By Gregory G. Guzman
The Historian, Vol: 72, 1 (2010)
Introduction: Most medieval historians are aware of the fact that, after the great Mongol Invasion of Eastern Europe in 1241, Western kings and popes exchanged envoys with the rulers of the various Mongol Khanates in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. These diplomatic sources have been fairly well identified and researched, especially by twentieth-century scholars who have been involved in the ongoing process of studying and evaluating this type of early intercultural contact between Christian Europe and Mongol Asia.
However, in reading the Western diplomatic documents and the letters and travel accounts of the various early Western envoys to the Great Khans and to their high-ranking family members and generals, it is obvious that there was also another level of contact taking place below that of the official embassies. The diverse Latin sources written by the Western envoys contain numerous references to other Westerners living and working among the Mongols. Indeed, it was these Westerners who provided the envoys with much of the information that was included in their accounts. Since this was the first and only reliable eyewitness material available, it was subsequently popularized in Europe. This information thus became the foundation upon which early Western perceptions of the Mongols rested.