In the last 20 years, archaeologists and anthropologists equipped with new scientific techniques have made far-reaching discoveries about the Americas. For example, Indians did not cross the Bering Strait 12,000 years ago, as most of us learned in school. They were already here. Their numbers were vast, not few. And instead of living lightly on the land, they managed it beautifully and left behind an enormous ecological legacy.
In this riveting, accessible work of science, Charles Mann takes us on an enthralling journey of scientific exploration. We learn that the Indian development of modern corn was one of the most complex feats of genetic engineering ever performed. That the Great Plains are a third smaller today than they were in 1700 because the Indians who maintained them by burning died. And that the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact.
Compelling and eye-opening, this book has the potential to vastly alter our understanding of our history and change the course of today's environmental disputes.
©2005 Charles C. Mann; (P)2005 HighBridge Company
"Johnson renders this thoroughly researched, well-written history of early North and South American Indian populations in a strong, clear voice, with excellent intonation. His diction is almost too perfect." (Publishers Weekly)
"Mann's 1491 vividly compels us to re-examine how we teach the ancient history of the Americas and how we live with the environmental consequences of colonization." (The Washington Post Book World)
I focus mainly on History, Endurance Sports and Science/Speculative Fiction books.
Mann is not a historian, as a result this book is accessible for the layman. His journalistic approach to explaining the history of the Americas is understandable and fascinating. His approach is offer a survey of different options on the subject and as a result it is devoid of agenda or revisionism. I enjoyed it immensely.
The entire book laid waste to fallacies about what I was taught in High School about Indian life prior to English settlement. This is not an idealized view of Indian life, rather a thorough explanation of how people developed on a continent that was free of outside influence for millions of years. Fascinating.
He could be a bit dry at times but that could be a result of the material. Since there is not real plot in this book, major portions are multi subject lectures on a topic. Not a criticism but a challenge for a narrator. I thought he did a very good job.
I rarely do that, but I did find I was listening to it when I normally would have turned it off. I think this is a good indication that it held my interest and proves how well it was done.
I prefer these types of book to the Great Course series. I find the book format on history and other foundational subjects is better done using this approach. i recommend this book to anyone interested in supplementing their current knowledge of history. Very well done.
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.
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.
Boy! This book sure shoots great big holes in commonly accepted Pre-Columbian history! Interesting listen but will demand your full attention.
Audio Addict! Usually listening to History these days. Love Will Durant most of all authors!
As an abridged version, I was a little reluctant to by this book. But the reviews from various sources, including amazon, goodreads, and audible, convinced me to try it.
While I would buy this book again if an unabridged version were released, I am thrilled with my purchase! This is fascinating newly charted territory!! The author has done a great job showing so many aspects of the Americas and its native peoples. For ex., religion, philosophy, art, poetry and other writings, along with the complicated cities and structures and lifestyles of these people. We discover the vastness of life on the americas; perhaps for the first time we can see how tragic the loss of these civilizations really is.
I don't feel like he blames anyone. Instead, I was impressed that he gave the native Americans a powerful voice in the book, instead of just portraying them as being victims of the inevitable.
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.
1491 has shaken my assumptions and reshaped my world view more than any other history book I've read in at least 10 years. It brings together eye-opening new material on the nature, origin and history of the societies of the Americas; the staggering effects of disease after contact — as much as 90+% of the American population died; the sweeping changes transatlantic exchange brought to landscapes, wildlife, food systems, economies and belief systems worldwide; the fact that "primeval wilderness" is a fading fantasy view of what in fact were heavily human-shaped ecosystems.
There are so many important, challenging, thought-provoking insights here that that is barely a start. You will not see the world the same way again after reading this book.
Didn't realize til halfway in that this was an abridged version of the book :/ I wonder what I missed!
All in all though, I LOVED this book. I think it's an absolute must-read for those looking for a history of the Americas written in a digestible, relatable manner.
Extremely factual and enlightening. This book reminded me of that old radio show. "And now you know the rest of the story ".
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