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on June 26, 2017
This work was excellent except for there being far too many details--involved minor details that shows scholarship, but kind of bogs the reader down. It was disappointing that the author said nothing about those amazingly engineered, massive blocks of stone at Puma Punku, in Bolivia. (Some people have the silly theory they were made by alien visitors.) Also, I think he spent too much time after 1491 in North America. Nevertheless, with a these exceptions, I would recommend this book as an interesting, highly informative read.
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on October 20, 2017
This book is fascinating and educational. Everyone should know about the indigenous peoples of the Americas. One of my favorite things is that it gives multiple theories to answer questions and let’s the reader consider what the answer might be. I not only learned about the Americas but how to consider theories about history.
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on October 14, 2013
For me, "1491" is the second of two significant shifts in history not presented in my generation of schooling experience (New York), or available to those of us with a passion for "what really happened?" My first revelation came with: "Guns, Germs, and Steel," by Jared Diamond. If keeping a library, they should be placed next to each other. As far as rating the book, I thought it could have been edited a bit tighter in some of the extended narrative examples. Having said that, readers should be prepared, it is lengthy, but worth it.
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on April 27, 2016
Very insightful and interesting read! I suspect there is a bit of subjectivity due to a biased author, but the historical references and research was very enlightening and even surprising. Definitely worth a read for anyone interested in paleo- and/or pre-Columbian American history!
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on May 28, 2007
I mistakenly put off reading this book because I was unsure whether it was properly researched and supported, or more of a speculative work like the Menzies book about the Chinese 'discovering' America. In fact, Mann is a respected writer for Science, National Geographic and other journals of record, and the book contains lengthy bibliographical notes. Mann does occasionally argue for a particular, controversial interpretation, but he balances each discussion with other views.

The other reviews here do a good job of summarizing, so I'll be more subjective. I think this is an important book. Over time it seems bound to cause people to reassess a range of issues around aboriginal rights andd the environment. At least one reviewer has already decried this book as propoganda for the anti-environmental right. I think this is a shallow interpretation. Mann's point is that the pre-Columbian people were more populous and had greater impact (much greater) on the landscape than previously recognized. However, that this would justify modern environmental atrocities is as absurd as saying Aztec practices justify modern human sacrifice, or 16th century Spanish colonial policy justifies slavery and religious crusade. Instead "1491" could provide context for modern debate as well as some possibly very interesting opportunities to apply pre-Columbian agricultural techniques (heterogenous Maize cultivation and charcoal enrichment of Amazonian soil for example) to current environment policy.

But the book was not written as a policy guide, and is easy to read as just a rich historical tapestry. The story contains triumphs such as the rise of mesoamerican and peruvian cultures, and a wide range of horrible tragedies...primarily the recurrent plagues that swept the continent after the Europeans arrived.

I have lived in the western US my entire life, and reading this book has changed my perception of the land around me. It is easy to think all the history is back in the eastern part of the country, or Europe or Asia. After reading this book and "One Vast Winter Count" (a history of the American West before Lewis and Clark, recommended by Mann as a supplement to his book), the history of my part of the world is suddenly alive and the landscape itself feels richer.

Highly recommended.
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on June 30, 2017
As a retired nurse, I consider myself an arm chair anthropologist, archeologist, and scientist. This book was right up my alley! Mann blended all three fields of study as he deftly waded through abundant research to give one an understanding of pre-Columbian America. I'm eager to read his other books!
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on August 20, 2017
It is excellent -- I haven't finished it yet, but will. It is very informative and I love reading about things and how they were during that time frame.
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on January 3, 2014
During my education traditional history focused primarily on the history of the middle east, Europe and Asia. Little reliable or detailed history was provided of the native populations of North, Central and South America. What was provided portrayed the "Indians" as half naked hunter gatherers who lived off the natural bounty of native plants and animals without impacting the environment. Turns out that while that image pertained to a few Indians many (perhaps a majority) lived in sophisticated societies and constructed cities and agricultural infrastructure which rivaled Europe and the East for sophistication. The Pre-Columbian American history most of us have been exposed to was incomplete. In fairness, this book points out that much of what has been learned of pre-columbian history in the Americas has only come to light from archelogical findings since the 1940's and are only being documented in detail now. So "1491" is a fascinating and revealing read and an important add to your liberal arts education.
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on March 14, 2011
The author does a great job of portraying life in the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus and European intervention.

The book will either please or offend everyone.

The author's central points are:

1) Native Americans existed in larger numbers than historians previously acknowledged and had a level of sophistication and grandeur that often dwarved Europe at this time period (this will greatly please Native American supporters).

2) Native Americans were involved in agriculture, building, military endeavors that often placed them at odds with their enviornment and other native groups. Slash and burn farming, large scale human sacrifices, incessant war, etc. Pre-1492 Western Hemisphere was not a "garden of Eden" -- but a manipulated, often abused, piece of Earth. (This will greatly offend Native American supporters).

In the end the book is fair, not trying to be politically correct nor reduce itself to pre-modern era hostile view to Native Americans.

A good book.
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on January 27, 2016
When I first read 1491, much of it seemed like grand speculation but as I've learned more about recent discoveries in The America's, the speculations are gaining merit. If nothing else, the book is a great reminder that humans have been sophisticated for tens of thousands of years. Aliens didn't do it. Intelligent, well educated humans did it without waiting for Western civilization.
Thank you Mr. Mann
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