book reviews

January 20th, 2011 |

Courtesy of Beaverdale Books


Reviewed by Julie Goodrich


‘1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus’

By Charles C. Mann





In the same vein as the hugely popular “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond, this interesting history discusses the newest finds with regard to the indigenous peoples of America before the arrival of the Europeans. With an easy reading style and an involving narrative, Charles Mann takes the reader through the development of the native cultures and what it meant for them when Columbus and the many that followed interrupted the evolution of their cultures.

“1491” takes a heavy look at the newest studies and excavations that seek to answer the questions that abound about what these continents were like before they were discovered by the white man. This eye-opening new evidence challenges the idea that before Europeans, Native tribes were sparse, backward and underdeveloped. There is vast evidence, for example, that the vast forests of South America were man-made. There is also some interesting research into the philosophical traditions in the Aztec empire that suggests they could rival their European counterparts. Mann is attempting to give a clearer picture of the Native Americans than many receive, even in higher education. This picture allows us to see not only what life was like when Columbus landed, but the vastness of the culture and how it was built.

These cultures were highly civilized and complex; there were large cities with organized agriculture, advanced science and intense politics. These continents were not wildlife preserves with a few people, but thriving cultures. It’s this window into the past that makes this book a must read for any history buff. CV