1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus 1491 discussion

1491: Paradigm Shift

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Carol If anyone out there on Goodreads is reading 1491 right now, I"d love to discuss. I'm about 1/3 through. Sometimes the writing gets bogged down, but not often. The content is fascinating. I'm just getting to the part about Maize...so many varieties! I grew up in Maryland, and on our way to Ocean City for vacation, we would always stop and buy the sweet Silver Corn which they grow there...sweet and soft and easy to eat. Spoiled me for what passes as corn in the supermarket.

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I read it some years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It seemed well researched. I would particularly like a follow-up on DNA research into some of the South American native people. I was fascinated by the way they managed the rain forests.

David Groulx I also found Jack Weatherford's Indian Givers very informative as well as Vine Deloria's Red Earth White Lies, both well researched-well written. If anyone would like to delve deeper into thhe subject.

message 4: by David (last edited May 15, 2011 08:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David I enjoyed this book. The most fascinating and yet disappointing thing I learned was how well developed the Mississippian Indian culture was prior to being obliterated by disease from European explorers. There were millions of people living in North America alone who in less than 50 years were gone. Imagine the lost culture, knowledge. Not to mention the civilizations in Brazil and other parts of Mesoamerica -- just wiped off the globe all thanks to animal and human-borne disease.

Great book!

message 5: by Ireney (last edited Aug 19, 2011 08:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ireney Berezniak I had picked up this title in early 2007 and thoroughly enjoyed it. As someone interested in pre and early post-Columbian North American history, I could not pass up on a title that promised to deliver new revelations. Certain revelations were undoubtedly striking, though not entirely original; Mann's work is essentially a compendium of various studies succinctly organized for layman's consumption.

Whenever I read titles similar to this, I feel a bit of sorrow for the loss of the cultures and their artifacts which had been obliterated by European colonization. David, who posted before me, mentions diseases, but also direct human intervention is at fault. A significant amount of history has been lost due to deliberate destruction by humans. For instance, could we have deciphered Quipu, a record keeping system that has been used for over 4500 years, and adopted by the Inca, had the Spanish not burned nearly every example of it? Most likely. What could those records tell us today about that culture, and cultures preceding it?

I just ordered Mann's latest title, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, which I am itching to delve into. However, I am considering revisiting 1491 first ... part of the reason why I stumbled upon this particular discussion.


Naftoli I, too, am itching to read 1493. I read the maize section from Michael Pollan's THE OMNIVORES DILEMMA so the maize portion in Mann's book struck me as pedestrian and I wanted to know more but for readers of Pollan, his plant information was not new. I enjoyed his review of archaelogy and the new DNA information. I especially liked his discusssion about blood types and limited resistance to disease (since natural selection is very fascinating to me.) The book was definitely very ambitious but he was quite successful in covering all the issues. :-) I also, like Vine Deloria's book (since a commentator above mentioned him.) Something new and astonding: I did not know anything about the grand civilizations that existed in NE Bolivia until this book. In summing it up, some of this book was review and updated information and some of it was completely new to me. I WILL DEFINITELY READ 1493 !

Arrie Arredondo I can't wait!

Tadd The author used empirical sciences to look at the pre-European contact American cultures. Quite refreshing from the either/or theories of the environmentalist dreamers and european apologists.

Mike I recently read 1491 & I'm about 1/3 through 1493. This is much more engaging & thought provoking material than what I was being taught back in high school & college. It inspires greater respect for pre-Columbian native cultures, as well as sadness for such a great loss. If you enjoy history, or want it to be more interesting, you'll enjoy these books.

Naftoli Mike, I agree with you! I thoroughly enjoyed 1491 and will reread it again some day. I have not read 1493 yet but imagine that it's great too. Please let us know what you think of 1493 as you read it.

message 11: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike So far there's a lot of stuff I never knew about regarding trade during the early colonial period between Spain & China. There were important trade routes between Manila & Acapulco. Mexico City was a major cosmopolitan city then along the trade route from Spain on the Atlantic & China on the Pacific. Silver from Potosi in Bolivia was much sought after by both countries, and played a major role in the financial ruin of both the Spanish & Chinese governments. They both choked on an overabundance of silver.

Naftoli That's interesting! Sounds like it's choke full of uncommon information. My kind of book!

Amanda Watson I just finished and can't wait to read 1493. I especially enjoyed the section about the Amazon and the idea that most of it is not in fact virgin forest. How fascinating to think that these people who we were taught for decades to think of as no more than savages had enough forethought to basically turn the forest into an orchard.

James Carol wrote: "If anyone out there on Goodreads is reading 1491 right now, I"d love to discuss. I'm about 1/3 through. Sometimes the writing gets bogged down, but not often. The content is fascinating. I'm just g..."
I think the most important points are the most politically incorrect. White man did not maliciously destroy the natives and their culture; smallpox did the heavy lifting.

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