My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
This is not what they taught when I was a kid in school. In fact, in those days they didn't even know most of this stuff. What Mann has done is gather together everything scholars have learned over the last 50 years about pre-Columbian America and put it together in one place. Sure, some of it is speculative and doomed to remain so, but most of it has a pretty solid body of evidence to support it. The story they used to tell us of a primitive unchanging life style over thousands of years gives way to a land thrown into turmoil by devastating epidemics. Reconstructing the society that existed prior to those epidemics gives a vastly different picture of what life was like in the New World. An evolving dynamic society that sadly lacked a written record to tell us more about what was lost.
Boy! This book sure shoots great big holes in commonly accepted Pre-Columbian history! Interesting listen but will demand your full attention.
I'd read a bit about 'contact and conflict,' and wanted to learn more about the history of the Americas and the natives of the land- before Columbus. This is just that, and more.
My favorite parts are the descriptions of the natives by the Europeans and vice versa. Also the comparisons between the two groups of people, on both continents, at different time periods, is very insightful.
Many of my assumptions via previous education were faulty it turns out, and I'm glad to know it. Now, when I hear people talk about the 'Indians,' I have to say that things apparently weren't the way we have been led to believe.
The focus of this book definitely leans more toward the death of the natives by means of disease, which although apparently true, left out to an excessive degree by comparison - I felt- the very real destruction of the population by other means.
Still- good enough to listen to twice. Or three times.
Charles Mann has bought into a great anthropological hoax, where the thinnest threads of evidence are spun into a tapestry of archaelogical and ecological theories of how life might of, could of, should of been if not for the horrible Europeans.
Scholars from a wide range of academia have dismissed these so-called theories as "just wishful thinking," to quote renowned Smithsonian archaeologist Betty Meggers. Dr. Dean Snow, the Penn State anthropologist said "you can make the meager evidence from the ethnohistorical record tell you anything you want. It's really easy to kid yourself."
Mann spins an interesting tale, it's just that the real evidence for it isn't there, except in the minds of a handful of researchers who desperately want it to be true. Armed with this understanding, the book is an interesting read -- but putting its theories out as viable is analagous to claiming that the eco-horror movie "Day After Tomorrow" is a documentary.
This book is, at best, a re-hash of much of what Jared Diamond covers. Very little of it is set in 1491, so the author never really sets his own table for a feast. The indigenous names are hard to follow when heard rather than seen, and there is a lot of tedious detail. Some is interesting, and some is new, but most of this info is old hat.
I think Mann is good. Johnson is unprepared and inflectionless. I would give Mann another shot, but I woudl never download another book read by Peter Johnson.
Great take on one of the world's most high-profile yet unknown peoples, but the few obvious and easily verfiyable factual inaccuracies that I caught makes me wonder about the rest of the 'facts' presented. Just one example: In the first section, Mann writes about Iron Eyes Cody (the man who portrayed the weeping Indian in the famous 1970's anti-littering PSA TV commercial) and introduces him as a "Cherokee actor". Iron Eyes Cody was born in 1904 to two Sicilian immigrants and changed his name many years later from his given name, Espera Oscar de Corti, to his stage name to help him acquire more Indian roles in the mid-twentieth century. There were at least four other completely false statements passed as 'facts' in Part 1 alone that I caught. How many were there that I didn't catch because I just don't have a working knowledge of the subject?
From straight-up mispronounciations ('long-lived' pronounced with a long I as in 'hive') to long passages read without inflection or intonation appropriate for the punctuation, Johnson read the manuscript like a seventh grader reading aloud difficult paragraphs from Ulysses; word-to-word and robot-like. While his diction is nearly flawless, it sounds as if he never even skimmed the document before chinning up to the mic.
1491 wasn't worth listening to. This is one I would read myself if I had it to do over again. In fact and I might do just that becasue I didn't even listen to Part 2. Too painful.
IT Manager and life long learner
1491 digs into the history of the American continents prior to Europeans involvement. Many historical accounts treat the period of history prior to Europeans as being a time of pure barbarian ism on a highly vacant continent. This is often done to justify the rights of the Europeans to great the new world. In 1491 the author digs into population estimates the shows a deeply populated Americas with advanced cultures that rivaled those of Europe and Egypt. In questions the technological dominance of the European weapon technology and focuses on the mass extinctions caused by newly introduced diseases that killed greater than 95% of the indigenous population.
At the top with others in your great series. From the age of eight, I could never believe the Columbus discovery myth. Freedom from propaganda is truly beautiful.
The book is incomparable.
He breathed fascinating life into the spoken word.
It gave me chills.
The book casts a beautiful, illuminating light into previously deeply shadowed history.
For me, this book brought together a lot of different ideas I have read about regarding life in the Americas before Europeans. There is a lot of interesting work being done on these continents. There is a good chance that as these studies (in their early phases) continue some of these concepts will turn out not to be exactly right, but I think that we are moving in the right direction. The superficial analysis completed in early archeological work laden with European assumptions has been slowly turned.
The Americas before Europeans was a much more complex place than we learned about in grade school.
If you have an interest in early American and pre-Columbian American history, this book is definitely worth a listen. It is thought-provoking and makes you re-think much of what you have previously learned, but don't take it all in at face value. There is a lot of credible evidence that Mann uses to back up these new theories, but there is also a lot of speculative theory without compelling evidence, and incredible extrapolations based on shaky data.
Overall, it is a worthwhile listen that will expand your thinking about ancient Native American cultures. Just keep in mind that the author is a journalist, not an archaeologist or anthropologist, and be sure to wear your critical thinking cap when you listen to it.