I usually don't read non-fiction, but I saw this book on sale at the bookstore and decided to give it a chance. I picked it up and was fascinated by Menzie's almost conversational style as he meticulously laid out the facts that countered the Euro-centric history American schools teach us. While I've known for years that Columbus discovered America quite by accident, I did not know the extent of exploration of the United States and the world prior to the late 1400s. This book is very well researched, but it doesn't read like typical non-fiction, so even those who, like me, typically avoid it, will enjoy the book. This book is a must read for anyone who likes history and/or challenging the false history s/he has been taught.
An interesting notin and book. Some of the author's assertations are unsupported, and absolutely no conflicting evidence is given in the book. But the research into the early use of nautical charts and the ability to find very small bits of evidence in old manuscripts and charts is astounding. You will likely come to the conclusion that China did in fact get do some of the things in the book earlier than the Europeans, only to be lost in the tides of history.
amber77 reviewed 1421: The Year China Discovered the World on
Helpful Score: 3
This is one of the most interesting andimportant book I've read. It it reveals a history I wish I had available seventy years ago in high school!! The comparisons of the fleets of China and England in 1421 are staggering to one brought up on traditional 'western civilization' history. Th size of the vessels, crews and worldwide trips have nothing like it in world history based on the episodes of Dutch, English, Moorish, Portuguese, Spanish capabilities on the oceans.
It'll be a while before this is re-listed on PBS as I want to read it again and share with others. For me this spoke of a history I must have intuitively known for I've always felt that the 'Columbus discovery of America' was not what it was claimed to be.
I did not know quite what to expect when I got this book, but it turned out to be a very interesting read. He makes a very good case that the Chinese were world travelers long before the Europeans took to the seas in any numbers. The evidence that he presents about Chinese influence in a great number of places around the world is very compelling and the book is a great read. I think he does try to strech the evidence in a couple of place, but overall a great read.
This book is terrible. It is not scientific in any way. A scientific study is falsificationist, whereas this book is completely verificationist. Menzies starts out with the idea that he is correct and only presents tidbits that might corroborate his version of events. I have read every book on maritime history and exploration that I can get my hands on, and this was one of the most disappointing ever. For a more accurate and less biased version of the history of the Chinese treasure fleet, read Louise Levathes book When China Ruled the Seas. It is not written in a flowery style, but it is trustworthy and well-researched.
great book! not fiction. very interesting with facts to back up. Written by a retired submarine captain who knows what he is talking about. Definitely a learning experience and I highly recommend it. however, I am keeping this for my personal library so if you want it, you will have to put it on your wish list like I did.!
My main thought while reading this book for the first time was, "I want the adventure novel right now." Because the tale of the Chinese fleet splitting up to explore the whole world, including the Antarctic, would make a great novel or movie.
The scholarship is another story. Now, there are plenty of good pieces of evidence presented in this book. I'm just not sure they're as definitive as the author presents, think he took a few too many leaps from Point A to Point K without making sure all the dots in between connected. Quite a few of his pieces of evidence are essentially described as "possible Chinese junks/artifacts/etc., pending excavation." If we haven't looked at it properly yet, it's suggestive, but not nearly as strong a piece of evidence as we'd wish.
There are several instance where he doesn't give enough information about a particular bit of evidence he presents for readers to be able to evaluate it. I'll give some examples:
- The Vinland Map has been tested and debated over for decades in an attempt to authenticate it or prove it a forgery. Menzies mentions the debate, mentions that one point in contention was the presence of anatase in the ink (not usually found until the 1920s), and then says that someone found some anatase in another definitely authentic medieval map, so that argument can be dismissed. In fact, the anatase issue is much more complicated than that, let alone the other questions about the map he doesn't even mention. He doesn't give the reader enough of a summary of the issues to evaluate the arguments of either side, or even know that there are as many questions as actually exist. He makes it look disingenuously simple.
- He mentions that some other studies found that two villages in Peru and the Navajo elders about a century ago understood Chinese. He does not say which dialect of Chinese, which would be an important point - many are mutually unintelligible. He also does not attempt to explain how it is that language populations separated for five centuries and surrounded by other language groups would somehow remain mutually intelligible. (I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's a major issue that needs to be addressed.) He doesn't even say whether the original studies he's citing addressed these issues.
And so forth. It's certainly suggestive, and Menzies's thesis may turn out to be essentially correct, but I'd want a lot more examinations of the evidence before accepting most of it.
This book will change how you look at European exploration and at how advanced some civilizations in the past were. Every chapter left me wondering what other piece of information I'd been taught would be flying out the window. If history is your thing, you've got to read this.
On March 8, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China to "proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas." When the fleet returned home in October 1423, the emperor had fallen, leaving China in political and economic chaos. The great ships were left to rot at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost in the long, self-imposed isolation that followed was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America seventy years before Columbus and had circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. And they colonized America before the Europeans, transplanting the principal economic crops that have since fed and clothed the world.
I have to say that this book is over the top. There is no profound evidence to support his claims! As someone who has worked in coastal California and is researching the Pacific coast of Mesoamerica, I have never encountered such research. Sure, he claims that there are similarities and there are, but to then claim that China came to the Americas and taught the Indigenous seems preposterous if not a downright colonialist mentality. Don't bother.