Charles C. Mann’s 1493 took over from where his 1491 left off. In 1491, Mann’s research altered common perceptions of the world before Columbus arrived in America. 1493 explores the cultural and environmental transformation caused by the exchange of people, plants, insects, and all manner of species after Columbus arrived in America.
The perception that Italians have always had tomatoes for sauce, Thai’s always have had peppers, or Native Americans always have had horses are clarified by the fact that before 1493, none of these were possible. The exchange altered cultures in ways the early explorers could not have imagined.
The influence of silver on China’s economy, the relevance of the difference in populations of mosquitoes above and below the Mason-Dixon Line, the effect of the immunity of African slaves toward malaria, and the environmental effects of latex trees in Southeast Asia all are unexpected results of the “Colombian Exchange” that started when Columbus came to America.
Like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, 1493 examines the consequences of the environment on the development of culture. Man is often unaware of the consequences of his actions or the forces that sometimes unconsciously compels him to action.
I enjoyed Mann’s ability to discuss all of these issues without being blindly supportive or critical of Columbus and the others involved in the “Exchange”. Those who enjoy learning new perspectives on history or the environment should read this book.