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The Oriental Adventure

By Tim Severin

Tales of the Orient have inspired Westerners since the first hints of the fabulous East began to trickle back along the trade routes.

It is not a story of exploration in the pioneering sense: the civilizations the visitors encountered were often older and wiser than their own. But the trail of Occidental traders, proselytes, missionaries, diplomats, surveyors, spies and eccentrics who penetrated the lands beyond the mysterious ‘Stone Tower’ – into India, Siberia, China and Southeast Asia – were discovering the Orient for themselves and interpreting what they saw through Western eyes for their compatriots.

In The Oriental Adventure, Timothy Severin gives a fascinating account of the procession of tenacious travellers from all over Europe who penetrated into Asia between the thirteenth and early twentieth centuries to investigate these rumours.

Timothy Severin, son of a tea planter, was born in 1940 in Assam, India, roughly half way between the Pamirs and the China Sea, the geographical scope of this book. His early diet, he was told, included yak’s milk, and he has been savouring the local customs and experiences of his travels ever since.

He is an intrepid field researcher for his writings. While an undergraduate at Oxford he rode a motorcycle along Marco Polo’s route as far as the border of China, a trip resulting in his first book, Tracking Marco Polo. His other books include a highly successful study of American exploration, Explorers of the Mississippi – also researched on location by navigating the length of the river by canoe and ‘decrepit launch’ – The Golden AntillesVanishing Primitive Manand The African Adventure. He has written numerous magazine articles and has acted as an adviser to the BBC on programmes about the history of exploration, a subject in which he holds an Oxford research degree. When not on his travels Timothy Severin is based in London with his wife and daughter.

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