The Riddle and the Knight

The Riddle and the Knight : in Search of Sir John Mandeville

3.6 (332 ratings by Goodreads)
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In 1322 Sir John Mandeville left England on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Thirty-four years later, he returned, claiming to have visited not only Jerusalem, but India, China, Java, Sumatra and Borneo as well.His book about that voyage, THE TRAVELS, was heralded as the most important book of the Middle Ages as Mandeville claimed his voyage proved it was possible to circumnavigate the globe.In the nineteenth century sceptics questioned his voyage, and even doubted he had left England.THE RIDDLE AND THE KNIGHT sets out to discover whether Mandeville really could have made his voyage or whether, as is claimed, THE TRAVELS was a work of imaginative fiction. Bestselling historian Giles Milton unearths clues about the journey and reveals that THE TRAVELS is built upon a series of riddles which have, until now, remained more

Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 130 x 196 x 22mm | 220g
  • Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Hodder Murray
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • b/w/ integrated
  • 0340819456
  • 9780340819456
  • 512,101

Review Text

Sir John Mandeville's Travels is arguably one of the most influential books of the Middle Ages. On St Michael's Day 1322, Mandeville, a knight of St Albans, set sail for Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. Nothing unusual about that. But this was the beginning of a journey that would last for 34 years and take him not only to the Holy Land but to India, China, Java and Sumatra. He also left an account of his peregrination, which was far more extensive than that of the more famous Marco Polo half a century before. In it he displayed an infectious curiosity together with both an eye for detail and an ear for gossip. He interspersed extraordinary and humorous anecdotes of the everyday with more sober anthropological observations, and his liberal, tolerant and humane attitude had an attraction for contemporaries no less than for subsequent generations. Milton uses the Travels to take us on a vivid quest through 14th-century Constantinople, Cyprus, Syria, Jerusalem, the Sinai Desert and on to the Far East, in the footsteps of the intrepid knight. Moreover, as he points out, the significance of this text has been enduring. It circulated throughout Christendom in hundreds of manuscript copies which disseminated Mandeville's central claim that the globe could be circumnavigated. Whether Mandeville himself had achieved that feat remains as debatable now as it was in former centuries, but, fact or fiction, his book provided a goad and an inspiration to Columbus, Hakluyt, Raleigh and all the subsequent pioneers of exploration. Milton has helped to restore Mandeville's historical significance and provides a engrossing travelogue of the late medieval world in the process. (Kirkus UK)show more

Review quote

Milton is a great storyteller ... he sets about filling in the historical gaps with relish, using his considerable imagination to conjure mood from dry parchment Sunday Express Grippingly told true adventure story Daily Mail 'Milton has a terrific eye for the kind of detail that can bring the past vividly to life'. The Spectatorshow more

About Giles Milton

Giles Milton is a writer and historian. He is the internationally bestselling author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Big Chief Elizabeth, The Riddle and the Knight, White Gold, Samurai William, Paradise Lost, Wolfram and Russian Roulette. He has also written three novels and three children's books. His books have been translated into twenty languages. He lives in south London. Find out more about Giles and his books on his website,, and Wikipedia page,, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at more

Rating details

332 ratings
3.6 out of 5 stars
5 18% (61)
4 35% (115)
3 37% (122)
2 9% (31)
1 1% (3)
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