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TOP 500 REVIEWERon October 2, 2011
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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on October 18, 2011
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 19, 2014
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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on February 16, 2015
A marvellous book, that describes the consequences of what has come to be known as the "Columbian Exchange", following Columbus' landing in The Bahamas and Cuba in 1492, and the resulting massive migration of people, trade goods, agricultural plants and animals, diseases and other organisms, primarily between the Americas, Europe, China and Africa, that had far-reaching consequences throughout the world (for example, Europe doubled its agricultural caloric output using the potato, which led to a population surge, and the introduction of potatoes into mountainous regions led to deforestation in China), large parts of South America became largely African, massive numbers of Europeans died in the Americas through the introduction of yellow fever and malaria from England and Africa, much of the Spanish silver at the Bolivian Potos mine flowed to the Chinese province of Fujian etc. The changes were and are so profound that some label the current ere the Anthropocene, or, like Mann, the Homogenocene.
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"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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 13, 2015
I found this book fascinating. I had no idea North America didn’t have earthworms before Columbus, and that soil was brought over as ballast for ships that would return full of tobacco, nor that much of the silver mined in the New World was actually sold to China, who had collapsed their currency repeatedly for several hundred years (they were the first to introduce paper currency, due to a lack of available metals), and so were desperate for a precious metal they could use to stabilize it.

Mann’s thesis is that Columbus’ journey marked the beginning of true globalization, not because it marked the developed world discovering the new world (which isn’t really true anyway), but because it led to a worldwide mixing of ecologies and economies. Columbus himself may have been wrong about almost everything, but his voyage still had dramatic consequences, good and bad. The whole book is excellent, containing fascinating stories such as the evolution of potatoes from a poisonous plant that could only be safely consumed when eaten with clay (which bound the poison molecules to itself and could be excreted), to a worldwide phenomenon that allowed dramatic increases in population density across Europe and China and a (temporary?) escape from the Malthusian Trap. You can still buy the poisonous varieties in South America, complete with clay dust, by the way.

Ecological globalization wasn’t the only thing that happened around 1493, of course, and Mann is good about highlighting the complexity and agency of the peoples on both sides of the Atlantic before Columbus, something that is often neglected by European historians. In some ways he seems guided more by curiosity than anything else, omitting some things to focus on others he finds more interesting. Still, the ecological changes that resulted from the increased mixing have been dramatic, in ways we don’t notice because we don’t realize they could have been different. North American forests are very different with the presence of earthworms, because they decompose underbrush; today they are destroying terraces in Southeast Asia by making them spongy.

Highly recommended. Not perfect, and with such a wide scope details can sometimes suffer, but well worth the effort.
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on August 3, 2012
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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on October 12, 2014
This book, titled to appear as a kind of sequel to Mann's amazing 1491 is instead not quite the same kind of volume. The text is still easy to read and well presented, but the narrative jumps around a great deal more and doesn't provide as clear a picture as it probably could have. Make no mistake, it's an excellent attempt at an enormous topic, but I found myself getting questions raised and not adequately explored. Still very worthwhile and I recommend it.
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on October 21, 2015
Begins with an essay about all the different types of tomatoes. From there it expounds on all the impact that the arrival Europeans had on North America. From the animals to the seeds they brought in their hooves. Even caused the disappearance of a race of people. Ailments. Insightful.
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on September 12, 2014
A fascinating review of the impact of the European settlements in the Americas. It emphasizes the necessity to take a wider view of history,through the eyes of scientists, physical and social as well as historians. The mindset of an given observer often biases their conclusions.
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