Oct 21, 2013
Charles C. Mann didn't plan to write about the world before and after Columbus, but, at a certain point, he realized he couldn't wait for anyone else to do it. In his book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Mr. Mann relentlessly dispels the myths of Native American life in the Americas before Columbus made landfall in 1492. Although native Americans are often depicted living in an untouched wilderness, the reality of native American life was very different. They transformed their environment, built empires, made war and invented two technologies that would prove vital to Europe's rise: the potato and the corn plant. In his book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Mr. Mann describes how Columbus' arrival in the new world set off the exchange of species between the Americas and the rest of the world. After centuries of relentless plant breeding, the peoples of the new world had transformed the minimally useful ancestors of corn and potatoes into the most productive food-producing technologies in the world. Europe--for centuries in the grip of famine--was finally able to free itself from the struggle for survival, grow its population and usher in the modern world. In China, the sweet potato allowed previously sparsely-inhabited regions to become major population centers. In the Americas, diseases like smallpox created a Native American apocalypse while diseases like malaria would incentivize the development of a slavery based on the forced importation of West African peoples. The roots of our modern world can be traced to the exchange of a few key species. Drawing together the latest scientific research from biology, history, archaeology and anthropology, in this episode Mr. Mann paints a vision of the world that might allow us to finally transcend the narrative of race and allow us to finally see all the peoples of the past as they truly were: just like us.1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created are both available on Amazon and through all good booksellers.