1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
In this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology, Charles C. Mann radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492.
Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and
But the repeated comparisons between american society and eurasian society are really fraught and often belabored. The comparisons between the two hemisphere's agriculture and domesticable animals are fine, but the assertion that Aztec (apparently it's more politically correct to call them Mexica) philosophy was as ...more
Being originally from New England, I'm well aware that there were inhabitants here long before the Europeans arrived. Early on in school we were inundated with stories of Samoset ...more
What is very interesting here is that we seem to have grossly under-estimated both the population of the ...more
Well, I finally finished it. There were some interesting factoids, such as the theory that much of the Amazon rainforest was planted by humans, but even then the data were not marshaled in a convincing, coherent fashion. Over all, the book was badly organized, the chapter and section headings provided no clue to their purpose, the text jumped wildly across continents and thousands of years for no logical reason and technical terms were too ...more
Mann starts with the basic assertion that the West's primary mistake in our ...more
In discussing scholarly debates on these subjects, he convincingly argues that the population, before the decimation of disease, was quite high. The debate is just how many people there were rather than whether the continents were pristine ...more
So much of our notions of what North America was like before Europeans arrived are the result of our own impact on the continent. The notion of an empty continent populated by either "noble savages" or aborigines comes from the fact that the population was decimated by western diseases within ...more
The key takeaway here: American societies were almost certainly older, larger, more technically advanced and more complex than they are given ...more
I find pre-Columbian history of the Americas fascinating so this book was right up my alley. It did jump around a little more than I liked, but overall this is a great presentation of all of the contemporary findings and generally accepted conclusions (as of 2005) on both the state of culture in the Americas before 1492 and the affect that European settlement/conquering had on said culture beginning in 1492.
The first part tells the story of what ...more
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 ...more
A fair amount of the material was familiar to me from taking Colonial Latin America ...more
It’s been a while since I’ve read a work of nonfiction, and I don’t think I’ve ever read one for pleasure and not as a school requirement. I chose this as my first because I’ve always wanted to learn more about American Indian history. I knew before picking up 1492 that I received a woefully ...more
Maize is terribly promiscuous.
Northern America, Central America, and South America all had tremendous histories of advanced cultures before Europeans ever knew about these lands. But whereas there was knowledge of the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas, this book goes even further to explore the many ...more
If an author is unprepared to deal with white folks behaving badly because of racism, he should've picked another continent on which to set this. As it stands this stance is disrespectful to the very people who's history he's supposed to be providing. Racism is never a mistake or oversight.
1491 basically summarizes recent researches suggesting that the Americas were populated earlier than previously believed, more densely populated than commonly estimated and more widely civilized.
One of the more interesting stories in this book is about the ...more