meilufay’s #CBR4 review #07 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
The premise of this book is that everything we learned in school about the Americas before Columbus was wrong and that Native American civilizations deserve far more scholarly attention than they’ve so far received. Like any good journalist, Charles Mann has done his research and he makes a compelling, very well supported, case.
I love a good non-fiction book and this ranks among the best – well-researched but never unreadable or boring. While I already knew some of the things Mann writes about in this book, I’d never known them in the depth that I know them now. For instance, all of us know that Native Americans were decimated by European disease. But what I didn’t know was the extent of the destruction – before Europeans came to the Americas, the population there may well have been larger than that of Europe. Native Americans had cities with larger populations than the great cities of Europe. Mann focuses on various topics in American history rather than giving a dense overview and all I can say is that after reading his book I’m desperate for more books to come out, expanding on some of the subjects he touches upon. I’d known about the ancient civilizations in Mexico and Peru but I had no idea about the other civilizations he writes about (one in the American Midwest!) or about the theory that the Amazon was originally cultivated – that the reason why it’s so richly endowed with fruit trees is because it is partially an overgrown orchard.
I really loved this book. I think anyone with an interest in history, a taste for non-fiction or simply a curiosity about ancient Native American civilizations would be as enlightened and entertained as I was by this book.