1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Aug 9, 2011 - History - 544 pages
From the author of 1491—the best-selling study of the pre-Columbian Americas—a deeply engaging new history of the most momentous biological event since the death of the dinosaurs.

More than 200 million years ago, geological forces split apart the continents. Isolated from each other, the two halves of the world developed radically different suites of plants and animals. When Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas, he ended that separation at a stroke. Driven by the economic goal of establishing trade with China, he accidentally set off an ecological convulsion as European vessels carried thousands of species to new homes across the oceans.

The Columbian Exchange, as researchers call it, is the reason there are tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolates in Switzerland, and chili peppers in Thailand. More important, creatures the colonists knew nothing about hitched along for the ride. Earthworms, mosquitoes, and cockroaches; honeybees, dandelions, and African grasses; bacteria, fungi, and viruses; rats of every description—all of them rushed like eager tourists into lands that had never seen their like before, changing lives and landscapes across the planet.

Eight decades after Columbus, a Spaniard named Legazpi succeeded where Columbus had failed. He sailed west to establish continual trade with China, then the richest, most powerful country in the world. In Manila, a city Legazpi founded, silver from the Americas, mined by African and Indian slaves, was sold to Asians in return for silk for Europeans. It was the first time that goods and people from every corner of the globe were connected in a single worldwide exchange. Much as Columbus created a new world biologically, Legazpi and the Spanish empire he served created a new world economically.

As Charles C. Mann shows, the Columbian Exchange underlies much of subsequent human history. Presenting the latest research by ecologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians, Mann shows how the creation of this worldwide network of ecological and economic exchange fostered the rise of Europe, devastated imperial China, convulsed Africa, and for two centuries made Mexico City—where Asia, Europe, and the new frontier of the Americas dynamically interacted—the center of the world. In such encounters, he uncovers the germ of today’s fiercest political disputes, from immigration to trade policy to culture wars.

In 1493, Charles Mann gives us an eye-opening scientific interpretation of our past, unequaled in its authority and fascination.

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I read 1491 and it was fascinating, so I knew I needed to read this one too. I can't believe it, but I think 1493 is even better. Of course it is a different subject but the two fit together well in presenting what possibly happened a few centuries ago and how it changed the world into what it is today.
History in high school was sooo boring but an American history class in college proved that there are some amazing things the past can teach us. It just depends on who is giving the information, and Charles Mann has done his homework and presented his information in a clear and entertaining manner.
I'm so glad a friend of mine recommended these books to me.

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I appreciate Mann's work but the reader has to be ready for it. Much like 1491 this book is long and tends to get technical about the events that Mann selects to examine. Almost each event mentioned in 1493 could use a book or thorough investigation on its own. Because of the broad and dynamic time periods covered in this text Mann can do little more than mention the event and move on to the next connection each event causes of suffers from. By the time you're done with this lengthy read one is left with the impression that more was missed than covered. This a good book for the history student not already familiar with the events that shook the New World and then infected the rest of the world. But if a more complete explanation or record is required one soon learns it is not available in 1493. 




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About the author (2011)

Charles C. Mann, a correspondent for The Atlantic, Science, and Wired, has written for Fortune, The New York Times, Smithsonian, Technology Review, Vanity Fair, and The Washington Post, as well as for the TV network HBO and the series Law & Order. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he is the recipient of writing awards from the American Bar Association, the American Institute of Physics, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Lannan Foundation. His 1491 won the National Academies Communication Award for the best book of the year. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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