Ian's Reviews > 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

1491 by Charles C. Mann
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Jul 06, 07

Recommended for: anyone
Read in January, 2006

Mann is not a historian, but rather is a journalist. And for that reason, this book does read like a history text (like Guns, Germs, and Steel). But it is exceptionally researched and fantastic.

Mann describes North and South America in a way that traditional textbooks and contemporary rhetoric never acknowledges. He combats the old-fashioned and anti-academic beliefs that pervade our Eurocentric version of world history (summed up in what he calls "Holmberg's Mistake," a reading I give my students at the start of our U.S. Literature class). Marvin Harris tries to "de-mystify the world's mysteries," and Mann does that with the "New" World's mysteries in this text.

He tells the true story of the Pilgrims, Jamestown, the Mayas, the Aztecs (or Triple Alliance), and the Incas. He also introduces most readers to Hopewell Indians, Mississippian Indians like the Cahokians, and other groups that built powerful empires and established incredibly technologically-advanced cultures prior to European contact - all without the help of steel, guns, trade with Asia, or beasts of burden.

The unfortunate aspect of Mann's book, though, is that it will likely be out of date fairly soon. Much of his information is current scholarship; the investigation of pre-Columbus North and South America is ever-changing. But that just means there will be more to read in the near future (hopefully).
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Benedict well put!


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