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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Charles C. Mann
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 9 2011
From the author of 1491—the best-selling study of the pre-Columbian Americas—a deeply engaging new history of the most momentous biological event since the death of the dinosaurs.

More than 200 million years ago, geological forces split apart the continents. Isolated from each other, the two halves of the world developed radically different suites of plants and animals. When Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas, he ended that separation at a stroke. Driven by the economic goal of establishing trade with China, he accidentally set off an ecological convulsion as European vessels carried thousands of species to new homes across the oceans.

The Columbian Exchange, as researchers call it, is the reason there are tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolates in Switzerland, and chili peppers in Thailand. More important, creatures the colonists knew nothing about hitched along for the ride. Earthworms, mosquitoes, and cockroaches; honeybees, dandelions, and African grasses; bacteria, fungi, and viruses; rats of every description—all of them rushed like eager tourists into lands that had never seen their like before, changing lives and landscapes across the planet.

Eight decades after Columbus, a Spaniard named Legazpi succeeded where Columbus had failed. He sailed west to establish continual trade with China, then the richest, most powerful country in the world. In Manila, a city Legazpi founded, silver from the Americas, mined by African and Indian slaves, was sold to Asians in return for silk for Europeans. It was the first time that goods and people from every corner of the globe were connected in a single worldwide exchange. Much as Columbus created a new world biologically, Legazpi and the Spanish empire he served created a new world economically.

As Charles C. Mann shows, the Columbian Exchange underlies much of subsequent human history. Presenting the latest research by ecologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians, Mann shows how the creation of this worldwide network of ecological and economic exchange fostered the rise of Europe, devastated imperial China, convulsed Africa, and for two centuries made Mexico City—where Asia, Europe, and the new frontier of the Americas dynamically interacted—the center of the world. In such encounters, he uncovers the germ of today’s fiercest political disputes, from immigration to trade policy to culture wars.

In 1493, Charles Mann gives us an eye-opening scientific interpretation of our past, unequaled in its authority and fascination.

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created + 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
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Review

A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2011
 
“Revelatory.”
            -Lev Grossman, Time Magazine Best Books of 2011
 
“Compelling and eye-opening.”
            - Publishers Weekly Top 100 Books of 2011
 
“Voltaire would have loved Charles C. Mann’s outstanding new book, 1493. In more than 500 lively pages, it not only explains the chain of events that produced those candied fruits, nuts and gardens, but also weaves their stories together into a convincing explanation of why our world is the way it is . . . Mann has managed the difficult trick of telling a complicated story in engaging and clear prose while refusing to reduce its ambiguities to slogans. He is not a professional historian, but most professionals could learn a lot from the deft way he does this . . . Most impressive of all, he manages to turn plants, germs, insects and excrement into the lead actors in his drama while still parading before us an unforgettable cast of human characters. He makes even the most unpromising-sounding subjects fascinating. I, for one, will never look at a piece of rubber in quite the same way now . . . The Columbian Exchange has shaped everything about the modern world. It brought us the plants we tend in our gardens and the pests that eat them. And as it accelerates in the 21st century, it may take both away again. If you want to understand why, read 1493.”
            -Ian Morris, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Mann’s book is jammed with facts and factoids, trivia and moments of great insight that take on power as they accumulate . . . Fascinating and complex, exemplary in its union of meaningful fact with good storytelling, 1493 ranges across continents and centuries to explain how the world we inhabit came to be.”
            -Gregory McNamee, The Washington Post
 
“For fans of long-form nonfiction, 1493 presents multitudinous delights in the form of absorbing stories and fascinating factoids . . . As a writer, Mann displays many fine qualities: evenhandedness, a sense of wonder, the gift of turning a phrase . . . Mann loves the world and adopts it as his own.”
            -Jared Farmer, Science
 
“Even the wisest readers will find many surprises here . . . Like 1491, Mann’s sequel will change worldviews.”
            -Bruce Watson, San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Engaging . . . Mann deftly illuminates contradictions on a human scale: the blind violence and terror at Jamestown, the cruel exploitation of labor in the silver mines of Bolivia, the awe felt by Europeans upon first seeing a rubber ball bounce.”
            -The New Yorker
 
“A muscular, densely documented follow-up [to Mann’s 1491] . . . 1493 moves at a gallop . . . As a historian Mann should be admired not just for his broad scope and restless intelligence but for his biological senstivity. At every point of his tale he keeps foremost in his mind the effect of humans’ activities on the broader environment they inhabit.”
            -Alfred W. Crosby, The Wall Street Journal
 
“In the wake of his groundbreaking book 1491 Charles Mann has once again produced a brilliant and riveting work that will forever change the way we see the world. Mann shows how the ecological collision of Europe and the Americas transformed virtually every aspect of human history. Beautifully written, and packed with startling research, 1493 is a monumental achievement."
            -David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
 
“Mann is trying to do much more than punch holes in conventional wisdom; he’s trying to piece together an elaborate, alternative history that describes profound changes in the world since the original voyage of Columbus. What's most surprising is that he manages to do this in such an engaging way. He writes with an incredibly dry wit.”
            -Charles Ealy, Austin American-Statesman
 
“The chief strength of Mann’s richly associative books lies in their ability to reveal new patterns among seemingly disparate pieces of accepted knowledge. They’re stuffed with forehead-slapping ‘aha’ moments . . . If Mann were to work his way methodically through the odd-numbered years of history, he could be expected to publish a book about the global impact of the Great Recession sometime in the middle of the next millennium. If it’s as good as 1493, it would be worth the wait.”
            -Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“Almost mind-boggling in its scope, enthusiasm and erudition . . . Almost every page of 1493 contains some extraordinarily provocative argument or arrestingly bizarre detail . . . Ranging freely across time and space, Mann’s book is full of compelling stories . . . A tremendously provocative, learned and surprising read.”
            -Dominic Sandbrook, The Times of London
 
“A book to celebrate . . . A bracingly persuasive counternarrative to the prevailing mythology about the historical significance of the ‘discovery’ of America . . . 1493 is rich in detail, analytically expansive and impossible to summarize . . . [Mann’s book] deserves a prominent place among that very rare class of books that can make a difference in how we see the world, although it is neither a polemic nor a work of advocacy. Thoughtful, learned and respectful of its subject matter, 1493 is a splendid achievement.”
            -John Strawn, The Oregonian
 
“Despite his scope, Mann remains grounded in fascinating details: why tobacco exhausted the soil; how fevers and blights attacked their victims; what made rubber stretchy; how maize cultivation in the highlands could ruin rice paddies in the lowlands. Such technical insights enhance a very human story, told in lively and accessible prose.”
            -Alex Nalbach, Cleveland Plain-Dealer
 
“Spirited . . . One thing is indisputable: Mann is definitely global in his outlook and tribal in his thinking . . . Mann’s taxonomy of the ecological, political, religious, economic, anthropological and mystical melds together in an intriguing whole cloth.”
            -Jonathan E. Lazarus, The [Newark] Star-Ledger
 
“Mann’s excitement never flags as he tells his breathtaking story . . . There is grandeur in this view of the past that looks afresh at the different parts of the world and the parts each played in shaping it.”
            -Marek Kohn, Financial Times
 
“Fascinating . . . Convincing . . . A spellbinding account of how an unplanned collision of unfamiliar animals, vegetables, minerals and diseases produced unforeseen wealth, misery, social upheaval and the modern world.”
            -Starred review, Kirkus
 
“A landmark book . . . Entrancingly provocative, 1493 bristles with illuminations, insights and surprises.”
            -John McFarland, Shelf Awareness
 
“A fascinating survey . . . A lucid historical panorama that’s studded with entertaining studies of Chinese pirate fleets, courtly tobacco rituals, and the bloody feud between Jamestown colonists and the Indians who fed and fought them, to name a few. Brilliantly assembling colorful details into big-picture insights, Mann’s fresh challenge to Eurocentric histories puts interdependence at the origin of modernity.”
            -Starred review, Publishers Weekly
 
“In 1491 Charles Mann brilliantly described the Americas on the eve of Columbus’s voyage. Now in 1493 he tells how the world was changed forever by the movement of foods, metals, plants, people and diseases between the ‘New World’ and both Europe and China. His book is readable and well-written, based on his usual broad research, travels and interviews. A fascinating and important topic, admirably told.”
            -John Hemming, author of Tree of Rivers
 
“Fascinating . . . Engaging and well-written . . . Information and insight abound on every page. This dazzling display of erudition, theory and insight will help readers to view history in a fresh way.”   
            -Roger Bishop, BookPage
 
“Charles Mann expertly shows how the complex, interconnected ecological and economic consequences of the European discovery of the Americas shaped many unexpected aspects of the modern worl...

About the Author

Charles C. Mann, a correspondent for The Atlantic, Science, and Wired, has written for Fortune, The New York Times, Smithsonian, Technology Review, Vanity Fair, and The Washington Post, as well as for the TV network HBO and the series Law & Order. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he is the recipient of writing awards from the American Bar Association, the American Institute of Physics, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Lannan Foundation. His 1491 won the National Academies Communication Award for the best book of the year. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've never learned so much from a book Oct. 18 2011
By Schmadrian TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Sometimes a book reveals things you didn't know. Sometimes a book goes further, and opens up new territory.

'1493' falls into the latter category for me.

And when combined with Mann's earlier effort, '1491', what results potent: enlightenment-on-steroids.

I think just the premise alone, that 'globalization' isn't anything new, that it's been at play much, much longer than the average person might guess (although they wouldn't guess at all), and the proof of this truth is sufficient to make this book required reading.

But more important than what I learned from '1493' is what I'm coming to understand about the world.

My gratitude to Mr. Mann for having delivered such a prodigiously informative and inspiring tome.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully inquisitive and adventurous Feb. 19 2014
By Brian Griffith TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
It's hard to praise this book too much. The writing is just as good as anything by Jared Diamond or Alfred Crosby. And rather than presenting his research like a lecture, Mann follows questions wherever they lead like a detective. And the trail leads everywhere -- the pirate coast of China, the trader bays of the Philippines, the rubber plantations of the upper Amazon, the mines of Peru. or the ruins of Christopher Columbus's house on the coast of Dominica. Why, Mann asks, did certain planters go toward a slave economy, and how was that shaped by the spread of malaria from the Old World? Mann follows the path of invasive species and crops as they spread through the world, causing booms or busts of economies and human populations. It's the story of the Homogenocene, the planet's new age of biological interpenetration of every environment, which for better or worse is our evolving reality since "contact" between the hemispheres.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Who Knew Aug. 3 2012
Format:Paperback
that Samurai warriors guarded the silver laden mule trains in Mexico? Or that the Chinese emperor went bust because taxation was based on the weight and not the value of silver?

Charles Mann has included so much in this book that is both fascinating and informative. The means and methods of globalization back during the time when Spain was a major player is relevent to the goings on today in regards to the Chinese influence on trade, prices and products. The customers are different, the products are different but the mindset has not changed. Possibly this is one of the points of insight Mr. Mann has provided by writing this book.
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By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one." -- 1 John 5:19 (NKJV)

Don't miss this book! It's a tour de force!

In 1493, author Charles C. Mann accomplishes that most difficult of all nonfiction tasks: changing our perception of the world as it is . . . and how it got to be that way. Bravo!

To make the points easier to appreciate, he focuses on a few economic, biological, and physical aspects of how Columbus's voyages fundamentally changed the world. You'll learn about trading silver for silks in the Philippines, the influence of malaria and yellow fever on slavery, how crops and agricultural practices create other problems and opportunities, a sovereign debt crisis in Spain, hidden "kingdoms" of escaped slaves, miracle crops you think of as being part of "home" that you didn't realize came from another continent, and many stupid things that greedy people and governments do. You'll come away with a sense of wonder about how small things can become huge influences.

The book, no doubt, will also encourage you to want to read more about the topics raised in it. In some cases, you'll want to visit places you've never thought about before. The excellent footnotes will make either activity easy to pursue.

In my case, I realized what a close thing it was that I'm alive today. If my Scottish indentured servant ancestors had been sent to North Carolina rather than Delaware, you probably wouldn't be reading this review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Globalization started a very long time ago. Oct. 2 2011
By Len TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Columbus came to the Americas in 1492 and began an exchange of animals, plants, culture, and human populations that would change the world's ecology forever. Mann describes time when he went to the local greenhouse to purchase plants for his garden and complained that they were not locally grown. What did he mean by that? Plants indigenous to his New England home? What would those be? Tomatoes? Think again. Those come from South America. Potatoes? Same region. And corn as well. The regions of the world have become so interconnected biologically, economically and culturally that it becomes difficult to know the origin of anything. When Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Andres de Urdaneta started the trade of silver in the Philippines, a system of trade was begun that would forever change the way China did its business. In point of fact, the people of China would become so dependent on silver as medium of exchange that they would accept no other. And Mr. Mann provides the same evidence for mankind. In Panama, the races became so mixed that unique identities are created by hybrid groups who have little or no connection with their origins in Africa or Spain or South America which brings us back the thesis of this entire book. Humankind, the vegetation and animal species he has spread have become so intertwined that the origin of each has lost much of its meaning.
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