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1493: How Europe's Discovery of the Americas Revolutionized Trade, Ecology and Life on Earth Hardcover – 15 Sep 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Granta (15 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847080499
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847080493
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 4.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 432,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`Almost mind-boggling in its scope, enthusiasm and erudition ... a tremendously provocative, learned and surprising read' --Sunday Times

`A wonderfully entertaining and subtly balanced book' --New Scientist

'Drawing on new research, Mann reframes the past 500 years to riveting effect' --Nature

`Charles Mann gives us the version of the Columbian outcome that our era calls for'
--Literary Review

About the Author

CHARLES MANN is the co-author of four books, including The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in 20th Century Physics and the bestselling 1491 (2005/6). He is the correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and Science magazines, and editorial co-ordinator for the internationally best-selling Material World books. He lives in Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. D. Holley TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 8 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
If you want an entirely alternative way of looking at history, read this book. You will probably learn, for the first time, many fundamentally important causes of familiar events. Causes which are not normally discussed in history lessons.

Perhaps we don't discuss these things because a potato or a malaria virus doesn't seem as exciting as the French Revolution or Abraham Lincoln. But Charles Mann can make a gripping tale out of the potato.

There are also many intriguing chapters of history that I had never come across before, and I am sure many readers will be in the same position.

The book is well very written and is constantly entertaining.

I felt it was a little too long and that some of the material (while always interesting) was a little far away from the theme. The author could perhaps have been more disciplined about what to include and what to leave out.

The final chapter struck me as a little odd too, as Mann suddenly becomes quite critical of globalisation but then seems unsure of himself. The style here does not quite fit the rest of the book. In reality globalisation (like most things - the printed page, or the internet for example) has good and bad aspects, being a reflection of the humans behind it.

Overall highly recommended, for a world view which is not available elsewhere.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brian Griffith on 19 Feb. 2014
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 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jints on 13 Jan. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Mann gets off to a blistering start in this entertainingly written popular history but unfortunately is not able to sustain the quality in the second half.

The first few chapters describe what Mann calls the "Tobacco Coast" - the Jamestown settlement and its relationship with the American Indians. Mann is at his best here, explaining the details of malaria and the mosquitos who carried it, the politics of the Indian tribes and of the English emigrants. The next few chapters are equally good - there is a wonderful explanation of the Chinese monetary system and why for the first time the Chinese needed something from Europeans - silver. Equally interesting is his narrative on the spread of American crops such as sweet potato and potato in China and Ireland and their role in ecological disaster and in famine.

Thereafter, Mann gets a bit repetitive and moves away from the central thesis of the book. His chapter "Black Gold" on the spread of rubber trees to Indo-China, while interesting in its own right means a repetition of the points already made in relation to the potato. Respite is at hand with a good, balanced chapter on the causes and effects of the slave trade. But as the author runs out of things to say we lose the synthesis and analysis of theories on the Columbian exchanges and get bogged down in travelogue and unconnected, rather repetitive stories of (e.g.) maroon communities.

Throughout, Mann is balanced in explaining different points of view on globalisation - both its benefits and its costs. He writes more in the style of a journalist than a historian. Whether you find this attractive or not is a matter of taste. On the whole, I liked it but thought there was an avoidable tendency towards hyperbole on occasions.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 Nov. 2011
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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