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1492: The Year the World Began Paperback – November 2, 2010


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1492: The Year the World Began + 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created + 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061132284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061132285
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Surveying the planet entire in 1492, Fernández-Armesto selects a regional event (frequently the death of a ruler) and elaborates its significance in the redirection of history’s flow from a humanity sundered into separate civilizations on several continents, toward a humanity somehow sutured together. Enduring cultural boundaries, such as the western Mediterranean line between Christianity and Islam or the east European marches between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, coalesced around that time, as did Islam’s reach into western Africa. Recounting them, Fernández-Armesto displays the popular talent he has demonstrated in previous works (Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America, 2007); his narrative fluidity, not to mention an ability to turn a phrase, converts facts into context in an attractively readable manner. His Columbus is not the explorer per se but the social climber pursuing feudal success, and the voyage of 1492 is more an iteration of ongoing Spanish maritime ventures, such as the colonization of the Canary Islands, than something wholly new. From the Aztecs to Chinese admiral Zheng He, Fernández-Armesto brilliantly sweeps a startling breadth of history into his unified narrative. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“In this admirable history, Fernández-Armesto has written a book of travels not unlike those of Marco Polo, filled with marvels and sensations, rich in description and replete with anecdote. 1492 is a compendium of delights.” (The Times (London))

In his stimulating new book, Fernandez-Armesto offers a model of how to write popular history: accessible, provocative and full of telling detail. (4 stars) (Mail on Sunday (London))

“Fernandez-Armesto’s narrative fluidity, not to mention an ability to turn a phrase, converts facts into context in an attractively readable manner.... Surveying the planet entire in 1492, Fernández-Armesto brilliantly sweeps a startling breadth of history into his unified narrative.” (Booklist)

“Fernández-Armesto challenges some long-standing historical thinking…. The compiled information adds immensely to the understanding of world that ended and began in 1492…. 1492 changes our view of history.” (San Antonio Express-News)

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Customer Reviews

Very much recommendable reading.
Ricard Vicente Sole
It turned out to not be as interesting as I thought it might be.
James E Morton
And that's what makes this book so interesting and readable.
Feanor

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Feanor on March 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
So, according to the author, 1492 is the year that the world changed. Given Columbus' first voyage to the New World, it's easy to see how this can be the case. And yet it appears that in the rest of the world, too, there was much change: this book is refreshingly non-Europe-centric. The great kingdoms in Africa that might have halted the spread of Islam or Christianity faded, and the continent was soon divided between the two faiths. China's great fleets that established its cultural dominance all over Asia ground to a halt, granting the field to fresh interlopers to take over trade and power over the region. The merchant marines of the Indian Ocean were never able to supply the demand of their states, and so began to welcome the advent of European traders, despite the newcomers' savagery and greed. Great powers in the Americas remained inward-looking and self-sustaining, and found no reason to venture into the ocean to establish their dominions. And so the scene was set for the gradual takeover of the world by the denizens of the relatively poorest tip of Eurasia.

All this didn't, of course, happen in the year 1492. In fact, as Fernandez-Armesto points out, that year itself is loosely defined - what was 1492 in one part of Europe wasn't necessarily the same year in another; and indeed, in the rest of the world, completely different calendars were used. And to be sure, it's difficult to restrict the narrative to the events of this "year", and so the author is forced to provide extensive backgrounds for each part of the world leading up to that crucial period. And that's what makes this book so interesting and readable. It's a very good summary of the state of the world at the time. Worth your time.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Michael Tracy on September 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The year 1492 is best known for Columbus' discovery of America (though he thought he had got to China); also for the conquest of Granada by the "Catholic Monarchs", which put an end to the Moorish civilisation in Spain (which had been rather tolerant), replacing it with a very intolerant one (NB the Inquisition and the eviction of the Jews). Even if you think you already know about these events, Fernandez-Armesto is well worth reading.
His discussion of the earlier Spanish colonisation of the Canary Islands, though it comes in a separate chapter, provides an interesting preamble to the subsequent overthrow of the Inca and Aztec civilisations.
At least equally important, and much less well-known, were events in the Far East and around the Indian Ocean, which the book discusses at some length. Around this time, China withdrew from imperial ambitions, while Japan "crumbled into ineffectiveness", leaving that very important area open to subsequent European trading and colonisation.
There is also a chapter about events in Africa in and around 1492, which shaped the religious map of the continent, Islam dominating across the Sahara, in the Sahel and along the Indian Ocean coast, with Christianity preponderant elsewhere.
The author's breadth of knowledge is impressive - he has a Spanish father, an English mother and lives in the USA, which may contribute to this. Though I found myself skipping some parts - such as the dynastic vagaries of Imperial China - I found his book both readable and instructive.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R Helen on November 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
In terms of the sheer breath of knowledge, Felipe Fernanedez-Armesto has done an impressive job with 1492. Covering nearly every continent, Fernandez-Armesto attempts to show how the world was on the crux of change in and around 1492. Just immersing in the histories of all these different regions was reason enough to read this book. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the Indian Ocean Rim and was fascinated by the travels of Zheng He, whom I had never heard of before. However, not all his chapters are convincing. And many of the chapters are dense with information that is often not related to the thesis at all. I found the book difficult to read because of this and the chapter on China, Japan, and Korea was exceptionally tedious. His thesis is definitely provocative, although the year 1492 may be somewhat arbitrary. However, I think the book is worth a read for its fresh perspective on the modern era. And I think most people will learn quite a bit about those areas of the world that we seldom pay attention to.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on July 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
This readable book contains a chapter or two on numerous parts of the world (Spain, Africa, Italy, Russia, East Asia, and South America, and the Near East). Its primary message is that after 1492, the world started to get more "globalized"- that is, contacts between Europe and the rest of the world (especially the Americas of course) began to increase. The author also seeks to explain why the European nations dominated maritime exploration; he suggests that China was too focused on border disputes to invest in a navy, and that the Ottoman Empire's geographic position made long-range water travel difficult.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ricard Vicente Sole on June 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
i enjoyed very much this book and found it extremely appealing and original. As a scientist and someone working on complex systems, ecological modeling and technological change, I found the view inspiring. I think this type of book would be a great introduction to historical change at the largest scale. Very much recommendable reading.
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