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1492: The Year Our World Began Paperback – 7 Feb 2011


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1492: The Year Our World Began + 1493: How Europe's Discovery of the Americas Revolutionized Trade, Ecology and Life on Earth + 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (Vintage)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (7 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408809508
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408809501
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Filled with marvels and sensations rich in description and replete with anecdote ... A compendium of delights' (Peter Ackroyd, The Times)

'Fernández-Armesto's chapters on the western Mediterranean are models of how to write popular history: accessible, provocative and full of telling detail' **** (Mail on Sunday)

'Fernández-Armesto's rich vision of the 1490s is unlike any other world historians have given us. He has performed an amazing feat of portraying the world as one place before it had yet become one place ... This is popular history at its best: grounded in research, insightfully critical, and written with grace' (Literary Review)

'Engrossing' (Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

A vivid new book from an established and bestselling historian

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Tracy on 17 Sept. 2010
Format: Hardcover
The year 1492 is best known for Columbus' discovery of America (though he thought he had got to China); also for the conquest of Granada by the "Catholic Monarchs", which put an end to the Moorish civilisation in Spain (which had been rather tolerant), replacing it with a very intolerant one (NB the Inquisition and the eviction of the Jews). Even if you think you already know about these events, Fernandez-Armesto is well worth reading.
His discussion of the earlier Spanish colonisation of the Canary Islands, though it comes in a separate chapter, provides an interesting preamble to the subsequent overthrow of the Inca and Aztec civilisations.
At least equally important, and much less well-known, were events in the Far East and around the Indian Ocean, which the book discusses at some length. Around this time, China withdrew from imperial ambitions, while Japan "crumbled into ineffectiveness", leaving that very important area open to subsequent European trading and colonisation.
There is also a chapter about events in Africa in and around 1492, which shaped the religious map of the continent, Islam dominating across the Sahara, in the Sahel and along the Indian Ocean coast, with Christianity preponderant elsewhere.
The author's breadth of knowledge is impressive - he has a Spanish father, an English mother and lives in the USA, which may contribute to this. Though I found myself skipping some parts - such as the dynastic vagaries of Imperial China - I found his book both readable and instructive.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Chola Mukanga on 24 Dec. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was gripped by 1492: The Year Our World Began , by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. This is the second book I have read by the renowed historian - the last was the incredible Civilisations.

1492 argues that the process of forging the new modern world begun in 1492! Fernandez-Armesto traces key elements of the modern world back to events of that year. He takes the reader on a journey around the globe, drawing the together the threads that began to bind the planet. The tour begins in Granada, where the last Islamic kingdom in Europe collapsed, then moves to Timbuku, where a new Muslim empire triumphed. With Portuguese explorers, we visit the court of the first Christian king in the Congo. He then traces the frozen frontiers of the dynamic, bloody Russia of Ivan the Great, and explores the mystical poets in Asia. The book is perhaps not on the level of "Civilisations", but it is well worth the read. It will appeal mostly to those who love world, maritime or explorations history. At 346 pages, you will want to allow plenty of reading time.

Memorable Quote : "History has no course. It thrashes and staggers, swivels and twists, but never ends one way for long". [pg 311]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an engrossing history, which takes a quite unusual path in following the events around the world at approximately the same time - of course 1492. As Fernandez- Armesto makes clear this was a time of significant events which helped to form the world we have become. The conquest of Granada by Spain, which essentially brought an end to Islam as a ruling power in Europe, the sailing of Columbus on his first voyage which led to European involvement in the Americas, the expulsion of Jewish people from Spain which led to increased conversions to Christianity, and the benefits those conversions brought to Christian commerce and learning, and the effects of the withdrawal of China from exploration and foreign influence which left the door open for others to exploit are all explained here along with events in Africa, the Canary islands, and in the rapidly forming and expanding Russia under Ivan the Great.

This is a wide sweep of history which helps set events in the context what was happening across the world. At times it can be a little heavy going as it can build on history which may be little known by the general reader ( well at least by me) , but it is an enjoyable and very informative read.

Recommended
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By DB on 19 Nov. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It’s good to see a professional historian tackling something I had been thinking about for a while (in 2007 I reviewed the final volume of the Cambridge Medieval History under the title “1492: the End of the World”). And I came to the same conclusion as Fernandez-Armesto (who contributed a chapter to the Cambridge volume): yes, the events in Europe towards the end of the fifteenth century genuinely do represent a switching point in world history. In Europe the changes were swift and dramatic: politically, culturally, economically and technologically Europe in 1600 was a different world from Europe in 1400. Catastrophic repercussions for the Aztecs, the Inca, North American Indians and West Africans followed in short order. However it is reasonable to argue that the world didn’t change for the Muslim world, India and China until the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution. And yet even here it is clear to me that the Industrial Revolution was a natural consequence of changes set in motion three centuries earlier.

A lot of the material was reasonably familiar to me, but there were a few areas that I knew nothing about and which I found particularly interesting. Firstly that the earliest European trading with West Africa was exchanging salt for gold. Secondly was the fact that the Spanish had met with considerable resistance from the natives in conquering the Canaries, but that the lessons learned helped them against the Aztecs and Inca, plus the islands were a particularly good setting off point for the Caribbean thanks to the prevailing winds at that latitude. And finally that the Indian Ocean is much more convenient for long ocean journeys than the Atlantic thanks to the prevailing winds changing direction between the monsoon season and the rest of the year.
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