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What were the main reasons Europeans sought new trade routes to Asia, particularly to China and India?

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Purpose
During the Middle Ages, China and India were the wealthiest and most populous countries on earth. Products such as silk, spices, and porcelain were traded from China and India to Europe overland along a series of trade routes called the Silk Roads. However, with rare exceptions such as Marco Polo, who traveled to the court of Kublai Khan in China, Europeans had little direct contact with either China or India. In the fifteenth century, Europeans began to send out voyages of exploration in search of quicker, less costly ocean routes to Asia. Arguably, Christopher Columbus was the most famous of these explorers. Columbus, who sailed west from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492 aspired to find a new sea route to Asia. Inadvertently, he discovered the Americas in the process. He even died in 1506 under the impression that he had reached Asia. This essay will require you to reflect on the importance of Asia in the fifteenth century, including how it shaped the expectations and behavior of Europeans such as Christopher Columbus.
Materials

Course Readings:
Unit 1: The Pax Mongolica
Unit 2: China during the Ming and Qing Dynasties
Unit 3: A Maritime Revolution & The Age of Exploration: Portugal and Spain
Short Primary Source Documents: Excerpt from The Book of Ser Marco Polo: The Venetian Concerning Kingdoms and Marvels of the East, Book Second. Part I, Chapter X
Excerpt from The Book of Ser Marco Polo: The Venetian Concerning Kingdoms and Marvels of the East, Book Second. Part I, Chapter XXII
Letter of Christopher Columbus, On His First Voyage to America, 1492
Questions to Address for this Essay
Using the essay instructions included below and the allowed sources, this essay should address all of the following interrelated questions:
– What were the main reasons Europeans sought new trade routes to Asia, particularly to China and India?
– Give reasons for your answers. In addition, what positive features did Marco Polo describe about Yuan (Mongol) China?
– While Europeans were interested in Yuan (Mongol) and Ming China, why on the other hand did China pull back from exploration under the Ming dynasty?
– From his letter, where did Columbus believe that his voyage of exploration had arrived?
– In what ways did Marco Polo’s account of China appear to influence what Christopher Columbus expected to find during his voyage of exploration?
– How did Christopher Columbus describe the New World and the Native peoples he encountered?
– How did Columbus’ descriiption of the New World ultimately differ from Marco Polo’s descriiption of China?
Essay Instructions
Essays should be generally free of spelling, grammatical, and stylistic errors. They should use complete sentences and paragraphs. A paragraph is comprised of 4-6 sentences. Essays should have an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement that provides the essay’s argument, the main body of several supporting paragraphs that address the questions, and a conclusion that wraps up the essay and refers again to the thesis statement. Essays should be indented at the beginning of each paragraph.
Essays should be typed in 12-point font with a simple, clean font such as Times New Roman. Use 1” inch margins on all sides and double-space the text.
Excluding citations, essays should be a minimum of 1,000 words. or four pages in length. Essays should run no more than a maximum of 1,250 words, or five pages in length.
Essays should provide specific examples and use evidence in answering the questions. This includes citing sources, either with direct quotes or summarized information. As a general rule of thumb, essays should have at least one citation per paragraph. Essays should avoid lengthy or block quotations.
Students should take care to avoid plagiarism. As part of this, and in order to simplify this assignment for students, the use of outside sources is forbidden for this essay. Students should only cite the sources assigned to them in GoView for this essay.
Essays should not use the first person, e.g. I, me, or my.
Source citations should use a commonly accepted citation style such as MLA or Chicago. You should choose one of these citation styles from the outset and use it consistently throughout your essay. For more information on accepted citation styles, please see the General Essay Guideline on the syllabus.

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