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National Geographic: America Before Columbus (2009)

 NR |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Nat'l Geographic Vid
  • DVD Release Date: March 16, 2010
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0032LV4LS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,309 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

History books traditionally depict the pre-Columbus Americas as a pristine wilderness where small native villages lived in harmony with nature. But scientific evidence tells a very different story: When Columbus stepped ashore in 1492, millions of people were already living there. America wasn't exactly a "New World," but a very old one whose inhabitants had built a vast infrastructure of cities, orchards, canals and causeways. But after Columbus set foot in the Americas, an endless wave of explorers, conquistadors and settlers arrived, and with each of their ships came a Noah's Ark of plants, animals—and disease. In the first 100 years of contact, entire civilizations were wiped out and the landscape was changed forever.

National Geographic embarks on an expedition into the mysterious world of ancient American history to shed a different light on the history of the Americas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
79 of 82 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Introducing the Columbian Exchange June 17, 2010
In spite of its misleading title, this National Geographic video isn't really about America "before Columbus." It is about America _after_ Columbus, specifically the transformation of North America's ecology due to the impact of European settlement.

The video's production quality is excellent, with beautiful photography and a competent but introductory-level story line. Most people who have read some history won't find anything new here, since the information is presented at about a junior-high-school level. However, the video can be effortlessly enjoyed by the general public, and would also be a suitable introduction to the Columbian Exchange for supplementary use (about grades 6-10) in the classroom or homeschool.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Verified Purchase
I am a teacher of 4th through 6th graders and this movie - about 90 minutes long - held everyone's interest throughout. It is really about the Columbian exchange, but it brings up the broader issues of the exchanges that happen when two places explore and trade with each other. Was the Columbian exchange good, bad, a bit of both? Is the exchange inevitable? Can we prevent invasive (non-native) species from coming into our waters and land? Can anyone?
One of the most important ideas the video so aptly makes is that the North America that Europeans settled in was a continent that looked very different than it would have if they had come 300 years earlier, before the Columbian Exchange had bee in full swing for 300 years. Imagine them finding a large population of settled, farming native peoples - would history have been different?
An interesting point in the movie that I hadn't really considered before was the one-sidedness of the Columbian Exchange. Why are horses running wild in the American West and dandelions sprouting in every American lawn, but bison don't roam Europe and our native wildflowers haven't taken over Europe's roadsides? The movie gave me a more in depth look at the Columbian Exchange.
If you are considering it for a school setting or younger than 12, there is a thirty second mention of syphilis about 70 minutes in. Other than that, no worries.
I highly recommend the video.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what was promised April 6, 2013
By Cambion
Both the title and the description lead me to believe that most of the 90 minutes of this program would be devoted to the Pre-Columbian Americas. The reality is that the majority of this show is about Europeans and how they changed the Americas to resemble Europe. Only the first 30 minutes holds any discussion of the Americas before European contact, and even then the topic holds equal air time with discussion of pre-contact Europe. After that, the focus shifts almost entirely to the European perspective, most of it about American AFTER Columbus. In fact, other than a brief mention of the Spanish conquest, there isn't even any discussion of conflicts between Native Americans and European settlers - natives just conveniently disappear from the narrative once the focus shifts to Jamestown and the first settlers of the future US. In fact, phrases such as, "Forests seeming to belong to no one" and "empty pristine wilderness" and so on are used repeatedly. Not only that, but even though most of the changes brought about by Europeans discussed in this show revolve around over-exploitation of natural resources, it's all told to a backdrop of heroic music and a narrator who sounds like he has a smile on his face. It just struck me as a bit odd that the real topic discussed most in this program is the exhausting of natural resources, whether in Europe or the Americas, yet it wasn't even told as if there might be any lesson to learn from this.

I would have appreciated this documentary more if it wasn't for the misleading title and description, but given that it almost seems offensive how much it is centered on the European perspective, almost as if the message is that nothing worth talking about for 90 minutes happened in the Americas until Europeans got here. As a Pre-Columbian history buff, I know that isn't the case, making this documentary disappointing to say the least.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful video May 25, 2010
By D. Day
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National Geographic videos are consistently high quality, and I plan to use this one in my American literature course to introduce Native American creation stories and lead into the European conquest of North America.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars America is a Continent, Not a Country. September 3, 2012
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While I agree with the many reviews posted, the documentary is most disappointing in its concentration on the part of North America that would become the United States. I expected more from National Geographic. The Inca, Maya and Aztec were barely mentioned in comparison to the Mound civilizations where perhaps thousands of people lived before its collapse. Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, enjoyed high civilization with a population close to 200,000 when Cortes entered the city in 1519, larger than any city in Europe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative March 29, 2013
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The video was very informative and entertaining. I saw it on PBS and I liked it so much that I bought it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Job, but not overwhelming December 25, 2012
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Worthy addition to any library, but would not make it my sole piece on the subject. I like the Guns, Germs and Steel piece a little better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Historical Must! November 26, 2012
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I had to have this DVD for my historical collection. This is a fair and honest look at the Columbian exchange that occurred between the Americas and Europe. I highly recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Middle school
Had a long term sub job at a middle school and this kept students interested, though I resented having to purchase my own materials , even basic supplies, all for $93.50 a day. Read more
Published 6 months ago by RCM
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Resource for World History of Environmental Science Teachers
Video does a great job of showing how humans have changed the environment before and after European exploration. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Bill Trueit
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative.
Some very good info. I used it with my US History I class. Some beautiful photograpy. I think it is stupid that I have to put down a certain number of words.
Published 9 months ago by Shirley L. Toth
5.0 out of 5 stars yes
it is national geographic. Enough said, right? yes yes yes yes Thats all I have to say Oh my God.
Published 9 months ago by Paty
5.0 out of 5 stars Great video
My husband teaches 8th grade US History. This video ties right in with his classes at the begining of the year.
Published 10 months ago by Erin L. Magnuson
5.0 out of 5 stars very well done piece of work
This documentary is a very well done piece of work. It not only provides much
basic factual information, which is readily available elsewhere, but more importantly
puts... Read more
Published 11 months ago by jim lamb
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I got it for the cabin. A very good evenings entertainment. We all learned something. However, I was expecting more about how the people before Columbus here interacted, such as... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Wade Guisbert
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing On Location Movie
This is History brought alive
You travel to all the areas by movie
I learned many new facts
You can understand more of what everyone was up against,
and what... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Judi Stevens
3.0 out of 5 stars Diappointing
I chose this DVD because I love ancient history. And while this was a somewhat interesting documentary, it was about the native plant life verses European imported plant life. Read more
Published 17 months ago by teacherlkc
1.0 out of 5 stars The film does not show the whole truth
Please watch Discovery Channel film titled "Ice Age Columbus ~ Who Were the First Americans? (2011)" to see the true story. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Sam
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