The Columbian Exchange and the Beginning of the World
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THE COLUMBIAN EXCHANGEANDTHE BEGINNING OF THE WORLDErin Barker1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.  By Charles C. Mann. (New York: Vintage Books, 2011. Maps, xxi, 509pp, Appendix A, Appendix B, Acknowledgements, Notes, Works Cited, Index.)        Charles C. Mann’s glimpse into the world from 1493 through 2011 is unexpectedly lively and enlightening.  Mann, an American journalist by trade, most closely falls into the Neo-Liberal School of Thought.  While he also uses science in his writing and in his understanding of the context of history, he is not a Scientific Historian because he includes bias and fanaticism typically associated with journalism.  He also is not concise enough to write essays.  Mann focuses on understanding Alfred Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 and the idea of what Crosby called, “the Columbian Exchange.”  Mann suggests that understanding the Columbian Exchange is the only way that today’s world can make sense of contemporary globalization.  He argues that the lesson of history is that “from the outset globalization brought both enormous gains and ecological and social tumult that threatened to offset those gains.” (Mann, 2011. p. xxvi.)Overall, for a 500-plus page book on the domino effects of the Columbian Exchange, 1493 was thoroughly enjoyable.  Mann brings to life the changes brought to the world after Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492.  The book begins where Mann’s bestselling book, 1941: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, left off and is Mann’s attempt at updating, and going beyond, Crosby’s Ecological Imperialism.  While he goes through history from the 15th century chronologically, Mann’s focus is not to explain the history of the past, but more to interpret and give a genealogical account of how the present came to be through globalization and modernization.  Mann uses countless sources and includes 521 Notes at the end of the book in order to help readers better understand events he mentions, but does not emphasize or elaborate on.Charles Mann is remarkably evenhanded in his attempt to show the costs and benefits of globalization on the world.  He shows that without one, the other cannot exist.  In 1493, Mann is able to tell this complex story of globalization in a clear and engaging manor, without giving into the temptation to reduce history to its ambiguities and slogans. (Mann, 2011. p. xxvi.)  Mann is able to engage readers in ways that most historians are not able to do.  As the book continues on, he touches on the effects of globalization throughout the 15th to 21st centuries spanning from Spain, England and the Americas to Africa, China and the Philippines.  Mann provides accounts of everything from trade, diseases and ecological highs and lows, as well as piracy, slavery and wars, just to list a few.  1493 delves into the history that is often left out of history books, and Mann uncovers facts and factoids that were hidden, ignored or otherwise forgotten like an archeologist would do.

The book is divided into four sections.  The first two sections lay out the constituent halves of the Columbian Exchange.  Basically, they explain the separate, but linked, exchanges across the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean.  The Atlantic section fittingly starts in Jamestown, as it was the first permanent English colony in the Americas, and the start of American colonization.  Jamestown began as a purely economic endeavor, and likely would not have been successful without the introduction of tobacco.  Tobacco was not originally from North America.  It originated in the lower Amazon, but after coming north to Jamestown, it became the first global trade commodity.  Section one also discusses the topic of microscopic creatures that cause malaria and yellow fever, and their effects on societies as far stretching as from Baltimore down to Buenos Aires.  Mann also explains the impact of such diseases on topics such as slavery in the United States and poverty in Guyana.Section two shifts the focus of the reader to the Pacific Ocean.  In the Pacific, Mann explains that globalization began with shipments of silver from Spanish America, Mexico, to China.  Mann cites several cities in this section, including Potosi (Bolivia), Manila (Philippines) and Yuegang (China) as “essential links in the economic exchange that knit the world together” (Mann, 2001. p. xxvii.)  He also accounts for the accidental consequences of events like the introduction of corn and sweet potatoes to China.  In this case, the crops’ introductions played a significant role in the collapse of the last Chinese dynasty, as well as a much smaller role in the Communist dynasty that succeeded it.  Mann goes on to explain that introducing corn and sweet potatoes to China, caused massive deforestation throughout the country and resulted in flood and famine.  China, under the Ming Dynasty, also coveted the silver shipped from Mexico.  They used it to fund China’s currency.  However, millions of Incas died while mining and refining the silver.

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Charles C. Mann And Charles C. Mann’S Glimpse. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from