The first 101 pages of Janey L. Abu-Lughod's book "Before European Hegemony" seek to drive home the point that Europe has not always been as privileged as it is today in the world economy. It was not always a major port of trade. Abu-Lughod strives, through several lengthy examples, to contrast European thought and society in the thirteenth century and that of the sixteenth century. She uses the examples of two scholars, one from each period in time, to display what interested the intelectuals of that time. The story of these two scholars, Rogar Bacon and Francis Bacon, display the change in European thought as the area moved towards hegemony in the world system. Abu-Lughod also does a good job of displaying what is important to someone studying the world economy, or any aspect of an areas culture, long after the witnesses of the time period have passed on. She speaks of gathering data (what is important?) and who to gather data from (how to interprete it).
Personally, I found the section in which Abu-Lughod goes in to detail about the drawbacks in Marco Polo's story very interesting. She takes a well known story and goes to show that even something so monumental can not be completely trusted because there are not many records with which to compare it. I enjoyed the details included as well. They helped me to visualize the world (both Oriental and European) in better context than I would have otherwise.
The only thing that still sticks out as confusing to me is the mention that Rogar Bacon's requests to gather more knowledge were largely ignored by the Pope. Is this because the Pope saw new knowledge of the sort Bacon sought to be against the church? Or is this simply because the majority of the people at the time did not wish to change. Is it possible that a society can willingly remain blind to another society which is apparently prospering at the other end of their trade route?