1491 By Charles C. Mann

Hey! So I know I said I wasn’t going to post anything for a few days because of that bummer of a book that I was reading (and just finished, hurray!), but I remembered that I’d been meaning to give a quick blurb about this lil’ bundle of joy and totally forgot about it.

I picked it up after hearing a bunch of (mildly misrepresentative) shout outs to it on the various outlets of Cracked.com’s comedy conglomerate. It’s not normally where I get my book picks from, but those guys seem like a relatively smart bunch of dumbies, and I’d heard some good things from a few other people. Also, despite being a huge history nerd, pre-colonial Americas has never really been my area of expertise, and I was hoping to fill in a few of those (embarrassingly large) gaps.

If you’re looking to do the same, this book won’t let you down. I found it incredibly informative and entertaining. It busted up and did away with all the incorrect and condescendingly racist ideas about the pre-European Americas I’d left my public school education with. The biggest being that it was a pristine wilderness sparsely populated by bands of hunter gatherers. Turns out, there’s a lot of evidence that not only were the Americas heavily populated, in some parts of South America it was a contender for most populous place on Earth. On top of that, the reason the wilderness seemed so wild, was not because it hadn’t been cultivated (it had, very extensively and with a high degree of sophistication), but because the diseases that we brought with us, that traveled ahead of our attempts at colonization, wiped out everybody that was maintaining the land before we got there.

Now, it wasn’t all interesting information and preconception busting fun times though. There’s a portion of the book, a probably forty or fifty page chunk in the middle, that is mostly centred completely around academic warfare (who was pushing different agendas and points of view, and why) that I found reaaaaaaaaaaaally hard to get through. I understand why it was there, I do (the author is attempting to explain the fact that this information is still not being taught in highschools, though it’s been a pretty prevalent point of view among academics for like fifty years), but if there’s anything I find less interesting than old stuffy intellectuals getting into a dick measuring contest over academic prestige, I haven’t come across it yet. Still, there was some genuinely neat information still peppered throughout that section, and it wasn’t enough of a slog to really effect my recommendation.

Well, I think that about sums it up. Get this book! It’s great! Learning is the best! Wahoo!

VBR

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