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1421: The Year China Discovered America

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  12,145 ratings  ·  997 reviews
On 3/8/1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China. Its mission was "to proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas" & unite the whole world in Confucian harmony. When it returned in 10/1423, the emperor had fallen, leaving China in political & economic chaos. The great ships were left ...more
Paperback, 650 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Harper Perennial (NYC) (first published January 1st 2002)
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Bertie Fantasy. Like Eric Von Daniken, Menzies creates a fantastic, impossible scenario out of thin air. The voyages he references were well recorded and…moreFantasy. Like Eric Von Daniken, Menzies creates a fantastic, impossible scenario out of thin air. The voyages he references were well recorded and they all went westward from China as far as modern Somalia, making many landfalls at places that were well known. They did not discover anything new or go anywhere that wasn't well known to themselves or to pilots they recruited along the way. They never went eastward into the Pacific ocean, nor did they round the cape of Africa. How Menzies got this published, I can't imagine. (less)

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3.59  · 
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 ·  12,145 ratings  ·  997 reviews


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Andrew
Jul 07, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: cynics.
Recommended to Andrew by: My father!! and he liked it!
There are books that break new ground with bombshell research and there are books that spellbind us with the skill of their deception. This book is the latter.
Menzies takes a tremendous dump on the sensibilities of his readers, bombarding us with outrageous claims backed up with erroneous facts and arrogant speculation. A typical "fact" presented by Menzies is introduced with "By this point I was sure..." or "I realized that Zhou must have...." or even "From my days as a navigator, I knew that
...more
Christopher
Jun 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
From time to time, this reviewer comes across a publication so crackpot that I hardly know where to start in reviewing it here. I'm happy to see that Gavin Menzies' thesis in 1421: The Year China Discovered America, that a Chinese fleet launched in 1421, embarked on a tour around the world, discovering all major points before Europeans and leaving artifacts, has already been generally debunked by numerous sources. Perhaps the most substantial is Robert Finlay's review "How Not to (Re)Write World ...more
Jason Koivu
Mar 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Sure 1421 has plenty of hearsay and conjecture, and some entertaining theories put forth by Menzies, most of which can't be backed up with factual evidence at this time. Obviously by reading the subtitle ...The Year China Discovered America you get the gist that Menzies asserts a China-first-to-the-Americas hypothesis.

China was on the forefront of invention once upon a time. Gunpowder is one example. But shifting firmly entrenched belief that old European explorers were first to the Americas ta
...more
Joe
Hoo boy, what can I say. This book is heavily mired in controversy, and here's why. First, it makes an extraordinary claim: that Chinese explorers in their 1421-23 exploration didn't just map the Indian Ocean, as generally accepted, but also visited West Africa, both coasts of South America, the Caribbean, and even left colonies in New England and Greenland. Second, since much of this hasn't been sufficiently researched, it doesn't have the goods to back a lot of it up. All it has is an extremel ...more
Ursula
Nov 26, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
You might have that certain relative in your family who is affable enough, but has some really weird ideas that he loves to go on about. For the sake of this review, let's call him "Uncle Gavin." Uncle Gavin is harmless, and charms your friends, but he has one pet topic that you try to steer him away from. Before you know it, he's started asking your friends who they think discovered the world and after a short time, the friend's nods and smiles go from sincerely interested to polite to barely h ...more
Adam
Jul 26, 2010 rated it did not like it
I have to say that I enjoyed reading this book, if only because it made me so angry at the gross inaccuracies and completely imaginary scenarios that the author made up. He claims to have information from anthropology, archaeology, geology, geography, history, etc, but what he really has exists only in his own mind. Read on, intrepid reader, and be amazed as the author sidesteps issues which threatens his ideas, or completely ignores them!

There is absolutely no traceable path for his research,
...more
Aaron
Jun 19, 2012 rated it did not like it
Do you like pseudo-history from rank amateurs that draw wild conclusions from scant evidence while discounting, in almost all situations, the simplest explanation in favor of conspiracy theory level conclusions?

Then this is for you.

Just horrid.
Jeff
Jun 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Abbie, and any history or China buffs.
Recommended to Jeff by: David, my stepfather.
Shelves: non-fiction
I am convinced. There is a raging debate over this book. The problem lies in the fact that the author is not a traditional historian--he's just a sailor who had a theory about what a few famous Chinese admirals did over a period of a couple of undocumented years. His theory is that they visited every continent on Earth except Europe, and he amasses a great deal of circumstantial evidence to support it. Not the least convincing, and what a good deal of the book focuses on, are the maps that many ...more
Michael
May 30, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: knee-jerk European Culture-haters
While this book presents itself as a revelation, it lacks citations or footnotes or much evidence for that matter to support such wild claims. I am not some jaded professor who believes in the current historical status quo, but to make such claims without good scholarly follow-through just begs for it to be debunked. Don't get me wrong, it was an entertaining read, which is why it got 2 stars and not one. But ultimately it is a futile book. The reason History is a social science is partly becaus ...more
Brian
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: A History Buff looking for an intriguing story
First off, I will start off by saying that I do NOT believe the Chinese beat the Europeans to the New World. I just think the evidence just is not compelling enough.

However that doesn't mean that they could NOT have. They certainly had the navy, the navigational skills (no worse than the Europeans), and the funding and ingenuity to accomplish it. And that is precisely what this book seeks to theorize. Of course there is not any historian that wants to make any money "theorizing" unless you are
...more
Rob
Oct 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: history
So much for all that crap they taught us in school about who discovered America! The Chinese did it first. All the European explorers were following charts that the Chinese had created in the early 1420s. Its fascinating to see how the revelation of what "really" happened developes for the author as he travels all over the world finding evidence in shipwrecks, artifacts and structures, plants and animals, languages and customs, and genetic markers in the indigenous peoples of Africa, the New Wor ...more
Jini
May 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
I suppose I should feel bad that I gave up on this book, but I don't. It seemed like an interesting concept: China sent out huge ships to bring back treasure and knowledge, and just happened to find America 70 years before Christopher Columbus. Too bad there's so much evidence pointing against this being the case. I was about two chapters in when I really started to think about the logic of this and decided to do a little research. Turns out there are very few people that agree with this book. M ...more
Daren
This is a difficult book to rate, let alone review.
This review, therefore will probably jump around a bit, contradict itself, confuse you, and end up being awkward and poorly edited.
First to a rating, as this may focus my train of thought.
If I rated on readability - 4* - it is readable, presented relatively simply, but unfortunately is prone to some repetition.
If I rated on engagement, or how much appeal the subject matter has - 4*.
If I rated on how the book deals with presenting evidence in a s
...more
K.
DNFed on page 237.

I tried so hard, you guys. I wanted to love this book. I mean, turning all of western exploration on its head? YAAAAAAAAAAAS.

But here's the thing: this book is not a non-fiction history book. This book is pure speculation based on the experiences of one man with no background in history. Like, his entire premise is "I was in the navy, therefore I can read charts and most historians can't." It literally took all of my self control not to put this book on my fantasy, alternate
...more
John
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
Ok, so this was really interesting and he had a pretty good basic thesis. In fact, I could totally buy the most important 10% of his theory. Basically, no one disputes that the Chinese had this enormous fleet that set sail in 1421 and went across the Indian Ocean to the east coast of Africa. They were sent on a mission to trade with different countries and basically tell everyone how great China was.
The part of his theory I can buy is that the Chinese didn't stop at East Africa. They sailed aro
...more
Tim Weakley
I really wanted to like this book. Sadly it became a long, non-stop series of suppositions along the lines of Chariots of the Gods. If I had to read one more mention of the Asian chickens in the New World I would have gone mad!Or another use of "the ONLY thing this could mean was that the Chinese had been there before anyone!" He has a lot to learn about inescapable conclusions and the evidence leading up to them. I gave it one star for the few things I actually found interesting, but given the ...more
Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nate Mundy
Apr 24, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Poorly researched. Highly speculative. A little condescending.

I found myself wondering throughout this book, how the hell this guy made the conclusions he did. After about 150 pages into it, I started noticing he wasn't making as many citations as he should be. A lot of his research comes from his own experience as a submarine captain, which he thinks puts him in a better position than other scholars before him.

He also makes excuses for the Chinese for basic mistakes, "the land was connected b
...more
Bunga Mawar
I bought this book December 2006 on Indonesia Book Fair. The real prize was IDR75000, but I got it for only IDR49000 (still one of expensive books I've ever bought).

The book's content amazed me. It's a kind of re-writing world history that attempted to tell us that Magellan, Colombus and other Western discoverers were only followers of a path built by Chinese sailors under the command of Zheng-He (or Cheng-Ho, his popular name in Indonesia) on Emperor Zhu-Di era.

I like Menzies' style in writing.
...more
Clif
Apr 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
What a story this is! Do you remember Erich von Daniken? He had quite a story to tell, too.

Menzies writes that the Chinese, during the reign of a single emperor at a time over five decades before the voyages of Columbus, spared no expense building treasure fleets with the centerpieces being huge flat bottomed square bowed junks 180 by 450 feet flying bright red silk sails on up to nine masts surrounded with lesser support ships that carried everything from food to horses in a quest to discover t
...more
Rebecca
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is a completely enthralling book dedicated to a really ballsy thesis--that the treasure fleets of the Ming Dynasty charted most of the world, including North and South America as well as Siberia and Antarctica, in 1421. According to Menzies, European explorers including Columbus, Magellan, and Cook were working off of already existing charts that had been essentially stolen from the Chinese when they made their own voyages of exploration.

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence presented
...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this review, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

We Westerners are of course familiar with the historical period known as the Renaissance; taking place between the 1300s and 1600s, it's the period when Europeans finally crawled out of their Dark-Age hole, rediscovered such ancient Greek concepts as science and philosophy, and started doing such thi
...more
Darrell
Feb 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
In 1421: The Year China Discovered America, Gavin Menzies presents evidence that China not only discovered North and South America before Columbus was born, but also rounded the Cape of Good Hope, explored the North and South Poles, discovered Australia, and circumnavigated the world, visiting every continent except Europe.

The reason this information isn't widely known is because China became xenophobic after these great voyages and all records of the voyages were destroyed. However, enough evid
...more
Jeff Brown
Jan 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
It is hard to explain the awfulness of this book fact-wise(the fact that there is actually a web site dedicated to to doing this should tell you something). It consists of a long list of anecdotes along the lines of "when I was in the navy, I saw a pile of moss covered rocks on the beach in South America that had a shape vaguely similar to that of a collapsed Chinese temple - further proof of Chinese contact with America!"

I like a good wild theory as much as anyone, and typically enjoy reading
...more
jerome
Dec 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
There are some books that come to our attention through curious routes and then strike us as books "we were meant to read." I suppose in some ways, this is true for many books. Perhaps it is proof of the old saying, "Chance favors the prepared mind."
When my GoogleLitTrips.com project was selected by the Asia Society to receive the Goldman Sachs Foundation Prize for Excellence in Education, I was invited to New York City to receive the prize and there, in passing, it was suggested that 1421 migh
...more
Kimba Tichenor
Dec 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: world-history
Gavin Menzies, a former submarine commander in the British navy and amateur historian, argues in this book that between 1421 and 1423 squadrons from Zheng He's fleets reached the Americas prior to the Europeans. The problem is that the author offers very little proof for this provocative theory.

As the author acknowledges in his introduction, later Ming Dynasty rulers destroyed all records documenting the sea voyages made by the Chinese during Zheng He's rule. Thus, the author bases his argument
...more
Caroline
Oct 28, 2008 rated it liked it
I finally finished this book. For some reason, when I read non-fiction, I fall asleep, no matter how interesting the subject matter. So this is a long time coming.
Basically, the book is about how towards the end of China's expansive age, they sent out a gianormous fleet of huge ships to collect tribute from all the nations of the earth in a good Buddhist way. And as a bonus, they were to chart the world and update all their scientific data (or whatever the 15th century Chinese terminology for it
...more
Bou
Mar 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: english, non-fiction
The author starts off with his assumption that the famous European explorers used European maps that were copied from old Chinese maps because they showed yet uncharted land. In 1421, a large Chinese fleet set sail and discovered the world.

Based upon the assumption that the large Chinese armada sailed with a speed about 4.8 knots, combined with the ocean's currents, the author is able to reconstruct the entire course of the Chinese armada and to pinpoint each location of the different armada's o
...more
Aaron
I've decided to shelf this one at chapter 4, page 197 and so withholding a rating in fairness. Maybe I'll return to this book when I have far more time to kill hunting down and cross referencing all the quasi-citations for the actual who, where, how, and why seemingly so often unprovided.

That said Menzies really could have saved face if he treated this subject like a Dan Brown novel. Just think of the movie that could have been made. I enjoyed the documentary, but this book has so much criticism
...more
Shira
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
Wow. The preponderance of evidence not only turns accepted European history and world history on its head, but also makes one wonder about the question the author poses as to whether or not we could be speaking Chinese now, rather than English, and have Buddhism as the dominant world religion, as well as my own personal question : did someone perhaps decide that the world was better off allowing Europe to take another three centuries to figure out what the Chinese already knew?
Given the cruelty
...more
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Former British submarine commander and amateur historian.

Menzies is most known for his book "1421: The Year China Discovered the World" which claims that the Chinese admiral Zheng He discovered America in 1421.

In his follow up book "1434" He claims that the European Renaissance was sparked by the Chinese.