A groundbreaking study that
radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of the
Europeans in 1492.
Traditionally, Americans learned in school that the ancestors of the people who
inhabited the Western Hemisphere at the time of Columbuss landing had crossed
the Bering Strait twelve thousand years ago; existed mainly in small, nomadic
bands; and lived so lightly on the land that the Americas was, for all practical
purposes, still a vast wilderness. But as Charles C. Mann now makes clear,
archaeologists and anthropologists have spent the last thirty years proving
these and many other long-held assumptions wrong.
In a book that startles and persuades, Mann reveals how a new generation of
researchers equipped with novel scientific techniques came to previously
unheard-of conclusions. Among them:
In 1491 there were probably
more people living in the Americas than in Europe.
Certain citiessuch as
Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capitalwere far greater in population than any
contemporary European city. Furthermore, Tenochtitlán, unlike any capital in
Europe at that time, had running water, beautiful botanical gardens, and
immaculately clean streets.
The earliest cities in the
Western Hemisphere were thriving before the Egyptians built the great
Pre-Columbian Indians in
Mexico developed corn by a breeding process so sophisticated that the journal
Science recently described it as "mans first, and perhaps the
greatest, feat of genetic engineering."
Amazonian Indians learned
how to farm the rain forest without destroying ita process scientists are
studying today in the hope of regaining this lost knowledge.
Native Americans transformed
their land so completely that Europeans arrived in a hemisphere already
massively "landscaped" by human beings.
Mann sheds clarifying
light on the methods used to arrive at these new visions of the pre-Columbian
Americas and how they have affected our understanding of our history and our
thinking about the environment. His book is an exciting and learned account of
scientific inquiry and revelation.
In a book that startles and persuades, Mann reveals how a new generation of researchers equipped with novel scientific techniques came to previously unheard-of conclusions. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Washington Post - Alan Taylor
....the journalistic approach eventually falters as his disorganized narrative rambles forward and backward through the centuries and across vast continents and back again, producing repetition and contradiction.....he is also less than discriminating in evaluating the array of new theories, some far weaker than others....despite these missteps, Mann's 1491 vividly compels us to re-examine how we teach the ancient history of the Americas and how we live with the environmental consequences of colonization.
Alfred W. Crosby, author of Ecological Imperialism and The Columbian Exchange, Professor Emeritus of Geography, American Studies and History, University of Texas
If you accept that there were tens of millions of people in the Americas in 1492, the common belief among the experts today, then you cannot reject what Charles Mann has to say. We all have been taught what the human species gained by the European invasion of the Americas. Now we have to consider what we, all of us, lost.
Joseph J. Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington
When does American history begin? The old answer used to be 1492, with the European arrival in the Americas. That answer is no longer politically or historically correct. For the last thirty years or so historians, geographers and archaeologists have built up an arsenal of evidence about the residents of North America after the ice receded and before the Europeans arrived. Mann has mastered that scholarship and written the most elegant synthesis of the way we were before the European invasion.
An excellent, and highly accessible, survey of America's past: a worthy companion to Jake Page's In the Hands of the Great Spirit (2003).
Starred Review. In a riveting and fast-paced history, massing archeological, anthropological, scientific and literary evidence, Mann debunks much of what we thought we knew about pre-Columbian America.
Library Journal - Elizabeth Salt
Mann has done a superb job of analyzing and distilling information, offering a balanced and thoughtful perspective on each of his themes in engaging prose. Including an extensive bibliography, this excellent archaeological synthesis is highly recommended for anthropology and archaeology collections in academic and large public libraries.
James Wilson, author of The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America
A superbly written and very important book: by far the most comprehensive synthesis I've ever seen of the growing body of evidence that our most deep-rooted ideas about the peopling of the Western hemisphere and the kinds of societies that had developed there by the time of European contact are fundamentally wrong. Charles C. Mann is one of those rare writers who can make scholarly concepts exciting and accessible without trivializing them. In 1491 he has integrated the latest research in many different areas with his own insights and experiences to produce a fascinating and addictively readable tour through the 'New World' before its 'discovery.' His book is, above all, a wonderful, unsentimental act of restitution--challenging centuries of cultural contempt and willful blindness to show just how vigorous, various, densely populated and profoundly human the pre-Columbian Americas really were.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by vince storti what was missed I liked the beginning; what came after was a hodgepodge running in circles from Eastern seaboard to Brazil to Peru and back again, all the while neglecting areas northwest and Southwest of Central Mexico and South of Mexico in North America and... Read More
Rated of 5
by Peter Boyle What Archaeology Tells Us As a retired Archaeologist I found 1491 to be a readable synthesis of what Archaeologists and Geographers have talked about for a long time. Humans have been in the Americas for over 20,000 years (as recent, long suppressed, publications by Tom... Read More
Rated of 5
by Ilsa 1491 Revisionism While the research is surprising regarding pre-European Indian demographics and culture (though not well-cited, so not really credible), the data and interpretations of European ethnocentricity is not.
However, the self-conscious, pervasive... Read More
Rated of 5
by Marty Chenault 1491 What were the effects of the Black Death on Europe during this period? I believe it wiped out about 2/3 of the population of that part of the world, so is this PC revisionist history at work?
Rated of 5
by David Libenson Disorganized opinions I agree with the Washington Post review. This book is very disorganized. It is filled with personal opinions that are not properly cited. The reference notes are not in the text and it is very difficult to determine the author's sources. He jumps... Read More
Rated of 5
by Mary Lee Parrington A Fresh Look at the It turns out "The New World" wasn't so new after all. The idea that North and South America, before Columbus, was home to more inhabitants than Europe at that time is completely at odds with what we learned in school. But in a work that... Read More
The article that
formed the basis for this book was originally published in The Atlantic
Monthly in 2002. If, after reading the extensive book excerpt and author
interview at BookBrowse, you want to read more you can read the Atlantic Monthly
article here. Also of interest is an extensive review in the Washington Post Book World written by Alan Taylor, the author
of American Colonies, and a professor of history at the University of
California at Davis.
Did you know?
In response to the frequently asked question, "why do you have a 'pretentious' C in
your name?" Charles C Mann replies, "I get asked about this a lot, occasionally in
exactly those words. The answer is not very interesting. I am named after my two
grandfathers. My first name is my maternal grandfathers name. My middle name is
my paternal grandfathers name. The latter knew I wanted to write and informed
me that he would be highly annoyed if his name was left out of my byline. I
didnt have the courage actually to use his name,...
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