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The Riddle and the Knight: In Search of Sir John Mandeville, the World's Greatest Traveler

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  267 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Giles Milton's first book, The Riddle and the Knight, is a fascinating account of the legend of Sir John Mandeville, a long-forgotten knight who was once the most famous writer in medieval Europe. Mandeville wrote a book about his voyage around the world that became a beacon that lit the way for the great expeditions of the Renaissance, and his exploits and adventures prov ...more
Paperback, 230 pages
Published November 1st 2002 by Picador (first published 1996)
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(showing 1-30 of 494)
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Gavin
Milton's first historical book. An account of his trail of Sir John Mandeville, whose Travels are widely believed to be wholly made up. Of Milton's books to date, this is the least interesting as far as I'm concerned. He is a good writer and spins a good tale from his evidence, but ultimately this was unrewarding. Samurai William and Nathaniel's Nutmeg bear little comparison with this early effort. Both are far superior to this and well worth reading. For the truly intrigued only I would say. Ma ...more
Daniella Murynka
Milton takes what could be a dry and academic subject -- following the religious pilgrimage of 14th cen. knight, Sir John Mandeville -- and turns out an incredible story. This is a good mystery, as Milton traces Sir John's footsteps and tests the knight's veracity against all forms of available evidence. When recounting his experiences at holy sites, Milton strikes a good balance between kindness and skepticism. It's true that this book has some structural awkwardness (is it a travelogue or not? ...more
Shockwave
Sir John Mandeville was the basis for Baron Von Munchausen, due to his stories in his book.

Giles goes on a journey to some off the places as discribed in Mandevilles book, and finds enough evidence to suggest the he actually made it to the Holy land.

You really can go an find graffiti from the times of the Crusades, in some of the monasteries there.

The book opens with Giles visiting the cathedral in St Albans, and seeing a dedication to Sir John.
As I was working only 5 minutes away I went to have
...more
Steve
Is this a travel book, or a history book? Its not clear if even the author knows. Milton follows in the footsteps of Sir John Mandeville, 14th century world traveller, or possibly charlatan. In fact, so little is known about Sir John that there is some doubt that he existed at all, so the footsteps are very faint and often seem a weak excuse to travel the middle east. But the result is OK and on a par with many similar "micro-histories" written by journalists.
Tracy Terry
I have a bit of a like/dislike thing for this author in that some of his works I've really enjoyed (Samurai William), others (White Gold, Nathaniel's Nutmeg) not.

Falling into the latter category, for me the main problem with this book is it concentrates less on Sir Mandeville and more on Giles Milton as he follows in Mandeville's footsteps though stopping short of China and Indonesia. Then there is the matter of is it a travelogue OR is it a history book? A combination that can (and does) of cou
...more
Kressel Housman
Sir John Mandeville is one of those mostly-forgotten figures of history, but this book, especially the epilogue, makes clear that he had a tremendous influence, not just in the medieval era in which he lived, but on the world as we know it today. His own book, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, was an international sensation in his time. Not only did later writers like Shakespeare and Milton “borrow” from his stories (no copyright laws back then), the tales of his travels inspired such explorer ...more
David Brown
There’s nothing like a good historical mystery to get your teeth into and Giles Milton’s The Riddle and the Knight promised such a puzzle. Focussing on a famous historical figure from the 14th century, Milton’s narrative traces the same journey that John Mandeville made and looks to analyse whether anything in his famous Travels is authentic or just fabrication. I couldn’t wait to dip into the mystery so donned my Medieval attire and headed back to the first half of the 14th century.

Sir John Man
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Mick
In the mid-14th century, a sensational manuscript began to circulate in Western Europe. The purported journal of an English knight, Sir John Mandeville, who had spent years travelling the world. His account contained detailed descriptions of the wonders of Asia, from Asia Minor and the Holy Land to the largely unknown lands of China, Java, and Sumatra. He described horrifying monsters, great treasures, and lost Christian empires in far-flung places.

It was a hoax, of course, cobbled together fro
...more
Frumenty
Why did I buy this book? There is no room in the house for more books. Well, it was marked down to $5, and I know Giles Milton for a tenacious researcher (Nathaniel's Nutmeg is good!), and I needed something fresh to read, and I had a fuzzy idea I ought to know more about his subject Sir John Mandeville.

There is a galaxy of thoroughly unreliable medieval writers. Layman readers of history such as myself aren't much interested in the finer points of evaluating sources: we just want to know what h
...more
Corey
Apr 26, 2007 Corey rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who like travel narratives
This book had a very interesting subject but as the book wore on, I got the distinct feeling that perhaps this elusive Sir John Mandeville wasn't quite as important as the author was making him out to be. I also wondered at the relevance of the author's traveling to exotic locales in search of Sir John. The book was extremely interesting (and even amusing at points) with respects to the author's various travel escapades but the whole Sir John angle almost seemed unncessary. It was a nice little ...more
Julia
I re-read this book this autumn, after letting it sit on my bookshelf for probably five years. I honestly couldn't remember if I liked it years ago or not. One night when I was bored, I got it out to see if I'd forgotten a great read the first time. Nope. It's not a great read, but it's a decent read, to be sure. The author's search for the true story behind a mysterious - possibly mythical - medieval explorer is an honorable one, and one that takes him to some fascinating locales and settings. ...more
Rupert Matthews
I enjoyed this book, although it was not quite what I had been expecting. It is as much a travelogue by the writer as he visits places in Mandeville's book as it is a book about Mandeville and his book. Nevertheless, very interesting and thought provoking especially as the Middle East is in turmoil again.
Claire
This is a somewhat unsatisfying attempt to solve the "riddle" of John Mandeville's 'Travels' (wildly popular in the Medieval period) by journeying in Mandeville's footsteps in order to test the facts and anecdotes that he writes about. The historical sections of this book were fairly interesting, but the travel sections are steeped with Orientalist prejudices (at one point Milton describes the ancient city of Palmyra as the border between Roman "civilisation" and Persian "barbarism", which is bo ...more
Jeri
Interesting read, more travelogue than history during the first half, but enjoyable, especially if you've been to Turkey/Istanbul. And, hey, who doesn't enjoy a good literary mystery?
Frank Roberts
The author embarked on a quest to find the trail of one Sir John Mandeville, a 14th-century knight whose Travels were widely read all over Europe and were an inspiration to Christopher Columbus. Tracking down evidence that has survived the seven intervening centuries was no small task, but the author manages to find a few places of amazing continuity--especially in Istanbul and Sinai.

Part travelogue, part detective story, part history. The most enjoyable parts to me were the anecdotes of the au
...more
bkwurm
The author sets out to find out whether Sir John Mandeville really did travel, as he claimed, for 34 years, visiting lands as far flung as Egypt, India, China and even Borneo.

Given the paucity of available evidence, it is not surprising that the final conclusion is somewhat iffy but the book itself is littered with interesting anecdotes about the regions Mandeville visited and the situation he would have encountered. Although in this regard, the more exotic half of his travels were more or less
...more
Dancingsocks
A little out of date now (only in terms of more recent history obviously!) but interesting.
Sarahandus
Giles Milton tries to solve the riddle of Sir John Mandeville with wit and lots and lots of research. In trying to follow the explorer's footsteps Milton shows us the then and now of the places Mandeville claimed to have visited. Talking to the people there now and searching into the archives to find traces of Mandeville and/ or the people he said to have seen.

I found this book a fabulous story of how research should be done and explained to the reading public.
Andrew
Quite an interesting book - a cross between a travel book and an historical biography. The story of Sir John Mandeville - a medieval traveller, who travelled as far as Java and Sumatra in the 14 century. He has been discredited since Victorian times, but his importance in earlier centuries was immense - eg his writings inspired Christopher Columbus. The travels of the author in the footsteps of Sir John were quite entertaining also.
Patty
An interesting inquiry into whether Sir John Mandeville's travels could be true, in total or in part.
Sir John is "a long-forgotten knight who was once the most famous writer in medieval Europe."
The author attempts to follow his footsteps and learn how much of his writing is true, and how much may have been invented.
Very few images. More images could have been included and would have helped to provide more richness to the text.
Leah
Mar 02, 2007 Leah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the medieval world
Shelves: non-fiction
An engrossing book about a long forgotten knight who was once the most famous writer in medieval Europe. His travels and adventures inspired Shakespeare, Milton and Keats but by the 19th century his adventurous claims were discredited. This book is about the quest to restore Mandeville (the knight) to his rightful place as it follows in the footsteps of his amazing adventures.
Valerie
Medieval history + exotic modern day travel log... really interesting non-fiction about one journalist's research into Sir John Mandeville, an influential writer of the 1300's whose writings were discredited by the Victorians... he influenced Shakespeare, but academia ignores him today. Really entertaining and intersting.
Daren
An amusing and simple enough book, in which the author visits some of the locations in Mandeville's The Travels, and tables various research to determine whether Mandeville really travelled there, or whether the book is made up, or plagiarised from other contemporary accounts.
Grant
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was great to follow Milton around as he asked the question: "Did Sir John Mandeville really exist, did he really travel the world and where is he buried?"
Peter
Brilliant mixture of travelogue and historical investigation, taking the reader to Cyprus, Jerusalem, Damascus, Sinai and beyond, both in our present time and the 14th century. Highly recommended.
Jrobertus
a modern writer follows the dubious journeys of a 14th century knight, sir john mandeville. entertaining and scholarly in the sense he shows john's narrative is likely fabricated.
Bill
An interesting topic. But leaps of logic abound, including the none-too satisfying conclusion.

Still, you'll learn something (and it's short)
Colleen
Apr 07, 2008 Colleen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: E
I have been reading this off and on....it's a great book htough - humourous and witty. Definitely and interesting read.
Martha
Fun, interesting read tracing a medieval traveler's itinerary.
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British writer and journalist Giles Milton was born in Buckinghamshire in 1966. He has contributed articles for most of the British national newspapers as well as many foreign publications, and specializes in the history of travel and exploration. In the course of his researches, he has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, Japan and the Far East, and the Americas.

Knowledgeable, insati
...more
More about Giles Milton...
Nathaniel's Nutmeg: How One Man's Courage Changed the Course of History Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened Japan Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves Paradise Lost: Smyrna, 1922

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