By the Middle Ages, set the stage for progress and change in Europe. New plows, better tools, windmills, and produced more crops and left more time for leisure. New caused cities and towns like Italy's "big three" --Genoa, Florence, and Venice--to become important harbors and spurred growth in the Netherlands, Germany, and France.
Marco Polo's Journey
A well-traveled merchant named so charmed the emperor of China, , that for years Polo traveled around China on the emperor's behalf. On his return to , Polo was captured in battle. In prison, he befriended a writer who penned Polo's adventures, describing China and mapping trade routes. The book greatly all of Europe.
Interest in the World Grows
Word of Polo's travels intrigued many . By the end of the 13th century, European explorers and merchants set out to find the trade routes they had heard about. People were curious about used in China rather than gold, China's use of coal for heating rather than wood, and China's postal system.