1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am


1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
by Charles Mann
Alfred A Knopf (e-book)

Charles Mann's garden is a biological record, he writes, of human wandering and exchange: none of the eggplants, basil, chard or tomatoes originated within 1,600 kilometres of his home. Starting with the example of his backyard, the author of 1491 and four other science-related books, introduces readers to the 'Columbian exchange', showing how the journey across the Atlantic by the Italian explorer brought about globalisation, which led to economic gains but also ecological and social tumult. Suddenly, discrete ecosystems met and mixed, Mann writes, which allowed Europeans to 'transform much of the Americas, Asia, and ... Africa into ecological versions of Europe'. Cattle, horses and sheep were introduced to the Americas, as were smallpox and influenza. And European colonists farmed tobacco and mined silver (in the Bolivian Andes). Readers will find especially interesting the chapters on China, and how American crops such as sweet potatoes and corn played a major role in the 'flowering and collapse' of the Qing dynasty.