Sunday, January 15, 2012

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann

This book was such an adventure and joy, I hardly know where to start.

If you have an interest in early American (north and south) history, malaria and yellow fever, the silver trade of Bolivia that went to China as well as Europe, Chinese trade with the Philippines, slave revolts and communities, privateering, the world-system of the early modern era--I could go on and on--then this is your book. Mann, a journalist, goes from topic to topic effortlessly, weaving personal observations with wide-ranging research in the scholarship of these topics. He interviews the scholars as well to add a bit of spice to his research into the scholarship on these myriad topics. Not limited by academic boundaries, he can take us from here to there. By listening to this book, I learned a huge amount in this period in which I am distressingly weak. I'm improving, but I have a long way to go. Fortunately, Mann has gotten me off to a great start.

The Columbian exchange, the first significant step in globalization, for good and ill, begins here. Europe, Africa, and China--human, animal, and botanical-- come to the Americas, and vice versa. It's a fascinating topic, and a story that is ongoing as you read this.

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