The brilliance of the Renaissance laid the foundation of the modern world. Textbooks tell us that it came about as a result of a rediscovery of the ideas and ideals of classical Greece and Rome. But now bestselling historian Gavin Menzies makes the startling argument that in the year 1434, China--then the world's most technologically advanced civilization--provided the spark that set the European Renaissance ablaze. From that date onward, Europeans embraced Chinese intellectual ideas, discoveries, and inventions, all of which form the basis of western civilization today.--From amazon.com.
Gavin Menzies’s “1434” hits a boundary six (a homerun for Americans who aren’t familiar with cricket) in the game of challenging wisdom delivered by conventional historigraphers. Following in the wake of his controversial “1421 — The Year China Discovered America” Menzies has again assembled the most extraordinary collection of data and given us a new way to connect the dots.
Menzies’s latest look at Chinese influence on western civilization turns conventional scholarship on its head, just like the ancient maps that ‘orient’ the picture of the world with south on the top, north on the bottom.
“1421” pioneered some of the most innovative approaches of yoking the static information of the printed page to the fluid evolution of website interplay, generating hundreds of thousands of emails and scores of vitally important new discoveries. “1434” promises to take the medium to the next stage.
The hypothesis is stated boldly. The Italian renaissance seems to spring out of the early 15th century without precedent. Advances in science, mathematics, astronomy, navigation, engineering, painting, sculpture, commerce … they all seem to explode as if the requisite fuel was ignited by a spark plug.
Instead of marveling at the serendipitous admixture of volatile gas and air, Menzies seeks the spark plug.
He finds it in the hitherto little-known or overlooked visit of a Chinese embassy to the Papal Court which had moved in 1434 to Florence. From the Chinese, Menzies argues, flowed the vast treasure of ideas that made possible the unprecedented rise in European civilization, exploration and worldwide domination.
It was a near run thing.
A series of natural disasters, including a recently discovered monstrous tsunami that destroyed the vast ocean-going Chinese treasure fleets, and cataclysmic fire that destroyed the Forbidden City, coupled with domestic introversion took China out of the international sphere. Sophisticated engineering skills and intellectual capital accumulated in the east all but disappeared from the written record. What remained in the west was claimed as its own.
The histories that were written, the histories that were taught, ignored the accomplishments of the “heathen” Chinese. The reports of adventurers like Marco Polo were relegated to myth. No longer. Menzies puts Toscanelli, Alberti, Nicholas of Cusa, Regiomontanus, Fontana, Pisanello, Taccola, Di Giorgi … even Leonardo da Vinci into the post-1434 spectrum of Chinese beneficiaries.
Historians may challenge Menzies’s broad hypothesis, his startling conclusions, his many and bold submissions. But they will have to deal with his uncomfortable facts. His genius lies in his breadth of vision: a new way of seeing facts that previous historians have relegated to “anomalies” that do not fit the model.
Copernicus did not invent the heliocentric view of astronomy, planets revolving around the sun; that laurel must go to Aristarchus who proposed it 1700 years earlier, (without success). What Copernicus did, by compiling thousands of observations (some of which were wrong), was create an alternative to the universally accepted Ptolemaic model of geocentrism, all planets revolving around the earth. As astronomers added to the data, the need for deferents and epicycles to explain “anomalies” fell away. The new model proved itself.
Anyone with a love of science, adventure and good old-fashioned detective work will delight in this new work of this ex-submariner from the Royal Navy. Better yet, there’s promise of a further book in the works: based on evidence suggesting the great Chinese admiral Zheng He ended his days in North Carolina.
Gavin Menzies' second book is dishonest, shoddy and lazy beyond repair. The level of ignorance is stunning and hits you machine-gun style: "In the 1430s, Europeans had no unified calendar, for they had not yet agreed how to measure time. The Gregorian calendar did not come into use until a century later." Never heard of the Julian calendar, proposed by Gaius Julius Caesar, inventor of the Cesar salad? Obviously, the editors and account managers at HarperCollins haven't either or were blinded by those shiny, shiny coins. This is history's equivalent to Creationism. It is only fitting that HarperCollins is also the publisher of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, going rogue on facts and reality. Well, there is a sucker born every minute. Fortunately, I did not spend any money on this icky title.
1434 presents startling information, that is more than likely and highly plausible, regarding the fact that Admiral Zheng He did reach America close to 80 years prior to Christopher Columbus. Menzies backs up his evidence and feasible speculations with maps, logbooks, and letters from other explorers who all had copies of maps that more than likely originated from the maps of Zheng He. Through these maps, Menzies follows the history of many voyages, traces DNA lineage from various world port civilizations, evaluates artifacts found, and comes up with some very credible ideas that are worth noting.
This book also details many other aspects of the Chinese influence to Europe through Menzies' incredible research. 1434 reveals uncanny knowledge that compares early thoughts on astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, physics and mechanical engineering. Within these pages, the reader can view side by side, many illustrations of mechanical inventions such as siege weapons, parachutes, grinding machines and printing presses, that until now were believed to be created by Leonardo Da Vinci and other brilliant Renaissance men. With these fascinating presentations, it's hard to not realize that the early historians could have been wrong, when in truth; most of all mechanisms shown in the book were initially invented by the Chinese and then introduced to Europe by Zheng He himself. Menzies' new findings that appear to be more than coincidence, offer up a wealth of knowledge, provide serious thought, and are beyond difficult to believe untrue. His in-depth research extends to the belief that these new thoughts stretch to the idea that the works of Leonardo and other inventors were simply enhancements to the diagrams given to them by the Chinese, and not original creations.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, found Menzies' research to be extensive and thought-provoking. The chapters on cartography, and the voyages of Admiral Zheng He fascinated me. Other newly found shocking tidbits revealed here made me wonder if perhaps the scholars will now be rewriting the history books. I found 1434 intriguing and fun to explore. This book is well written, inspiring, and presented nicely with three sections of color inserts showing illustrations and maps to enhance the book's readability. I can highly recommend this book and give it 4 stars.