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1493
Cover of 1493
1493
Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
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From the author of 1491--the best-selling study of the pre-Columbian Americas--a deeply engaging new history of 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 radically different suites of plants and animals. When Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas, he ended that separation at a stroke. Driven by the economic goal of establishing trade with China, he accidentally set off an ecological convulsion as European vessels carried thousands of species to new homes across the oceans.

The Columbian Exchange, as researchers call it, is the reason there are tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolates in Switzerland, and chili peppers in Thailand. More important, creatures the colonists knew nothing about hitched along for the ride. Earthworms, mosquitoes, and cockroaches; honeybees, dandelions, and African grasses; bacteria, fungi, and viruses; rats of every description--all of them rushed like eager tourists into lands that had never seen their like before, changing lives and landscapes across the planet.

Eight decades after Columbus, a Spaniard named Legazpi succeeded where Columbus had failed. He sailed west to establish continual trade with China, then the richest, most powerful country in the world. In Manila, a city Legazpi founded, silver from the Americas, mined by African and Indian slaves, was sold to Asians in return for silk for Europeans. It was the first time that goods and people from every corner of the globe were connected in a single worldwide exchange. Much as Columbus created a new world biologically, Legazpi and the Spanish empire he served created a new world economically.

As Charles C. Mann shows, the Columbian Exchange underlies much of subsequent human history. Presenting the latest research by ecologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians, Mann shows how the creation of this worldwide network of ecological and economic exchange fostered the rise of Europe, devastated imperial China, convulsed Africa, and for two centuries made Mexico City--where Asia, Europe, and the new frontier of the Americas dynamically interacted--the center of the world. In such encounters, he uncovers the germ of today's fiercest political disputes, from immigration to trade policy to culture wars.

In 1493, Charles Mann gives us an eye-opening scientific interpretation of our past, unequaled in its authority and fascination.

From the Hardcover edition.

From the author of 1491--the best-selling study of the pre-Columbian Americas--a deeply engaging new history of 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 radically different suites of plants and animals. When Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas, he ended that separation at a stroke. Driven by the economic goal of establishing trade with China, he accidentally set off an ecological convulsion as European vessels carried thousands of species to new homes across the oceans.

The Columbian Exchange, as researchers call it, is the reason there are tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolates in Switzerland, and chili peppers in Thailand. More important, creatures the colonists knew nothing about hitched along for the ride. Earthworms, mosquitoes, and cockroaches; honeybees, dandelions, and African grasses; bacteria, fungi, and viruses; rats of every description--all of them rushed like eager tourists into lands that had never seen their like before, changing lives and landscapes across the planet.

Eight decades after Columbus, a Spaniard named Legazpi succeeded where Columbus had failed. He sailed west to establish continual trade with China, then the richest, most powerful country in the world. In Manila, a city Legazpi founded, silver from the Americas, mined by African and Indian slaves, was sold to Asians in return for silk for Europeans. It was the first time that goods and people from every corner of the globe were connected in a single worldwide exchange. Much as Columbus created a new world biologically, Legazpi and the Spanish empire he served created a new world economically.

As Charles C. Mann shows, the Columbian Exchange underlies much of subsequent human history. Presenting the latest research by ecologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians, Mann shows how the creation of this worldwide network of ecological and economic exchange fostered the rise of Europe, devastated imperial China, convulsed Africa, and for two centuries made Mexico City--where Asia, Europe, and the new frontier of the Americas dynamically interacted--the center of the world. In such encounters, he uncovers the germ of today's fiercest political disputes, from immigration to trade policy to culture wars.

In 1493, Charles Mann gives us an eye-opening scientific interpretation of our past, unequaled in its authority and fascination.

From the Hardcover edition.

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  • From the book

    The Seams of Panagaea

    Although it had just finished raining, the air was hot and close. Nobody else was in sight; the only sound other than those from insects and gulls was the staticky low crashing of Caribbean waves. Around me on the sparsely covered red soil was a scatter of rectangles laid out by lines of stones: the outlines of now- vanished buildings, revealed by archaeologists. Cement pathways, steaming faintly from the rain, ran between them. One of the buildings had more imposing walls than the others. The researchers had covered it with a new roof, the only structure they had chosen to protect from the rain. Standing like a sentry by its entrance was a hand- lettered sign: Casa Almirante, Admiral's House. It marked the first American residence of Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, the man whom generations of schoolchildren have learned to call the discoverer of the New World.

    La Isabela, as this community was called, is situated on the north side of the great Caribbean island of Hispaniola, in what is now the Dominican Republic. It was the initial attempt by Europeans to make a permanent base in the Americas. (To be precise, La Isabela marked the beginning of consequential European settlement--Vikings had established a short-lived village in Newfoundland five centuries before.) The admiral laid out his new domain at the confluence of two small, fast- rushing rivers: a fortified center on the north bank, a satellite community of farms on the south bank. For his home, Columbus--Cristóbal Colón, to give him the name he answered to at the time--chose the best location in town: a rocky promontory in the northern settlement, right at the water's edge. His house was situated perfectly to catch the afternoon light.

    Today La Isabela is almost forgotten. Sometimes a similar fate appears to threaten its founder. Colón is by no means absent from history textbooks, of course, but in them he seems ever less admirable and important. He was a cruel, deluded man, today's critics say, who stumbled upon the Caribbean by luck. An agent of imperialism, he was in every way a calamity for the Americas' first inhabitants. Yet a different but equally contemporary perspective suggests that we should continue to take notice of the admiral. Of all the members of humankind who have ever walked the earth, he alone inaugurated a new era in the history of life.

    The king and queen of Spain, Fernando (Ferdinand) II and Isabel I, backed Colón's first voyage grudgingly. Transoceanic travel in those days was heart-toppingly expensive and risky--the equivalent, perhaps, of spaceshuttle flights today. Despite relentless pestering, Colón was able to talk the monarchs into supporting his scheme only by threatening to take the project to France. He was riding to the frontier, a friend wrote later, when the queen "sent a court bailiff posthaste" to fetch him back. The story is probably exaggerated. Still, it is clear that the sovereigns' reservations drove the admiral to whittle down his expedition, if not his ambitions, to a minimum: three small ships (the biggest may have been less than sixty feet long), a combined crew of about ninety. Colón himself had to contribute a quarter of the budget, according to a collaborator, probably by borrowing it from Italian merchants.

    Everything changed with his triumphant return in March of 1493, bearing golden ornaments, brilliantly colored parrots, and as many as ten captive Indians. The king and queen, now enthusiastic, dispatched Colón just six months later on a second, vastly larger expedition: seventeen ships, a combined crew of perhaps...

About the Author-
  • Charles C. Mann, a correspondent for The Atlantic, Science, and Wired, has written for Fortune, The New York Times, Smithsonian, Technology Review, Vanity Fair, and The Washington Post, as well as for the TV network HBO and the series Law & Order. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he is the recipient of writing awards from the American Bar Association, the American Institute of Physics, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Lannan Foundation. His 1491 won the National Academies Communication Award for the best book of the year. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 4, 2011
    Having resurrected the isolated splendors of the pre-Columbian Americas in his bestselling 1491, Mann explores the global convergences—and upheavals—inaugurated by their discovery in this fascinating survey of the "Homogenocene" era. Mann traces the subtle, epochal influences of the intercontinental "Columbian Exchange" of flora, fauna, commodities, and peoples, showing how European honeybees and earthworms remade New World landscapes; how New World corn, potatoes, and fertilizer ignited Eurasian population booms; how Old World diseases prompted an eruption of slavery in the Western Hemisphere (the influx of Africans, not Europeans, to the Americas, Mann notes, was the main demographic result of the Contact); how Latin American silver undermined China's Ming Dynasty; and how the decimation of Indian peoples changed the world's climate. The author interweaves research on everything from epidemiology to economics into a lucid historical panorama that's studded with entertaining studies of Chinese pirate fleets, courtly tobacco rituals, and the bloody feud between Jamestown colonists and the Indians who fed and fought them, to name a few. Brilliantly assembling colorful details into big-picture insights, Mann's fresh, challenge to Eurocentric histories puts interdependence at the origin of modernity. 35 illus.; 12 maps.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 1, 2011

    A fascinating chronicle of the "Columbian Exchange," which mixed old and new world elements to form today's integrated global culture, the "homogenocene."

    People of European ancestry poured across the world after 1500, forming the majority in several continents and dominating everywhere. Historians traditionally credit Western superiority in organization and weaponry, but science journalist Mann (1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, 2005) argues convincingly that biology, not technology, gave them the critical advantage. Most readers will be surprised by the author's discussion of the history of Jamestown, America's first permanent English colony. Settled largely by incompetent adventurers eager to duplicate the jackpot of gold that Spaniards found in Mexico and Peru, they failed, dithered and starved to death by the thousands until, after 10 years, the jackpot appeared: tobacco, the first global commodity craze. Silk and porcelain crazes quickly followed. Arriving with Columbus, malaria and yellow fever debilitated white settlers throughout America, but Africans had partial resistance, a major factor in encouraging the slave trade. Historians have focused on gold, but an avalanche of South American silver poured into China as well as Europe, facilitating international trade as well as inflation, instability, war and today's currency system. Potatoes and corn from America probably stabilized Europe by eliminating periodic famines. They did the opposite in China, encouraging a population explosion that cleared forests, leading to floods and vast environmental degradation.

    Focusing on ecology and economics, Mann provides a spellbinding account of how an unplanned collision of unfamiliar animals, vegetables, minerals and diseases produced unforeseen wealth, misery, social upheaval and the modern world.

    (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2011

    In 1491, winner of the National Academies Communication Award, Mann argued that recent findings show that in the Western Hemisphere, pre-Columbian society was more sophisticated and more diverse than we have been led to believe. Here he discusses what happened after Columbus hit landfall, which began the greatest exchange of flora and fauna ever witnessed and created a whole new world--the one we know today. Sounds like smart and fascinating reading, and I can't wait; with a six-city tour.

    Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • -Lev Grossman, Time Magazine Best Books of 2011 "Revelatory."
  • Publishers Weekly Top 100 Books of 2011 "Compelling and eye-opening."
  • -Ian Morris, The New York Times Book Review "Voltaire would have loved Charles C. Mann's outstanding new book, 1493. In more than 500 lively pages, it not only explains the chain of events that produced those candied fruits, nuts and gardens, but also weaves their stories together into a convincing explanation of why our world is the way it is . . . Mann has managed the difficult trick of telling a complicated story in engaging and clear prose while refusing to reduce its ambiguities to slogans. He is not a professional historian, but most professionals could learn a lot from the deft way he does this . . . Most impressive of all, he manages to turn plants, germs, insects and excrement into the lead actors in his drama while still parading before us an unforgettable cast of human characters. He makes even the most unpromising-sounding subjects fascinating. I, for one, will never look at a piece of rubber in quite the same way now . . . The Columbian Exchange has shaped everything about the modern world. It brought us the plants we tend in our gardens and the pests that eat them. And as it accelerates in the 21st century, it may take both away again. If you want to understand why, read 1493."
  • -Gregory McNamee, The Washington Post "Mann's book is jammed with facts and factoids, trivia and moments of great insight that take on power as they accumulate . . . Fascinating and complex, exemplary in its union of meaningful fact with good storytelling, 1493 ranges across continents and centuries to explain how the world we inhabit came to be."
  • -Jared Farmer, Science "For fans of long-form nonfiction, 1493 presents multitudinous delights in the form of absorbing stories and fascinating factoids . . . As a writer, Mann displays many fine qualities: evenhandedness, a sense of wonder, the gift of turning a phrase . . . Mann loves the world and adopts it as his own."
  • -Bruce Watson, San Francisco Chronicle "Even the wisest readers will find many surprises here . . . Like 1491, Mann's sequel will change worldviews."
  • -The New Yorker "Engaging . . . Mann deftly illuminates contradictions on a human scale: the blind violence and terror at Jamestown, the cruel exploitation of labor in the silver mines of Bolivia, the awe felt by Europeans upon first seeing a rubber ball bounce."
  • -Alfred W. Crosby, The Wall Street Journal "A muscular, densely documented follow-up [to Mann's 1491] . . . 1493 moves at a gallop . . . As a historian Mann should be admired not just for his broad scope and restless intelligence but for his biological senstivity. At every point of his tale he keeps foremost in his mind the effect of humans' activities on the broader environment they inhabit."
  • -David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z "In the wake of his groundbreaking book 1491 Charles Mann has once again produced a brilliant and riveting work that will forever change the way we see the world. Mann shows how the ecological collision of Europe and the Americas transformed virtually every aspect of human history. Beautifully written, and packed with startling research, 1493 is a monumental achievement."
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Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
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