1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

by Charles C. Mann

Hardcover, 2011

Status

Available

Call number

D228 .M36

Publication

Knopf (2011), Edition: 1St Edition, 560 pages

Description

"From the author of 1491--the best-selling study of the pre-Columbian Americas--a deeply engaging new history that explores the most momentous biological event since the death of the dinosaurs. More than 200 million years ago, geological forces split apart the continents. Isolated from each other, the two halves of the world developed totally different suites of plants and animals. Columbus's voyages brought them back together--and marked the beginning of an extraordinary exchange of flora and fauna between Eurasia and the Americas. As Charles Mann shows, this global ecological tumult--the "Columbian Exchange"--underlies much of subsequent human history. Presenting the latest generation of research by scientists, Mann shows how the creation of this worldwide network of exchange fostered the rise of Europe, devastated imperial China, convulsed Africa, and for two centuries made Manila and Mexico City-- where Asia, Europe, and the new frontier of the Americas dynamically interacted--the center of the world. In 1493, Charles Mann gives us an eye-opening scientific interpretation of our past, unequaled in its authority and fascination"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jasonlf
A remarkable global history from 1493 to the present, describes the trade and exchange of people, plants, commodities, and microorganisms between Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. It is nowhere nearly as original as Charles Mann's previous 1491, with presented a revolutionary portrait of
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pre-Columbian America, nor Guns, Germs and Steel, which covers some of the same terrain. But it is still a thoughtful, balanced, creative, and large-scale history of what the author, following earlier works, calls the "Columbian exchange." The book is journalistic in nature and draws on a wide variety of research including conventional history, genetics, environmental studies, farm studies, and economic history.

Mann's thesis is that since 1493, a massive Transatlantic and Transpacific trade has helped create a new era in global environmental history, the Homogenocene -- which is a homogenizing of the people, plants and people around the world. Some of the exchanges he describes are well known and well documented, like the slave trade. Others I had never heard of, like the large role that the guano mining and trade played in 19th century agriculture. All of them are described in a vivid and humanizing way, for example describing the horrors of guano mining by essentially enslaved Chinese laborers, the boomtowns that it created in Peru, the cartels that controlled it, and the impact it had on European agriculture. In between these levels of familiarity, are detailed descriptions of the trade in tobacco, silver, the potato, rubber, rice, sugarcane, malaria and yellow fever.

In the course of this, the book covers the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, the founding of the America's and the rise of Europe. It is also interesting in that it spends as much time on China and Asia, not just as a source of materials for the West but also in describing how the trade in items like silver and the potato transformed Asian economies, societies, and even their physical topographies. The Philippines get a particularly interesting treatment in the book, as the crossroads of the Asia, the New World, and Europe.

I appreciate Mann's balance in writing the book. He is unstinting in his descriptions of the human and ecological horrors brought by the exchange. But he is also clear and forthright about their massive benefits that these exchanges have brought.
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LibraryThing member K.J.
I won't add any details from the book to support my belief that it is a brilliant and detailed description of how foodstuffs, precious metals insects, disease, slavery, Europeans and indigenous people were all intertwined to bring us the world we have today. I'll let it be a surprise. This was the
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beginning of globalization and it is a very interesting read, if you want to learn more about why we eat potatoes in Europe and why the Amazon looks the way it does. The truth about both will undoubtedly surprise you.
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LibraryThing member epersonae
So many fascinating aspects of this book. I think I'll want to read it again at some point to absorb more of it, since I basically inhaled most of it over the course of two or three days. In short: all about what he refers to as "the Columbian Exchange" and how to led to the "Homogecene," ie, the
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modern age when ecosystems blend together and cross over. He ranges back and forth all over the globe, and from the dawn of the exchange (Colon himself!) up through the years to the present. (Most of it seemed to be in the "colonial" period, 16th-18th century.) Different sorts of malaria and malaria-bearing mosquitos; potatoes and sweet potatoes. Chinese migrants to colonial Mexico making replicas of Chinese pottery to sell in Europe. (Kicker to that story: now the Chinese are making copies of that style. Imitations all the way down.) Enormous colonies of Indians and escaped slaves, a few even recognized as mini-states. And traditions of slavery among Indians and Africans, and how those got tangled up in extractive industry.

The most curious bit of history, for me, was the Little Ice Age -- which I already knew of, but had assumed it was related to volcanos or sunspots or something. Turns out that while those things were factors, another major factor was reforestation. All throughout the Americas, land had been cleared by fire set by humans -- in Central America, for at least two thousand years. But with the beginning of the Columbian Exchange came smallpox, malaria, and yellow fever, and that killed off plenty of people who never saw a European or African. So the fires stopped, and it was like the opposite of the climate change we're facing now. Then the cold itself (along with flooding and drought) caused social upheaval in Europe and China, which led to more human craziness, etc., etc.

Fascinating stuff, and I feel like I've just got the surface of it. Very highly recommended.

[Final bit of trivia: at the end he goes looking for the place where the Spanish first landed in the Philippines. Turns out it's a village with the same name as one of my very good friends in high school.]
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LibraryThing member Darcia
Charles Mann writes the type of book that should be read in history classes everywhere. This one takes off where 1491 left off and is equally as fascinating. The amount of material covered is enormous but never overwhelming. Topics include everything from the potato famine to tobacco farming to
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both sides of slavery all over the world. Mann doesn't simply tell us when things happened. He tells us how and why. 1493 is well written, easy to follow and incredibly informative.
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LibraryThing member nosajeel
A remarkable global history from 1493 to the present, describes the trade and exchange of people, plants, commodities, and microorganisms between Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. It is nowhere nearly as original as Charles Mann's previous 1491, with presented a revolutionary portrait of
Show More
pre-Columbian America, nor Guns, Germs and Steel, which covers some of the same terrain. But it is still a thoughtful, balanced, creative, and large-scale history of what the author, following earlier works, calls the "Columbian exchange." The book is journalistic in nature and draws on a wide variety of research including conventional history, genetics, environmental studies, farm studies, and economic history.

Mann's thesis is that since 1493, a massive Transatlantic and Transpacific trade has helped create a new era in global environmental history, the Homogenocene -- which is a homogenizing of the people, plants and people around the world. Some of the exchanges he describes are well known and well documented, like the slave trade. Others I had never heard of, like the large role that the guano mining and trade played in 19th century agriculture. All of them are described in a vivid and humanizing way, for example describing the horrors of guano mining by essentially enslaved Chinese laborers, the boomtowns that it created in Peru, the cartels that controlled it, and the impact it had on European agriculture. In between these levels of familiarity, are detailed descriptions of the trade in tobacco, silver, the potato, rubber, rice, sugarcane, malaria and yellow fever.

In the course of this, the book covers the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, the founding of the America's and the rise of Europe. It is also interesting in that it spends as much time on China and Asia, not just as a source of materials for the West but also in describing how the trade in items like silver and the potato transformed Asian economies, societies, and even their physical topographies. The Philippines get a particularly interesting treatment in the book, as the crossroads of the Asia, the New World, and Europe.

I appreciate Mann's balance in writing the book. He is unstinting in his descriptions of the human and ecological horrors brought by the exchange. But he is also clear and forthright about their massive benefits that these exchanges have brought.
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
1493 is a fascinating look at the Columbian Exchange. The Columbian Exchange was (and continues to be) a sort of global Rube Goldberg event that unleashed a long series of unintended consequences that have shaped and continue to impact the world today. Mann has only scratched the surface.

One thing
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about Mann is he writes popular history with a scholarly veneer. Mann will favor the dramatic conclusion, and those things supporting his main thesis, but leaves unsaid counter factual evidence and competing ideas. He will attribute the Columbian Exchange as the primary (only) reason for some momentous event when in fact the Columbian Exchange is only one of many reasons historians consider for why that event happened. So this is both a great book, and a dangerous one, as it can lead to singular perspectives that are maybe not so straightforward. History is very multifaceted, we should be suspicious of grand overarching theories that explain too much. Still, as a work of popular history and introduction to the Columbian Exchange, 1493 is an excellent and rewarding work.
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LibraryThing member annbury
This is a terrifically interesting and entertaining book, which presented me with at least two blockbuster ideas that changed the way I think about the past. I'll get to those in a minute, but first a few general points. Charles Mann is a science journalist:who seems to specialize in BIG topics.
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His 2005 book ("1491", which argues that the pre-Columbian population of the Americas was much larger and more sophisticated than generally assumed), was very well received. I enjoyed it so much, and thought it so valuable a book, that I was very anxious to read "1493".

"1493" lived up to my (high) expectations. Mann is remarkable writer, with an extraordinary ability to present very complex facts and ideas in way that's not just accessible to the lay reader, it's fun for the lay reader. This isn't to say that the book isn't carefully researched -- the text is followed by almost 100 pages of footnotes, and throughout he cites and acknowledges the scientists and others from whom he has drawn information. It's just that Mann manages to combine a myriad of facts and hypotheses into a compelling narrative. And he often puts this in very concrete terms, focussing on individual people, commodities or events. It adds up to a fascinating read.

It is also a very important one, with implications for the future as well as about the past. Mann's subject in this book is the Columbian Exchange, the sudden movement of plants, microbes, animals and people between the eastern and western hemispheres after Columbus' voyage to the Americas in 1492. A well known effect of this was the eastern hemisphere adoption of western hemisphere foods (tomatoes, potatoes, chocolate, coffee, and on and on). Another effect that's only been recently come to be widely understood is the devastating impact on the pre-Columbian population of the Americas; as many as 80% died in the epidemics that followed the introduction of diseases to which they had no immunity. But the population die-off and the exchange of plant species are not the only effects of the Columbian Exchange. Mann's book explores the myriad ways in which the Exchange -- globablization -- has shaped the world of today.

Two things I learned from the book struck me particularly. First, like most Americans of my generation (older) I learned in school that the colonization of the Americas was carried out by white people, who moved into a largely uninhabited continent. "1491" took care of the uninhabited: "1493" takes care of the white. Mann says that from 1500 to 1840, about 3.4 million white Europeans emigrated to the Americas. Over the same period, about 11.7 million captive Africans were sent to the Americas. Except for New England, much of the United States and most of Latin American was far more black than white. (And probably in 1840 still more Indian/Native American than anything else). The racial balance changed as white immigration ramped up and as millions upon millions of blacks died too young, but the picture of early America looks very different to me now.

Secondly, Mann discussed at length the 19th century ecological disaster that engulfed China. I had always assumed that the floods that killed so many millions in China had always happened, and were the result of geography. There have indeed always been floods, but their severity and human cost grew logarithmically in the 19th century. New crops led to more food and to rising population growth, and at the same time to more potential cash crops, increasing the pressure on existing land holdings, and leading to vast land clearances. That made the floods far worse when they came, undermining the political structure and compounding China's problems. This was interesting not just a light on the past, but as a warning signal for the future.

The review is already too long, so, to sum it up: Great book!! Read it!! Give it to friends and family!!
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LibraryThing member JeffV
1493, the year after Columbus ostensibly discovered the new world, is also the starting point for what Mann describes as the Columbian Transformation. Much in the vein of Michael Pollan's natural histories of food, Mann shows many ways (by all means comprehensive) how mixing the old world with the
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new brought not only exciting new diseases such as small pox, but also abetted the spread of potatoes (the cloning method leading to the Great Potato Famine), rubber (a disaster in the making), earthworms, and, well, people. Some ports in Central and South America (as well as Caribbean islands) became crucial points of exchange. Trade with China, via the Philippines due to closed Chinese markets, exploited natives but brought them new, sometimes invasive crops. Tropical disease often made quick work of Europeans who lacked resistance, forcing their colonies to integrate with indigenous populations -- even slaves, just for mere survival. Policies regarding natives and slave peoples worked against occupying forces to create new racial combinations and new hybrid cultures to boot.

My only complaint is that, despite the size of the book, Mann probably tried to accomplish too much in this volume. Treating the mingling of cultures and native challenges should have been a book by itself, while a book on commodities, crops, and critters could have filled a second volume. I get he was trying to portray the similarities between people and things...but a little better focus would have worked better. Regardless, it's a fascinating read, and probably the first time I learned anything at all about the pre-Magellan Philippines.
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LibraryThing member Whiskey3pa
Thorough and fascinating. The author asked for an update of The Columbia Exchange from Crosby (the author of same) until he was told to go write it himself. Mann did so, and 1493 is the result, a sequel to 1491 and the Crosby work at the same time.
The book he produced is a dandy. Chock full of
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information and content and exceedingly well written, this book is a page turner. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member publiusdb
"In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." But what happened next?

More than just the discovery of the new world that we call the Americas, Christopher Columbus set off globalization of ecology, trade, biology, and nationality beyond anything that preceded it, argues Charles Mann in "1493:
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Uncovering the New World Columbus Created." The discovery of America did more than just uncover lands previously unseen or mapped by Europeans. It set adrift the then current order of the entire world, changed civilizations from the Iberian Peninsula at the edge of Europe to the Ming Dynasty in Asia.

And the changes continue, today, over five hundred years later.

Mann's exploration of the world changed by Columbus' discovery began in "1491: New Revelations of the America's before Columbus," a look at what the Americas were like before the 1492 discovery. In this new book, Mann steps off from the discovery to look at the effects.

Mann follows the trail of silver mined by the Spanish from Peruvian mountains as it travels across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, adding so much silver to the world market that it result in high levels of inflation in Spain and to the opening of trade with silver-starved Ming China (and indeed, may have also contributed to the Ming's fall, too). In fact, more Peruvian silver may have been sent to China than to Spain. Silver would travel to Manila where it was traded for porcelain and silk bound for Spain and Europe. So great was the trade that the English privateer cum knight Sir Francis Drake would make his reputation marauding, mostly without success, Spanish silver caravans en route to the coast of South America for shipment to China and Spain.

In addition to silver, 1493 tells the story of other products that found their introduction the world after Columbus' discovery. Potatoes may have ended the perennial famines that plagued Europe (and contributed to the great potato famine in Ireland) and became a staple, along with manioc, across Europe and China. Rubber became so valuable that it defied usual economic laws of supply and demand as the price rose even when supply increased. Tobacco and sugar cane together brought plantation slavery to the Americas, as well as millions of Africans. Modern day cultures continue to bear the echoes of the assimilation of cultures and traditions amalgamated in the soup of escaped slaves, native American tribes, and Europeans.

If Mann deserves any criticism, it is that the story is just too large, too vast, and too complicated. The reach and the effects of the homogenocene--the period of mixing of insects, germs, plants, and every other biology through man's action over the last 500 years--are perhaps too great for one book. Indeed, one associate complained to me that Mann just goes on and on about each aspect. "I get it already..." In his effort to be thorough, Mann cannot perhaps be sufficiently thorough to cover impact of the mixing of the Old and New Worlds.

Despite the scope of his effort, Mann succeeds in a fascinating tale that deserves a place among histories of the world. As Niall Ferguson might argue, too few histories look at the broad paths of history and ask "why" while too many look at the small pieces and tell what. Mann looks at the why, and he looks at a why that impacts us all. For that reason, I recommend it as important reading for the interested historian in all of us. Our world is not moved only by kings, presidents and generals, but also by the bugs, goods, trade, and cultures that mix as a result of our actions. Our ecology matters, if in ways we might not suspect or guess. After five hundred years, the effects are still felt and still changing. What might we find out tomorrow?

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LibraryThing member pbjwelch
This is a BIG book, and I love big books. By 'big' I mean it takes one subject and then examines it from myriad historical and cultural viewpoints. Author Mann's topic is the Columbian Exchange (hence the title 1493). In his own words (p. 365): First, he "looked at the Atlantic (Chapters 2 and 3),
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where the most important effects were caused by microscopic imports to the Americas (initially the diseases that depopulated Indian societies, then malaria and yellow fever, which encouraged plantation slavery). Next I treated the Pacific (Chapters 4 and 5), where the major introductions were American food crops, which both helped sustain a population boom and led indirectly to massive environmental problems. In the next section (Chapters 6 and 7), I showed how environmental historians have increasingly come to believe that the Columbian Exchange played a role in the agricultural revolution of the eighteenth century and the industrial revolution of the nineteenth..."

There comes a point in one's life when all the little pieces one has been accumulating--history, science, the arts, literature, culture, geography--literally BEG to fall into place and this is one of the books that does that. I love learning the links between the Napoleon Wars and the founding of Singapore, or what results in China when a tin mine is found in Malaysia. Aren't these those "ah ha!" moments that we all have earned as adults after decades of reading, listening, studying? (However, the 'Notes' are so good that I now have a desired reading list of dozens of additional new titles.)

The only reason this book gets 4 rather than 5 stars (I wanted to give it 4.5) is: I felt it was at times a little too repetitive and at times a little too environmentally 'preachy' (I am a believer but we needn't beat people over the head). I've recommended it to our Non-Fiction Reading Group and although there were groans at the size, I know most are going to really like it. If you know anyone who loved reading the encyclopedia while growing up, give them this book as a gift and they'll love you for life.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
A sequel of sorts to 1491, this book investigates the wide-ranging impact of contact between Eurasia & Africa and the Americas and exchange of people, animals, plants, and micorganisms that followed in the wake of Christopher Columbus' voyages. This is called the Columbian Exchange and is the root
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of today's globalism. Mann investigates a wide variety of topics, places, and times right up to the present day that resulted from this exchange. It's a fascinating overview of social and economical forces at work through history.
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LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
Absolutely fascinating. Worms and parasites, slaves and masters, greed and commerce, tobacco and guano – all have radically shaped today's world, and continue to do so. The Columbian Exchange united, both for better and for worse, this earth in ways that Columbus could never have dreamed.

The
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author's writing is well organized, researched, illustrated, and annotated. Given that, it still could have been boring but it wasn't. Charles Mann kept me entertained and interested through every word, remarkable considering how much information he was able to impart in the roughly 400 pages of text. I knew bits and pieces of this story, but never the bigger picture as he was able to show me. He did this without becoming pedantic, condescending, or proselytizing. I highly recommend this book to anyone at all interested in the history and future of this planet.

I received a free uncorrected proof of this book for purposes of review.
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LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
Most elementary school children today are taught the basic gist of what is now known as the 'Columbian exchange' - the exchange of goods, people, and trading routes between Europe, Africa, and the American colonies of the New World. Most often, this is depicted as a neat triangle, and only one good
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being sent across the trading route.

Apart from being a simplification, this vastly understates the importance of this grand exchange. We can say, without any fear of exaggeration, that the course of world history was changed forever, and in more ways that any of the discoverers or conquistadors or traders could have ever imagined.

Obviously, anybody in the Western Hemisphere has this to thank. But let me list too briefly a few of the effects described:
1) Massive exchange of foodstuffs back and forth, allowing the populations of Europe and East Asia to swell massively.
2) The rise and fall of indentured service and slavery.
3) Massive exchange of microorganisms and small animals - the introduction of earthworms and bees to the New World, and disease back and forth across both.
4) The natural resources and economic background which allowed the Industrial Revolution to develop. Steel, rubber, and Fossil Fuels. Without the Columbian Exchange, it's doubtful if we'd have one of these.

In effect, Mann concludes that we have created a 'Homogenocene Age', where the world is environmentally homogeneous, as much as being economically unified. We are still feeling the effects of this. It is still to early to tell what the ultimate result of 1492 will be.

This is a tremendously informative and very fluidly written and researched history of everything. The minutest subjects have the greatest possible influences. Thoughts that come on dove's feet guide the world. Emphatically recommended.

Note: 1491 is not needed to read this first, but it's still great anyway!
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LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
This is an interesting follow-up to 1491 by the same author. Somewhat sensationalist, and lacking in striking maps, Mann's book tries to explore the globalization started by the Spanish discovery of the Americas in the 1500's. He shows how, in his estimation, the desire to break into the Chinese
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market has been the principal economic driver since the 1480's. The information is usually well collected, and his case is often compelling.
Euro-centrists will find the book rather a trial, but their lot is hard work given our modern parallels. I think reading this book is time well spent.
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LibraryThing member jorgearanda
A summary of the huge ecological and historical transformations that were triggered by Columbus' travels. Bloated but interesting.
LibraryThing member rivkat
Tracks the “Columbian exchange” of biological material (sweet potatoes, potatoes and people prominent among the participants) from the Americas to Asia, Africa, and Europe, and back again. It’s a neat way to organize the history, and contextualizes many huge changes—especially the most
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environmentally destructive ones, as society after society fouled its own nest in response to particular encounters with globalization.
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LibraryThing member dickmanikowski
This book is simply too damned popular.
After looking for it for weeks in local public libraries, I finally snagged a copy from the HITS shelf of Troy Public Library. The downside, though, is that HITS only circulate for 7 days, with no renewals allowed.
So despite the fact that I'm only on p. 367,
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I'm going to play by the rules and return the damned book tonight. I'll see if it's still on the shelf TH or FR.
It's a fascinating examination of the Columbian Exchange--the movement of crops, goods, and people between Europe, Africa, Asia, and the New World that began with Columbus stumbling across an unexpected continent while sailing to China.
The author shares a wealth of information, both significant and seemingly trivial.
Very, very, very much worth reading.
PS--Finally checked it out for a second time and finished it.
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LibraryThing member bunwat
There are numerous other reviews on GR that will tell you what this one's about. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel - just say that I found it fascinating and thought provoking. Occasionally it was a little bit saddening - the long litany of sufferings, many of them so very avoidable got to me at
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times. I could have used a little more leavening but it was still an absorbing book, full up to the brim of "I didn't know that!" moments.
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LibraryThing member labdaddy4
I thought 1491 was excellent - this is even better! It probably helps to have read 1491 first - sets the stage and style. 1493 is a very detailed and complete investigation and analysis of the influences (all of them) on the "New" World as the western hemisphere is discovered and "developed" and
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influenced. Also very interesting is the influence of the western hemisphere that spills back onto Europe, Africa, and Asia. Mann dubs this the Colombian Exchange.
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LibraryThing member Paulagraph
Follow up to Mann's 1491 and possibly even more fascinating. His approach to globalization, which he situates as having had its beginnings in 1492 at the dawn of the Age of Exploration is truly a fresh take on this subject. Especially interesting is his account of the silver trade that ran from
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Mexico through Manila & on to Fujian in China. While European explorers were eager to find a sea route to China to more easily trade for spices, silk, etc. the Chinese remained little interested in what the West had to offer in way of trade goods. However, with the advent of silver mining in America, they discovered an insatiable appetite for a precious metal they did not have, silver. Highly recommended history of the Americas, bringing up to date how what started in 1492 continues to play out today.

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LibraryThing member ljhliesl
Not as interesting as 1491, or if as interesting then clouded with my own guilt. Charles Mann doesn't claim the term "Homogenocene" as his own coinage but he certainly explains it for the non-biologist. The American potato's role to Scotland uniting with England; the African malaria virus's
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prolonging the U.S. Civil War; American silver in the Chinese economy; Asian sugarcane in the Caribbean. It was all very distressing. He writes that earthworms in North America didn't survive the last Ice Age and so all the victims of How to Eat Fried Worms descend from European migrants.
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LibraryThing member rnsulentic
Even better than 1491. Outstanding discussion of the impact of the European colonization of the world.
LibraryThing member librisissimo
Fantastic historically and rhetorically. Very clear writing, with good use of new discoveries and revised analysis of old ones.

If you think you know the history of the world(before and after Columbus sails across the Atlantic), think again.
LibraryThing member addunn3
Very interesting look at the results of exchange among lands of old and new worlds.

Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

2011-08-09

ISBN

0307265722 / 9780307265722

Barcode

34662002001015
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