1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Oct 10, 2006 - History - 576 pages
12 Reviews

In this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology, Charles C. Mann radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492.
Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew.

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1491: new revelations of the Americas before Columbus

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What were the Americas like before the arrival of Christopher Columbus changed the native cultures of the Western Hemisphere forever? Mann, a correspondent for Science and the Atlantic Monthly ... Read full review

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In order to tell a more accurate story of the Indians, a term Native Americans informed the author they prefer, Charles Mann collected an astonishing amount of evidence from many fields such as history, archeology, and epidemiology. Fitting all the data, Mann put together a portrait of Indians that is probably largely unfamiliar to those of us who relied on accounts told by the perpetrators and winners of the genocide that took place after 1492.
His account is fairly dry at times. It felt as if he wanted to get every detail in the book but wasn't quite sure how to weave it into a story.So, if you require passion in a book, this probably isn't the best match. However, if you are interested in correcting the incorrect assumptions you may have been holding onto, this is worth the read. It is clear that Jared Diamond was a huge influence for this author. His work was highlighted so often, I found myself wishing Diamond would write a book that narrows its focus to the history of Native Americans. I really enjoyed Guns, Germs, and Steel and could easily imagine Diamond researching a bit more about Native Americans in order to writing an engaging book solely about their plight.
I heard that Mann wrote a scathing review of Harari's Sapiens. This really surprised me because sapiens was, in my opinion, one of the best books of 2015. Mann could have benefitted from adopting Harari's writing style.
Regardless of his style, Mann does an excellent job of setting the record straight, as well as explaining the many roadblocks that resulted in the misrepresentation of Indians. I could not help but go back to every memory I had of Squanto, and at times I just sat in disbelief, remembering story hour in my elementary school library. Even though other books clued me into the fact that Indians had a rich culture that was not at all inline with what American children are taught, this book really helped drive than home.
If you enjoyed this book, I highly recommend Dee Brown's 1970's book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. It relies on historical tellings instead of the science Mann is privy to, but it was an excellent read.

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About the author (2006)

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.

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