Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: 1493

Two things looking back I wish I had always done.  One is to keep a daily journal, and the other would be to make a few notes about books I have read.

I'll likely never do the former as regularly as I like, but I'll start now with the book reports.

I just completed Charles C. Mann's  1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created [affiliate link].

It is the story of the ecological, or maybe more accurately,biological impact of the Old and New World connecting.

I am not one usually entranced by plants.  Unlike my father, I cannot identify a tree by its leaves, or nurture a garden.  Yet I found myself astonished at almost every turn.  For example, before the potato, indigenous to the New World (the Andes specifically), became part of the European diet, famine was an all too frequent event for common man in the Old World;  wheat failed about every six years.

I never knew rubber plants were a New World item.  Mann talks about how modern inventions need three things : energy, iron and rubber.  Think of a car.  It cannot run without iron for the engine, gasoline for fuel and rubber for all the hoses and gaskets.  Artificial rubber can do a lot, but not completely replace natural rubber.

That means one of the cornerstones of modern society could be susceptible to a blight.  That is a little frightening.

Why were African slaves imported, when indentured Englishmen common, willing to come to America, already knew the language, and were already educated on our system of farming?  Mann answers that, and it is not what you think.

I thought I had read his other book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.  Now I realize I have not.  That's next.

1 comment:

  1. Why were African slaves imported? I know! I know! But I had to read a book review to find out. Sounds like a fascinating book. I may have to read that one...