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Book Review:1493 New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

Updated on February 24, 2015

The book by Mann (2012) is focused at unraveling the history on how European explorers particularly in the post- Columbian Americans changed the world and are continuing to do so even in the present perspective. The author employs study findings from scholars, historians, archaeologists, anthropologist and biologists in presenting his case. Using this knowledge, Mann showcases how the post-Columbian network of economical and ecological exchange facilitated the development of Europe, convulsed Africa, hampered imperial China and created the city of Mexico which became the center by which America, Europe and Asia interacted. Using this history, the author reveals the source of political disputes from culture wars, trade and immigration. In essence, Mann provides a scientific perspective of the new world history, of course with a high sense of fascination and authority.


Generally, I would not hide my love on the outstanding work in Mann’s book. The extensive book has served better in explaining the chain of events that led to generation of such substances as the gardens, nuts, and fruits, as well as using the historical facts to explain why the world is the way it currently is. Mann has managed a cumbersome task of retelling a story that appears complicated in a manner that is not only clear, but also engaging while at the same time reducing the ambiguities to slogans. Despite the fact that Mann is not an historian by profession, most professionals in this field could learn a lot from how he does things in this work. Beginning from 1493, the book has taken a chronological approach, which continues up to 2011, and ranges across all the world continents. There is no doubt that the author has done a thorough research, combining the scholarship from various fields such as history, economics and immunology. Furthermore, the author has also utilized a vivid language as when describing the inland Brazil during the 1970s. For instance, he explains about the “poor land”“, bad roads”, deadwood with malaria, and lawless violence (Mann, 2012).

The most impressive aspect in this work is that the author has managed to turn insects, plants, germs and excrement into the main actors in his draw while at the same time presenting human characters. Interestingly, even the sounding subjects that are most unpromising are also made fascinating.

While reading the book, it is apparent it harbors a personal feel from one world to the next as presented by Mann. Further, there is no doubt that the prose in this book is masterful. For instance, while telling the seemingly implausible story of how the Chinese and Spanish cultures clashed in the Philippines during the sixteen century, Mann takes the reader to the Mindoro island “whose southern coast consisted of various small bays , which aligned with each other just like an apple’s tooth marks” (Mann , 2012).

Mann has vividly given us insight on how the spread of tobacco, potatoes, rubber plants, quano and sugar cane has convulsed and disrupted the planet and will continue to do so until the earth becomes fully integrated. Whether the human instigators who took part in initiating the remarkable change some years ago will survive the process is a question that is subject to debate according to this author.

In this particular book, people of all caliber will find something that challenges their assumptions. Most historians for instance, find it hard to balance between vast personal forces and human will. Mann asks whether part of the credit for the Emancipation Proclamation should be assigned to malaria? He goes on to answer himself that “the idea is not particularly impossible” (Mann, 2012). This claim and a number of others appear to be somewhat stretch. However, for me, these are some of the elements that make the book to be appealing.

The main strength of this book over other similar ones is that the author has shown his capability of revealing new patterns among the disparate pieces of acceptable knowledge.


In this book, “1493 New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus”, the author has vividly written the story of our world, and how this planet which was constituted by several continents is increasingly being globalized and becoming a single continent.

In general, the author has organized his work in a candid manner. The book is not only well annotated, but also well illustrated, and researched. One would expect the book to be a boring one, considering its length, but for me, it is not boring at all. While reading the book by Mann, I was entertained throughout the reading. All I can say is that the book is remarkable, considering the magnitude of information that was imparted in a more than 500 pages of text. Although I had been aware of the existence of this book, I did not have the kind of picture I obtained upon reading it. He has done this without becoming proselytizing, condescending or pedantic. I can recommend this book to all people who are interested in understanding the world history and the future of our word.


Mann C.(2012), 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Vintage; Reprint edition (July 24, 2012), ISBN-13: 978-0307278241.


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