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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 neglecting Northern parts of South America. The books seemed to be hit and miss, with no indication of the intellectual background of the journalist; some ethnology, some archeology, some prehistory, some travelogue, some guessimations of psychology. If he had a good editor, he'd have been able to get twice the information in on half the pages. Footnotes were assigned page numbers (no note numbers); what academia teaches these days I know not.
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 Dillehay and Mike Adovoso have proven). We knew much of this 20 or more years ago, and I am glad that someone finally wrote a readable book about it.
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 tone of condescension toward "revisionist" history (near anything pre this author), affected sniffy tone and at times nearly fantastic yet dogged interpretations about Indian motives, including, for instance, those as being undilutedly anti-European, dissembling and conniving from Tisquntum, make this potentially educational book a tiresome, black-and-white read.
1491 would be so much more enjoyable with a less self-placing author; less didactic, authoritarian tone; and the addition of verified facts and a more tentative tone and interpretations. It is perhaps more tyranical toward the reader than its Anglophile predecessors.
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?
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 around fro era to era and geographic location to location. I learned more about the pre-Columbian Americas in the museums in Mexico City and Lima than from this book. Furthermore a high percentage of the material is post 1492.
Mary Lee Parrington
A Fresh Look at the
I am very surpised at the high praise given this book and have to believe most reviewers did not read it; rather took their reviews from publicity releases.
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 synthesizes recent scholarship, Mann makes a very good case for the concept that ancient civilizations had inhabited the Western Hemisphere for millenia. It explains the existence of ruined cities throughout south and central America. and the huge contributions to agriculture; maize, tomatoes, and potatoes which became staples around the world. DNA analysis explains just how devastating European diseases were to Native Americans from the first moments of contact, even before European settlement. It is a fascinating look at an accidental disaster that did indeed create a "New World."