of people is closely connected with their level of civilization has been a way to express and underscore differences between neighboring populations. Food being an inoffensive category, it readily lends itself to becoming a means of distinguishing between "us and them," both geographically, in relation, for instance, to regions or countries, and socially, setting "us" apart from people within the same region we consider to be at a lower level in the social hierarchy.

Food habits are closely linked to a person's conception of identity. The acceptance of different foodstuffs, or their avoidancetaste or distasteis a mixture of cultural conditioning and personal idiosyncrasies. It is natural, therefore, that the food consumed by one's own group is considered to be the "proper food," whereas the food of the others encountered during one's travels is accepted with some reluctance. Foods associated with a higher status are more easily adopted, as are those associated with lifestyles one wishes to share.

Obviously the reason for traveling will have some bearing on the attitude toward the food encountered. People who have been forcibly displaced (through war, disasters, slavery [but see below], economic hardships, or religious persecution) are more likely to maintain earlier food habits, where possiblepartly through lack of means, partly from nostalgia for a lifestyle that has been lost. If, on the other hand, travel is undertaken on a voluntary basis, especially for pleasure (most notably tourism), people are more likely to try new foods.

Historically, little is known about travelers' food. It may be said that in general those who could took their food (and even people in charge of preparing it) with them, which meant that they tried to emulate their usual food habits. Others would make do with the local fare at wayside inns or the tables of hospitable notables. After the emergence of restaurants at the beginning of the nineteenth century in Europe, an internationalized bourgeois cuisine became available to travelers. Regional cooking did not start to come into focus for the general public until the period between the two World Wars, alongside the emergence of automobile tourism. And only recently has local and regional food become a focus of scientific as well as of touristic discourse. To better understand the role of food in travel one needs to distinguish different categories of travelers. Professional travelers of the past, such as sailors and military men, would in the main take their own food with them; however, at the same time, they were often adventurers and would typically experience extremely foreign foods, though they would only rarely bring these back with them.

In many instances on the other hand, food became the very reason for travel: explorers set out from Europe to reach the homelands of desirable foods, particularly spices. In a second phase, explorers were followed by tradesmen, civilian officials, and others establishing colonies on other continents. From these activities came sugar, tea, coffee, and many fruits, vegetables, and grains (for example, pineapples, potatoes, and rice), now everyday commodities in the Western world. Their history is intertwined with that of major empires. In some cases, myths have been constructed around them (for instance, the one claiming that Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy from Chinabelied by the fact that there was a flourishing commerce of pasta in the Mediterranean before the time of his travels). The rise and fall of food trends is clearly reflected in more general world history, as exemplified by the passion for spices in the Middle Ages and Renaissance leading to journeys of exploration, or the court culture of Italy and France, which, through traveling notables, influenced the food habits in many European countries from the sixteenth century onward.

For immigrants, the acquisition of new food habits is dependent on the time spent in the new environment (usually it is a matter of generations). As for any traveler, the reaction to the different food habits experienced will be related to the scope and duration of the travel. A special case is that of the American Pilgrims adopting the food of Native Americans, with the event evolving into a national commemorative meal: the Thanksgiving dinner. On the other hand, the slaves brought to America from Africa, who had no possibility of either maintaining their own food habits or having a free choice among those they met in the new country, have developed a very different symbolic food: soul food.

However, food habits may also be affected in the opposite direction. Colonies of foreign nationals have introduced new items in the diet of the new environment. Thus, for example, in the Middle Ages, gingerbread spread throughout Europe with German immigrants, and more recently Chinese food has become a familiar food in Western countries. Following the rise of charter tourism in the 1950s, pizza and pasta started to become a familiar food in many countries outside Italy, having in some places even replaced potatoes as an everyday staple food.

During the second half of the twentieth century, food began to play a significant role in tourism. In the meeting with the unfamiliar that takes place during travel, food plays a central role, since everybody has to eat every day, and so the deviation from what is habitual and accepted cannot be avoided or disregarded. Travel thus brings about an awareness of differences between the self (the learned and shared culture at home) and others (notably, their culture and habits), as it forces the individual to venture into the realm of sensory experiences that belong to the others. In parallel with the increased movement of people we see in recent times, the establishment of international restaurants and sale of foreign foodstuffs means one no longer needs to travel to experience foreign foods. This highlights some of the paradoxes of the international world today, where tourists may oscillate between the attraction of what represents "other" and adventure, and the unchallenging ease of familiarity and security. Tourists typically want to escape boredom, but to do so while staying within their comfort zone.

See also Comfort Food ; Herbs and Spices ; Thanksgiving ; Tourism ; United States , subentries on African American Foodways and Ethnic Cuisines .

Renée Valeri


views updated Jun 11 2018

trav·el / ˈtravəl/ • v. (-eled, -el·ing; also chiefly Brit. -elled, -el·ling) 1. [intr.] make a journey, typically of some length or abroad: the vessel had been traveling from Libya to Ireland we traveled thousands of miles. ∎  [tr.] journey along (a road) or through (a region): he traveled the world with the army. ∎  [usu. as adj.] (traveling) go or be moved from place to place: a traveling exhibition. ∎ inf. resist motion sickness, damage, or some other impairment on a journey: he usually travels well. ∎  be enjoyed or successful away from the place of origin: accordion music travels well. ∎ dated go from place to place as a sales representative: he traveled for a shoe company through Mississippi. ∎  (of an object or radiation) move, typically in a constant or predictable way: light travels faster than sound. ∎ inf. (esp. of a vehicle) move quickly.2. [intr.] Basketball take more than the allowed number of steps (typically two) while holding the ball without dribbling it.• n. the action of traveling, typically abroad: I have a job that involves a lot of travel. ∎  (travels) journeys, esp. long or exotic ones: perhaps you'll write a book about your travels. ∎  [as adj.] (of a device) designed so as to be sufficiently compact for use on a journey: a travel iron. ∎  the range, rate, or mode of motion of a part of a machine.


views updated May 21 2018

399. Travel

See also 169. FOREIGNERS ; 178. GEOGRAPHY ; 257. MAPS ; 344. RAILROADS ; 347. RECREATION ; 366. SHIPS ; 408. VEHICLES ; 412. WALKING .

a mania for travel.
a mania for wandering.
a mania for crossing bridges.
an abnormal fear of crossing bridges.
an abnormal love of travel.
an abnormal fear or dislike of travel.
itinerancy, itineracy
1. the act or state of traveling from place to place.
2. persons, collectively, whose occupation obliges them to travel constantly.
3. such an occupation. itinerant . n., adj.
Obsolete, the act of wandering about.
travel from place to place, especially on foot and with the suggestion of a roundabout route.
Obsolete, the act of wandering or rambling around and about.
1. the activitiy of traveliring for pleasure, to see sights, for recreation etc.
2. the business founded upon this activity. tourist, n., adj.
Archaic. the act of wafting or being wafted; travel or conveyance by wafting.


views updated May 29 2018

travel he travels fastest who travels alone proverbial saying, late 19th century; implying that single-minded pursuit of an objective is more easily achieved by someone without family commitments. A similar idea is found a little earlier in Walden (1854) by the American writer Henry David Thoreau, ‘The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.’
travel broadens the mind proverbial saying, early 20th century; G. K. Chesterton's comment on this was, ‘They say travel broadens the mind, but you must have the mind.’

See also bad news travels fast, it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.


views updated May 14 2018