Charles Mann’s 1491 is certainly engrossing. I am more than three-fourths done, but I may not have the time to appropriately digest the whole thing and spew my thoughts on this blog.1 The book can easily be considered required reading for, say, college courses on American history or even high school AP history courses, but the book does not necessarily lend itself as a form of textbook. There are no tried-and-true questions and answers that can be derived, e.g, What happened in 1306 AD?2
The book’s thesis– which is driven home through and through — is conveyed by presenting the ever-growing wealth of information and understanding that we have on what took place in America before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, information that continues to come to light as archaeologists continue to dig up newly discovered ancient sites. And it isn’t presented in an ultra-literal linear fashion — in 2000 BC, in 1000 BC, etc. — but in a more wild or ungroomed fashion, throwing facts upon facts on the reader, burying him in details of grand cities that rivaled Paris and Constantinople, powerful kings and deities that rivaled the throne of England, and empires and cultures that rivaled Rome and Greece.
Mann envelops the readers in all this “new” information and forces the reader to come away with one major point, that what I had learned about America before Columbus arrived was all wrong: the idea that America was largely untouched by man, and the sign of humans were small nomadic tribes of Native Americans, or Indians. It was exactly the opposite.Notes
- And this quick post will not replace such a digestion and discharge. And a longer, more profound, most likely never read post wouldn’t quench your thirst for knowledge anyway. Read the book. ↩
- Essays and long-form test-taking would be another matter. ↩