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Mr. J. Walmsley "The Finch" (Liverpool)

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1421: The Year China Discovered the World
1421: The Year China Discovered the World
by Gavin Menzies
Edition: Hardcover

26 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book That May Cause Us To Rewrite History, 2 Jan. 2003
If you have grown up believing that it was the European navigators who first "discovered the world" with their great sea voyages then this book may require you to alter that view. The suggestion here is that Columbus, Magellan and Cook to name but a few were following in the wake of others and had not sailed into the unknown.
The basis for Gavin Menzies theory and therefore this book, that Chinese treasure fleets which set sail in 1421 were the first great maritime explorers came from a map made in 1424. Despite this being years before Christopher Columbus had set sail for the New World, two islands apparently Caribbean in origin are shown. To the author this was evidence that someone else must have sailed these waters earlier on and so began his quest to discover just who it was. Subsequent maps drawn up before Europeans had visited some of the places shown provided further proof of this claim. In the early 1400's the only other civilization he believed could have been capable of having undertook such expeditions was the Chinese, and what expeditions they apparently were.
He tells the story of the fleets visiting Western Africa, the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North and South America, Australia and even Antarctica. Using his vast experience as an officer in the Royal Navy and his knowledge of navigation in the oceans he claims that after rounding the Cape of Good Hope in Southern Africa, the prevailing winds and currents would have pushed the massive Chinese ships on these magnificent journeys. Upon their return to China, records of what the treasure fleets, which left in 1421 achieved were destroyed as the country turned in on itself, so it has not been an easy task to try and trace their routes.
Other than the maps the evidence provided for the Chinese exploration of various regions differs in its strength. It ranges from the discovery of what appear to be Chinese shipwrecks and artefacts dating to the 1400's in places such as North America and Australia, to the presence of Asian chickens in South America, a fact that was noted by early European explorers to the continent and which could only have occurred via them being transported by man. Menzies has certainly done his best to provide as much evidence as he could find and while there is no real "smoking gun" in my opinion, taken together it seems to provide a strong case.
The book obviously makes many assumptions and for it to be made into an interesting story of a voyage much artistic licence is required. However if you accept this fact then you will find an interesting and well written book which will no doubt remain a talking point for many years to come. I remain to be 100% convinced that the Chinese achieved all that is claimed, but I am certainly more open minded about the possibility. My respect for and knowledge of Chinese navigators has certainly increased as has my desire to learn more about Chinese history. Well done to Gavin Menzies for following up his hunch with such determination. History has often had to be re-written and he may cause it to be done so again.

Science: A History 1543-2001
Science: A History 1543-2001
by John R. Gribbin
Edition: Hardcover

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Place To Start Discovering Science, 26 Nov. 2002
Despite considering myself to be rather well informed on science, upon reading this book I realised that I knew very little about even the most basic things such as why the sky is blue or just who made what discovery and when. This is a great place to start if you want to start answering those questions. The story of how science, a term only really relevant to 1500's onwards when people really did begin to study and experiment rather than just suggesting and hypothesising, has developed.

In the early chapters we are given a generous summary of the lives and scientific work of such historical figures as Copernicus and Galileo. However as the book enters the 19th and 20th centuries and the pace of scientific discovery speeds up it becomes a little too crowded to be so detailed, a fact that the author himself acknowledges. As such some scientists have only their work discussed and sometimes only briefly, with no background on their lives being provided. This is a slight frustration but is understandable and the book does not claim to provide a detailed biography of all its characters.
I found some of the sections more interesting than others, but obviously a history of science needs to cover a variety of scientific disciplines. Fans of astronomy or physics may need to labour through the parts on chemistry or genetics. But in general it moves from topic to topic quick enough to keep the reader interested and not get bogged down in a particular section of the scientific story.
What is also apparent from the book is that great discoveries, for example the theory of evolution by means of natural selection by Darwin, and the development of calculus by Newton were also developed almost independently by others. The suggestion here is that the increasing flow of scientific knowledge from generation to generation that really gained momentum from 1543 onwards, meant that such breakthroughs became inevitable. Only rarely does a particular individual... a genius... make a genuine breakthrough that pushes science forward by generations.
Already after reading this book I am eager to read more on the topics and historical figures it covered. It has certainly been a stepping stone for further research into the world of science and of equal importance an enjoyable and interesting read. I would certainly recommend it to the general reader, especially those people who like me are seeking to reintroduce themselves to the world of science many years after last fiddling with a Bunsen Burner and dissecting worms at school!

Captain James Cook
Captain James Cook
by Richard Alexander Hough
Edition: Paperback

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Introduction To The Life Of Captain Cook, 7 Nov. 2002
This review is from: Captain James Cook (Paperback)
I read this book after having read the Penguin edition of "The Journals Of Captain Cook". The journals were Cook's own written record of his 3 epic voyages into the Pacific and reading his first hands accounts proved fascinating. However while I was more than familiar with these events I had no real knowledge of how he came to join the navy or what events shaped the man.
This is where this book came in useful. It is a well written and pleasant read and an ideal introduction to the life of one of the worlds greatest explorers. It covers his early life, showing us how he went from coal ships in Yorkshire to the Royal Navy, where his skills were soon recognised as a result of his service in North America. Then we are taken through the voyages that would really make his name. These take up the majority of the book which is to be expected and provide a superb insight into the magnitude of Cook's achievements for science, geography and the human instinct to explore. For those who want a good summary and a story of discovery then this is ideal.

The World At War - Special Collectors Edition [DVD]
The World At War - Special Collectors Edition [DVD]
Dvd ~ Laurence Olivier
Offered by cult_stores_ltd
Price: £89.99

58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Documentary On World War Two, 6 Nov. 2002
For the modern viewer the series may look a little dated but in fact it has now become an historical document. Just like the footage from the war itself that dominates most of the running time, the interviews conducted for The World At War in the 1970's and often accompanied by hideous wallpaper and garish ties fitting for that decade have now become just as important. Appearances from such monumental and now deceased figures as Speer, Donitz and Mountbatten to name but a few, make it so. But also vital are the contributions of those who worked around the main players and those who actually fought the war or suffered its consequences. Their stories and experiences bring the war to life decades on from its conclusion.
The narration from Sir Laurence Olivier is superb. If ever someone were to be chosen to represent the English spoken language it surely would have been him with his perfect pronounciation and accent. He takes us through the story of World War Two with superbly delivered and well written dialogue. The various episodes, usually around 8 per each two disc set of which there are 5 in this special box set are well thought out and cover all aspects of the war in good detail.
I bought the individual DVD's over time rather than this box set but in terms of cost, if you are willing to spend on an intial outlay you save in the long run and can start watching the entire series straight away. Certainly worthwhile! The VHS version may be cheaper but for such a huge documentary series the easy accessability and high quality of DVD make it the only format worth buying. Extras wise it has virtually nothing but the episodes are more than enough for me.

Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis (Allen Lane History)
Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis (Allen Lane History)
by Ian Kershaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.19

50 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Biography On Hitler, 4 Nov. 2002
Having read both books I found this to be the more engaging but that is no reflection on the quality of the first. Rather I found as I assume most people would Hitler is at his most interesting and puzzling during the period 1936 - 1945. Together they form a superb and comprehensive biography on Hitler but they are also fine as stand alones.
This is not a book about WWII but the events of WWII in relation to Hitler so people expecting a comprehensive summary of the war will be dissapointed. Some of the most significant events are covered in only a few pages i.e. the fall of France and the Ardennes offensive. However this is probably my only criticism and one which I have no right to make given that this is a biography of Hitler and not a history of the war. However it gives an superb 800 page insight into the man and the world he was surrounded by. Kershaws writing style is engaging and the level of research he has undertaken makes this a credible document. I would certainly recommend it as being the ultimate biography of a man who has his fair share of them.
The world can be thankful that Mr Kershaw had no need for a third book on Hitler (1946 - ????) although its absence is a loss to readers of fine historical writing.

One By One
One By One
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.95

4.0 out of 5 stars The Foo Fighters Are As Strong As Ever, 22 Oct. 2002
This review is from: One By One (Audio CD)
Despite only a few listens to the new offering from the Foo Fighters I have already elevated some of its tracks to my favourite Foo songs of all time. "All My Life" and "Have It All" have the same passion and rocking sound as classics such as "This is A Call" and "Monkey Wrench". The middle of the album sees the appearance of more subdued songs such as "Disenchanted Lullaby" and "Tired Of You" that may take some time to grow but there are none that would force me to press the skip button on my CD player. Others like "Lonely As You", "Halo" and "Overdrive" are standard Foo fare that will go down well with all concerned be you a new listener or an old fan. The album ends with "Come Back" a great way to sign off another great album from Dave and Co. The Foo Fighters are not The Beatles or Radiohead when it comes to re-inventing themselves which each album and I am glad of that since all I want is good rocking tunes! This band continues to provide that. Long may it continue...

How To Stop Worrying And Start Living (Personal Development)
How To Stop Worrying And Start Living (Personal Development)
by Dale Carnegie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

97 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reminds us of what we should already know, 19 Sept. 2002
This book is not about providing the reader with ground breaking ideas that involve massive leaps of faith to follow. Positive thinking is not a religion. Instead it makes you realise things that deep down you already know. For example how many of us think that we can change the past? Not many I would assume, yet people still often act as if worrying about a past event is of some use. A quick read of this book and you will hopefully come to realise the foolishness of such actions and change the way you look at things. I now find myself quoting sayings from this book such as "Don't try and saw sawdust" where I would normally have regressed to worrying.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 21, 2009 9:41 PM BST

Berlin: The Downfall, 1945
Berlin: The Downfall, 1945
by Antony Beevor
Edition: Hardcover

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Window On Berlin In 1945, 13 May 2002
This is a superb book and it was so readable and interesting that I finished it within three days of Amazon delivering it to my door. The battle for Berlin is often overlooked since it took place when there war was all but won and no western nations were involved. However like D-Day or Stalingrad it was an event of huge significance and much suffering. In his book Beevor manages to get the balance between military, political and human stories just right so interest is maintained throughout. Excellent!

The Scramble For Africa
The Scramble For Africa
by Thomas Pakenham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.18

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasure To Read, 5 Feb. 2002
This is one of the finest historical books I have ever read and would recommend it to anyone! It was a pleasure to read and my knowledge of the European involvement in Africa has gone from strength to strength. I now find myself looking at maps of the continent and knowing which country used to be ruled by what power and how this came about. The constant flow from place to place and topic to topic means you do not get bogged down in one area of the continents history. For example you read a chapter on South Africa, then move on to the Congo and then on to Egypt, before reading some more about South Africa. A fantastic piece of historical work!

James Cook: The Journals (Penguin Classics)
James Cook: The Journals (Penguin Classics)
by James Cook
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take Part In A Voyage Of Discovery, 17 July 2001
This is a fantastic book... adventure, geography, science and history all rolled into one. It really is a unique experience to be able to read the words written during voyages that changed the worlds understanding of the Pacific and the globe in general. Do not read it however expecting a work of art in terms of the English language. Captain Cook did not write for a living, and sometimes sections of the book are hard going to the reader. However that is surely a small price to pay for a vivid first hand description from the man himself. I found it particullary interesting to read about Australia and New Zealand as they were, and before colonisation had begun. Cook is to Australians, as Colombus is to Americans. Buy it now......

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