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1421: The Year China Discovered America Paperback – June 3, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
A former submarine commander in Britain's Royal Navy, Menzies must enjoy doing battle. The amateur historian's lightly footnoted, heavily speculative re-creation of little-known voyages made by Chinese ships in the early 1400s goes far beyond what most experts in and outside of China are willing to assert and will surely set tongues wagging. According to Menzies's brazen but dull account of the Middle Kingdom's exploits at sea, Magellan, Dias, da Gama, Cabral and Cook only "discovered" lands the Chinese had already visited, and they sailed with maps drawn from Chinese charts. Menzies alleges that the Chinese not only discovered America, but also established colonies here long before Columbus set out to sea. Because China burned the records of its historic expeditions led by Zheng He, the famed eunuch admiral and the focus of this account, Menzies is forced to defend his argument by compiling a tedious package of circumstantial evidence that ranges from reasonable to ridiculous. While the book does contain some compelling claims-for example, that the Chinese were able to calculate longitude long before Western explorers-drawn from Menzies's experiences at sea, his overall credibility is undermined by dubious research methods. In just one instance, when confounded by the derivation of cryptic words on a Venetian map, Menzies first consults an expert at crossword puzzles rather than an etymologist. Such an approach to scholarship, along with a promise of more proof to come in the paperback edition, casts a shadow of doubt over Menzies's discoveries. 32 pages of color illus., 27 maps and diagrams. Book-of-the-Month Club alternate.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Menzies makes the fascinating argument that the Chinese discovered the Americas a full 70 years before Columbus. Not only did the Chinese discover America first, but they also, according to the author, established a number of subsequently lost colonies in the Caribbean. Furthermore, he asserts that the Chinese circumnavigated the globe, desalinated water, and perfected the art of cartography. In fact, he believes that most of the renowned European explorers actually sailed with maps charted by the Chinese. Though most historical records were destroyed during centuries of turmoil in the Far East, he manages to cobble together some feasible evidence supporting his controversial conclusions. Sure to cause a stir among historians, this questionable tale of adventure on the high seas will be hotly debated in academic circles. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
The book doesn't go quite far enough. Thor Heyerdahl has noted that people living on either end of predictable ocean currents OUGHT to, and usually DO, share common cultural traits. Based on this, and building boats and rafts of local materials, Heyerdahl has launched himself into ocean currents worldwide to observe what happens. Based on his expeditions, it is most likely that Asians repeatedly sailed or drifted to the west coast America, generation after generation, and occasionally sailed home on the Pacific currents. So while Menzie's theory of China's discovery of America is most likely true, he may not have gone far enough back in time.
As for the navigational and cartographic claims made in the book, wouldn't that be interesting if they were true?
This is a fun read, even as an alternate history, and a great what if? book for high schoolers. Try it!
e.g. of bird calls, dyes for clothing, lost maps, parallel phrasings, etc. There are leaps of evidence and imagination that suggest more fiction than fact, with the assertion of Peru as a Chinese-speaking country where nobody understands each other as among the more spectacular, along with the logic of a 300 ft. flat bottom sailing ship being blown through San Francisco Bay and up the Sacramento River. Lots of research shards; lots of fun at times. Let's say this is a dramatic play on the nature of evidence.
This series is not anything that a person who has studied history for decades will want to read, but if you are looking for some entertainment, then its not bad.
But certainly not a good read for anybody who knows history.