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1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

by Charles C. Mann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,1521751,254 (4.16)1 / 264
Mann shows how a new generation of researchers equipped with novel scientific techniques have come to previously unheard-of conclusions about the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans: In 1491 there were probably more people living in the Americas than in Europe. Certain cities--such as Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital--were greater in population than any European city. Tenochtitlán, unlike any capital in Europe at that time, had running water, beautiful botanical gardens, and immaculately clean streets. The earliest cities in the Western Hemisphere were thriving before the Egyptians built the great pyramids. Native Americans transformed their land so completely that Europeans arrived in a hemisphere already massively "landscaped" by human beings. Pre-Columbian Indians in Mexico developed corn by a breeding process that the journal Science recently described as "man's first, and perhaps the greatest, feat of genetic engineering."--From publisher description.… (more)
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» See also 264 mentions

English (170)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (175)
Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
This book will probably change your perception of history. As it should. With a sweeping, overhead view of the cultures that lived in and shaped the lands prior to European intervention, it also gets beautifully specific.

Also, reading this mid-COVID19, I found the discussion and research about disease fascinating. Why, after all, were the white settlers in the mid-1770s less likely to die from the reemerging Smallpox compared to the Native American counterparts? By all accounts, both should have been exposed by this point. And the answer has little to do with the crude vaccines that John Adams & Co. underwent.

Just another book proving that it's hard to get the big, full picture when you're living in the middle of something. And possibly only a little less hard when you're removed from it by many generations. Let's not make another mistake in judgment, as we're being led through our present-day jungle.

I also love the caution at the end: that "to judge the past by the standards of today [is] a fallacy disparaged as 'presentism' by social scientists."*

*Pg 335

Note: His "lost tribes" chapter was fascinating, for a religious person such as myself. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
Elegant read, important history, relatively unbiased; this is one of these finest books I have ever read. I will certainly follow through with 1493 next! ( )
  echinops | Aug 18, 2021 |
Man, this was a good book (yes, this was intentional). I liked how he focused on more modern research for this book about the Americas before Columbus instead of trying to come up with new research. It was also really interesting to read about all the debates, especially over the Clovis finds. Mann did a great job in writing this book and putting it together. I definitely recommend it as a read! ( )
  historybookreads | Jul 26, 2021 |
Brings together evidence that had been accumulating over the past few decades about the pre-Columbian hemisphere and weaves it into an entertaining narrative. One of those books that changed my perspective in a major way. Highly recommended. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
An extremely interesting exploration of recent scientific discoveries concerning the people who lived in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. Clear and well written, the book makes a strong case for recent claims that Indian populations were much larger than often believed, and that they had a much greater influence on their environment than the conventional view suggests. In addition to exploring the 15,000 years or so before the start of regular European presence on the continent, the author also spends a good bit of effort on the couple centuries following; since there are few written native records, some of what he explores is differences between earlier and later writings by Europeans.

Includes several interesting appendices, including an explanation of the Mayan calendar system, and the origin of the whole 2012 end-of-the-world brouhaha. ( )
  JohnNienart | Jul 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
Mann has written an impressive and highly readable book. Even though one can disagree with some of his inferences from the data, he does give both sides of the most important arguments. 1491 is a fitting tribute to those Indians, present and past, whose cause he is championing.
 
Mann has chronicled an important shift in our vision of world development, one our young children could end up studying in their textbooks when they reach junior high.

 
Mann does not present his thesis as an argument for unrestrained development. It is an argument, though, for human management of natural lands and against what he calls the "ecological nihilism" of insisting that forests be wholly untouched.
 
Mann's style is journalistic, employing the vivid (and sometimes mixed) metaphors of popular science writing: "Peru is the cow-catcher on the train of continental drift. . . . its coastline hits the ocean floor and crumples up like a carpet shoved into a chairleg." Similarly, the book is not a comprehensive history, but a series of reporter's tales: He describes personal encounters with scientists in their labs, archaeologists at their digs, historians in their studies and Indian activists in their frustrations. Readers vicariously share Mann's exposure to fire ants and the tension as his guide's plane runs low on fuel over Mayan ruins. These episodes introduce readers to the debates between older and newer scholars. Initially fresh, the journalistic approach eventually falters as his disorganized narrative rambles forward and backward through the centuries and across vast continents and back again, producing repetition and contradiction. The resulting blur unwittingly conveys a new sort of the old timelessness that Mann so wisely wishes to defeat.
 

» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles C. Mannprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boraso, MarinaTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For the woman in the next-door office--

Cloudlessly, like everything

--CCM
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Preface: The seeds of this book date back, at least in part, to 1983, when I wrote an article for 'Science' about a NASA program that was monitoring atmospheric ozone levels.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Mann shows how a new generation of researchers equipped with novel scientific techniques have come to previously unheard-of conclusions about the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans: In 1491 there were probably more people living in the Americas than in Europe. Certain cities--such as Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital--were greater in population than any European city. Tenochtitlán, unlike any capital in Europe at that time, had running water, beautiful botanical gardens, and immaculately clean streets. The earliest cities in the Western Hemisphere were thriving before the Egyptians built the great pyramids. Native Americans transformed their land so completely that Europeans arrived in a hemisphere already massively "landscaped" by human beings. Pre-Columbian Indians in Mexico developed corn by a breeding process that the journal Science recently described as "man's first, and perhaps the greatest, feat of genetic engineering."--From publisher description.

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