• Lesson 5: On the Road with Marco Polo: Marco Polo in China

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    After a long trek across the Gobi Desert, Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle finally arrived at the Shangdu, the summer palace of Kublai Khan. At this time, most of Asia was under control of the Mongols, a nomadic people whose homeland was in the Gobi.

  • Lesson 2: On the Road with Marco Polo: From Venice to Hormuz

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    Marco Polo's father and uncle returned to Venice when he was 15 years old. Two years later, when they set off again for China, they decided to take Marco with them. Students will take a “virtual” trip with Marco Polo from Venice to China and back. The first leg of the journey ends at Hormuz.

  • Lesson 3: On the Road with Marco Polo: From Hormuz to Kashgar

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    The Polos were so concerned about the seaworthiness of the ships they found at Hormuz that they changed their plans and decided instead to follow a series of trade routes across Asia to China. Students will "accompany" them on this leg og the trip, from Hormuz to Kashgar.

  • Lesson 1: On the Road with Marco Polo: A Boy in 13th Century Venice

    A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

    Marco Polo was one of the first Europeans to travel to China. Marco grew up in the 13th century in Venice, an important trading city in Italy. Here, students learn about the Venice of Marco Polo's time.

  • Lesson 3: British Surnames Derived from Occupations or Professions

    Last names as we know them

    Another common type of medieval byname derived from how a man spent his time. Every farming village had a blacksmith to forge iron tools, a miller to grind wheat, a carpenter to craft furniture, and many other specialists.

  • Lesson 1: How Did Surnames Come to Be?

    Last names as we know them now originated in the Middle Ages

    In the early years of the Middle Ages, most people in Europe lived in small farming villages. Everyone knew his neighbors, and there was little need for last names. But as the population expanded and the towns grew, a need arose to find ways to differentiate between two people who shared the same first name.

  • Lesson 2: What's In A Name? British Surnames Derived from Places

    Last names as we know them now originated

    Over half of all English surnames used today are derived from the names of places where people lived. This type is known as a locative surname. For example, a man called John who lived near the marsh, might be known as John Marsh. John who lived in the dell was called John Dell. Other examples are John Brook, John Lake, and John Rivers.

  • The Path of the Black Death

    The Black Plague cut a huge swath of devastation through the heart of 14th  century Europe.

    The Black Death cut a path—both literal and figurative—through the middle of the 14th century. In this lesson, students analyze maps, firsthand accounts, and archival documents to trace the path and aftermath of the Black Death.

  • Witnesses to Joan of Arc and The Hundred Years' War

    Statue of Joan of Arc in Meridian Hill Park, Washington, D.C.

    Joan of Arc is likely one of France's most famous historical figures, and has been mythologized in popular lore, literature, and film. She is also an exceptionally well-documented historical figure. Through such firsthand accounts students can trace Joan's history from childhood, through her death, and on to her nullification trial.

  • Chaucer's Wife of Bath

    Wife of Bath

    Look into the sources of the Wife’s sermon on women’s rights to learn how real women lived during the Middle Ages.