This is the best book I've read all year. I've recomended it to friends and family and re-listened several times. We live in exciting times, and the fields of history and anthropology are constantly being challenged and changed as new discoveries are made. IMHO, Guns Germs and Steel set the gold standard for world history books. However, for the reasons I just mentioned, its important to keep up with emerging discoveries and new knowledge. I loved Mann's last book, 1491, for this reason. This book dramatically exceeds the previous work, no mean feat. For anyone interested in history, this is a MUST READ. Couldn't recomend more.
The chapters about colonial U.S. history were real eye-openers.
Not one to miss!
mostly nonfiction listener
A modern updating of Crosby's classic The Columbian Exchange, Mann traces the biological, epidemiological, and agricultural impact of trade between Europe, Asia and the America's after 1493.
1493 is a book for fans of Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and Morris' Why the West Rules -- for Now.
If you like your history to be big, the scope to be wide, but to be tied into how you eat and pay your way in the world, then 1493 is probably perfect.
The last time I learned about the Columbian Exchange was in high school. Learning dates and the sequence of events, and getting familiar with maps and geography, was central to my high school history experience. As a history major in college the emphasis on maps, dates, and events diminished, as the work in primary sources came to the forefront.
I can't imagine 1493 will be much required in college history courses, as this type of historical narrative for a popular audience (written by a journalist and not a historian) probably does not conform to how postsecondary history is taught. This is perhaps too bad, as I just did not know most of the history of Columbian Exchange described in 1493.
Learning how to "do history", to work like historians, is probably not a bad thing. But most history undergraduate students will not go on to graduate school. A book like 1493, a book with strong opinions and lots of dates, geography, people and events, might be an example of the kind of works we should make room for in our history courses.
The thesis of this book is great and the first portion which focuses on ecology is really riveting. I get the sense that the author traveled down too many cultural and historical side roads and then ran out of time to tie his thesis into a nice, complete package for us towards the end. Starts off strong, wobbles, and then topples over like a top.
Nature, animals, sociobiology, science, spirituality art, travel, healthy cooking are my main interests. I love a great novel but don't enjoy works where there is no real point just one description of people after another. I wont read Steven King anymore because of one scene in his book that put an experience in my head I didn't need to have.
Jamestown like you never thought of it before, a sweeping look at how plants, animals and people change the world and make history. If school taught history as well as this book does i would have loved the class instead of dreading it.
Changes your Worldview. Here is a lot of the dark matter that our school history texts never mentioned. Forget kings and statesmen; here are the real players: the lowly worm, the tiny bacteria, the odd plant, the parasite and a whole cast of greedy, stupid, and heroic humans all playing their gigantic parts in interweaving threads of change, growth and destruction. You will never view history the same after this. And you will talk about it until your friends either kill you or read it themselves.
1491- the same astonishing kind of information looking backwards from 1492. What was really here in the American Continent.
Really a remarkable book. Well written and very interesting delivery of information that could have been boring. Very thought provoking work about how the world changed after Columbus landed. The book touches on how disease shaped (mainly) the new world, how Spanish gold changed Europe and China (and the Philippines), new world crops fed (and the failed to feed) Europe, how those same crops changed food production in China, and how rubber is currently changing the far East. I will never think of history the same way. I can't say enough about this book. If you are at all interested in history, get it and listen now.
On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through
I have listened to a lot of history books on Audible, and I thought this would mostly cover ground I had heard before (in Guns, Germs, and Steel, for example). I was wrong.
To be fair, not all of the historical incidents themselves were entirely new, but the book managed to bring them together in a way that was a revelation. In one powerful section on Jamestown, for example, you see how alien the landscape was for Europeans arriving in Virginia - they couldn't even recognize tended fields, because they looked so different than European fields. And, in return, by bringing earthworms, draft animals, and malaria, the Europeans create an entirely different ecosystem themselves which destroys or merges with the American one. The idea of settlers transforming a landscape so utterly feels like a science fiction trope, but the historical account is excellent, here, as it is throughout the book.
Similarly fascinating are accounts of the way that Spanish silver destabilized China, the potato's role in European history, and the attempts to start a Confederate state in the Amazon. The history is not always pleasant, but it terrifically described. Along the way, Mann makes an argument that, since 1493, we are living in a new world, the Homogenocene, shaped by humans and globalization.
There are only a couple of minor caveats. First, the author works hard to make sure his views on the Colombian Exchange are asserted, and he overreaches occasionally in trying to tie much of world history to the Exchange. This is forgivable, but can make some sections feel like a bit of a stretch. Also, the reading is solid, but not terrific.
Reading reviews by historians, this seems to be well-regarded work, even though it wasn't by a historian. It is definitely gripping and occasionally revelatory. I recommend it very highly to those who like their history sweeping.
Everything is connected
Trying to increase potato harvests was probably the very thing that caused the famine.
When most farmers decided to grow tobacco instead of food.
The day everything changed.
Basically this book shows how the smallest changes can lead to world altering consequences. As in accidentally bringing Malaria to the Americas lead to slavery of mainly Africans and why only in the south. It also shows that short term solutions are often the worst option in the long run. It shows how actual events in our past have lead to where we are today and some of the challenges they have left us with. No matter your field there is something in this book that touches on it and will make you look outside your field for factors you make have not considered before.
I think; therefore, I do not know.
Pesos in Germany, the mini ice age, Chinese barbers and Samurai soldiers in Brazil... oh my. I thought that I knew enough about Columbus but there is so much more to this story.
Certain parts of this book are more factually dense than other parts and this may seem boring at first but, as you listen these facts will be revisited and explained in vivid detail.
If you are curious about world history, global economics, potatoes and plastic then add this book to your list.
I'm a junky for this kind of stuff, and after reading 1491 a few years back, I instantly bought 1493 when I saw it. Charles C Mann has an incredible knack for finding facts that are not only fascinating, but tell a story extremely well.
While 1491 focused in the Americas before Columbus, 1493 focuses on "the Columbian exchange". Basically the beginning of globalization. The connecting of two worlds and the profound impact it had on both hemispheres. Full of well done analysis, and enough amazing factoids to impress your friends at parties, this book is pure gold and Spanish silver, with Inca potatoes, and tomatoes on top, wrapped in a maize tortilla, seasoned with some Peruvian seabird guano. Delicious!
Top notch narration, too.