Aaron's Reviews > 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance

1434 by Gavin Menzies
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Jan 04, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: history
Read from January 04 to 11, 2011

I picked this up as a bargain bin find, and I still got ripped off. There SEEMS to be enough evidence (although, I am leary of saying the evidence he gathers is all that great) to suggest Chinese contact with Europe for many centuries; however, the author's specific "story" of a fleet that provided all of the fuel for the blossoming of the Renaissance seems far-fetched. The evidence is not examined at great lengths, and a lot of his research depends on the British Library System; the author does not examine Chinese sources except through third-hand accounts that come in through his website. This is another problem; the author will state how he has found such-and-such evidence, but then he will tell the reader to refer to his website in order to view it. In most history books that I've read, I'm giving all the research up-front to determine whether or not I believe the hypothesis; I don't think forums and discussion boards provide a sufficient source for academic research just yet.

Other problems with the book include frequent/unnecessary digressions (3 or more chapters on nagivation by the stars which all lead to the conclusion that a Chinese fleet must have navigated this way, passed it on to Europeans, who in turn must have found America this way), frequent references to his own travels with his wife to see museums or libraries where his evidence has just been lying about to be discovered, a too-casual tone, and frequent disbelief that no one else has ever made such a momentous discovery.

I struggled through this book, and I would not recommend it to anyone.
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