As a companion to his previous volume ""Night in the Middles Ages"", Jean Verdon offers insight into the pitfalls and perils of travelling during medieval times. ""Travel in the Middle Ages"" is filled with the stories and adventures of those who hazarded hostile landscapes, elements, and people - out of want or necessity - to get from place to place.
Verdon contends that a journey in the current sense, suggesting both ""the movement of a person who travels to a fairly distant place"" and philosophical ideas of distraction and flight from self, did not exist in the Middle Ages.
Indeed, he says, ""nothing either in the means of communication or in the landscape encouraged travel"". And yet, Verdon points out, the world of the Middle Ages was one of unceasing movement.
While most journeys involved very short distances (home to market or village to village), longer trips were not uncommon in the Middle Ages.
Clergy were frequently called upon to act as ambassadors, messengers, and overseers to the various monasteries and churches within their jurisdiction.
Merchants, agents of the king, and pilgrims were also frequently required to travel.
While sharing the fascinating stories of these ordinary wayfarers, Verdon also relates colorful tales of the journeys of notable historical figures such as Marco Polo and Columbus.
Part I of ""Travel in the Middle Ages"" addresses the means by which people travelled.
This section contains interesting descriptions of modes of conveyance, road systems, sea lanes, tolls, taxes, and even pirates.
Knowing the risks involved, why did people brave the uncertainty of travel?
Part II of the book addresses this question by identifying five main motivational categories of medieval travel.
Part III deals with travel myths, monsters, fictitious journeys of medieval fantasy writers, and ghosts.
Verdon concludes with a pithy critique of travel in the modern world.