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Topic: The Columbian Exchange, the Rise of Europe, and the Potato

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Subject: The Columbian Exchange, the Rise of Europe, and the Potato
Date Posted: 12/13/2011 3:22 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Once again, Smithsonian magazine (Nov., 2011) has featured an article based on the work of Charles C. Mann, author of 1491, and 1493, a New York Times nonfiction best seller.  Mann's interests are in the intersection of science, commerce, and the environment.  The magazine article, "The Eyes Have It", is excerpted from the latter book, which is based on Mann's conviction that Columbus' landing in 1492 set off this ecological convulsion that underlies a lot of the history that we learn in school.  The article centers on the potato. the  introduction of which ends up having a great deal to do with the rise of Europe and with the creation of modern agriculture---this extraordinary mechanism that has allowed us to have an ever-increasing number of people well fed.

Those who read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and works such as Rachel Carson's seminal Silent Spring might like to look into Mann's writings.  At a minimum, it reminds a reader that History hangs on a lot more than who won which battles when and where.


Last Edited on: 12/14/11 6:14 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 12/14/2011 9:42 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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thanks Bonnie. I have seen those books but have not read them yet. I will definately have to give them a try.

Date Posted: 12/15/2011 7:27 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,405
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For another really good book on this topic, see Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World by Jack Weatherford. This book, as do others (How the Irish Saved Civilization, How the Scots Invented the Modern World, etc.), sometimes stretches a point, but it still makes for interesting reading.