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1434: The Year a Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance Paperback – 30 Apr 2009


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1434: The Year a Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance + 1421 : The Year China Discovered the World + The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History's Greatest Mystery Revealed
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (30 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007269552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007269556
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 163,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Menzies has come up with something entirely new…it is a startling claim.’ Guardian

Synopsis

In his bestselling book 1421:The Year China Discovered the World, Gavin Menzies revealed that it was the Chinese that discovered America, not Columbus. Now he presents further astonishing evidence that it was also Chinese advances in science, art, and technology that formed the basis of the European Renaissance and our modern world. In his bestselling book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, Gavin Menzies presented controversial and compelling evidence that Chinese fleets beat Columbus, Cook and Magellan to the New World. But his research has led him to astonishing new discoveries that Chinese influence on Western culture didn't stop there. Until now, scholars have considered that the Italian Renaissance - the basis of our modern Western world - came about as a result of a re-examining the ideas of classical Greece and Rome. A stunning reappraisal of history is about to be published. Gavin Menzies makes the startling argument that a sophisticated Chinese delegation visited Italy in 1434, sparked the Renaissance, and forever changed the course of Western civilization.After that date the authority of Aristotle and Ptolemy was overturned and artistic conventions challenged, as was Arabic astronomy and cartography.

Florence and Venice of the 15th century attracted traders from across the world. Menzies presents astonishing evidence that a large Chinese fleet, official ambassadors of the Emperor, arrived in Tuscany in 1434 where they met with Pope Eugenius IV in Florence. A mass of information was given by the Chinese delegation to the Pope and his entourage - concerning world maps (which Menzies argues were later given to Columbus), astronomy, mathematics, art, printing, architecture, steel manufacture, civil engineering, military machines, surveying, cartography, genetics, and more. It was this gift of knowledge that sparked the inventiveness of the Renaissance - Da Vinci's inventions, the Copernican revolution, Galileo, etc. Following 1434, Europeans embraced Chinese intellectual ideas, discoveries, and inventions, which formed the basis of European civilization just as much as Greek thought and Roman law. In short, China provided the spark that set the Renaissance ablaze.


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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Cooper on 28 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
There has been a vogue in recent years for books devoted to the events of one year - for example, 1066 and 1415; and some of these are very good. This book is not one of those: it is not a detailed account of events, but an overly long exposition of an ingenious but far-fetched theory - that the Chinese landed in Tuscany in 1434 and thereby ignited the Renaissance.

You might think that, if the Chinese had landed in Italy, we would have heard about it at the time. It is not as if Italy lacked chroniclers to record the event: every city had at least one; but the lack of evidence has never troubled Mr Menzies, either in this book or in his first (about the Chinese circumnavigation of the globe in 1421). He is content to rely on supposition about what he thinks is probable.

None of this evidence stands up to scrutiny for a moment; but it satisfies Menzies, who rather takes pride in the fact that he is not a historian, but a sailor, and can therefore see things that mere landlubbers cannot; but one has to ask how much experience as a submariner is worth when it comes to understanding 500-foot fifteenth century Chinese junks, or for that matter the laws of probability and the historical record.

There is also the small matter of Ockham's razor, which needs to be applied here. There is already a perfectly simple and transparent reason for the Renaissance in Italy: the existence of a large number of competing courts, wealthy patrons and brilliant artists of all kinds, in a country where people still had the physical legacy of Ancient Rome all around them. And by the way, it had been well under way, perhaps for a century, and certainly long before 1434.

This book is another demonstration of the fact that, in the modern world, it is not necessary for a book to have any merit, for it to become a bestseller.

Stephen Cooper
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Giorgio on 9 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
Whereas we all appreciated the effort put into 1421 and the analysis of some primary documents, in this second book the author is really scraping the bottom of a biased collection of theories, ignoring the basic duty to check facts.
We can expect in the future new revelations about how the Chinese reached Peru, taught the Egyptians, inspired Plato etc etc
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Seeker on 26 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
An enjoyable and thought-proviking read like 1421 but there is a big BUT. I really do not think that Gavin Menzies has proven his theory - if one can call it that. Essentially his technique is to write a "history" on the basis that it is true without giving any proof - that is not even a hypothesis. For example he writes that the Chinese were being readily accepted in Venice because the locals were used to their visits (even though he asserts they first visited in 1434). What he chooses to ignore that there is absolutely no evidence of Chinese visits to Venice. Moreover, it is wrong to infer that outwith a visit from the Chinese fleets of Zheng He (if he did indeed come) that there would have been no knowledge of China in the West - there were documented trade contacts of which Marco Polo is but the best known. Also it should be remembered that a Mongol,quasi-Chinese culture existed relatively near to Venice in the Khanate of the Golden Horde which reached the shores of the Black Sea.
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By Philip on 26 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
My advice before reading this book would be to look at Robert Temple's 'The Genius of China', just to get a first idea of what the Chinese did invent and when. Then perhaps have a look at 'Gods from the Far East' by Henriette Mertz, which does a fair job of relating the Chinese Classic of Mountains and Seas to actual N.American geography. Then read 'When China Ruled the Seas' by Levathes. These will all give a more solid grounding in the information that Gavin Menzies tries to convey in his 1421 and 1434. I found these three books more readable than Menzies. If an inclination to imaginative speculation then leads further then go into either 1421 or 1434 with some background information about Chinese historical realities. This will make reading and understanding Menzies information easier and the effort to give due consideration to his ideas more productive.

I agree with another reviewer who says that Menzies tends to blur the distinction between historicval fact and historical speculation. This makes his books difficult to read without previous background information. Once the distinction is blurred, the tendancy can be either to believe/accept everything he says as simply wonderful, or to step back and say 'hold on a moment, where did he get that from...?'

My impression of Mr Menzies is that he is a good novellist, travellogue writer and raconteur who would be wonderful to invite to dinner. He does seem to be weak in marshalling and presenting evidence. So he tends to obfuscate, bluff and speculate to covr this deficiency. I think some of his information is very intriguing, but it could do with a more experienced and seasoned researcher with an eye for detail together with the ability to present evidence clearly, logically and succinctly without going on tangents.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 31 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is interesting and should provoke much discussion but it isn't as mind blowing as 1421. It may be that the renaissance was, in part, inspired by a visit from China, but I felt that Mr Menzies was trying to denigrate the inspiration that the ancient Greeks and Romans and Medieval Spanish Islam also gave.
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