Charles C. Mann “1493”

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Mann attempts to explain the series of events that produces a tomatoes in his garden but the fruit is not native to his country (America). His book examines the various factors that brought non-native species around the world. Mann’s thesis is essential to understanding his book. He believes that these changes were influential in altering the world’s ecological shape, and was pivotal in the raise of European dominance. He states that, “Most Africans live in Africa, most Asians in Asia, and most Native Americans in the Americas.

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People of European descent, though, are thick on the ground in distant realms such as Australia, the Americas, and southern Africa. They are successful transplants. But why?” (Mann, 5). His book attempts to answer this question.


Charles Mann’s “1493” is a nonfiction, history book that addresses how the Europeans used the Columbian Exchange to transform the world. “They turned the Americas, Asia, and to a lesser extent, Africa into ecological versions of Europe” (Mann, 6). Mann traveled to China, the Philippines and South Africa to provide first-person anecdotes. The first place he visited was Ifugao, which is a poor region of the Philippines to conduct his research for this book. “Looking around Ifugao, I was stuck by the number of abandoned, crumbling terraces. People were walking away from their farms” (Mann, 370). While in Ifugao, he took pictures of archaeological evidence such as old trails, roads and canals to put into his book. He also included in his book anthropological evidence such as native pictures of art work and pottery.

On another trip he visited the town of Bulalacao, on the Philippine island of Mindoro. Mann writes, “Later that day, back in Bulalacao, I came upon some women and children tending a family garden…Towering above their heads were tall stalks of corn, now the second most important crop in the Philippines. I spent a few minutes watching the family” (Mann, 376).

Throughout his book there are various examples of ethnographic evidence where he studied the behaviors, customs and cultures of the Bulalacao people, the citizens of Yuegang and the traditions of the Manila people. Mann uses a lot of geographic evidence throughout the book, such as maps, cultural landscapes and jungle analysis which makes it easier for his readers to understand.

Mann argues that in order to understand contemporary globalization one must first address how the Columbian Exchange-which was the transfer of animals, plants, viruses and people across continents-is responsible for globalization.

His book is divided into five parts with two chapters in each part. “Part One begins with Columbus and shows his voyage, and other voyages that established trade between Europe and Asia, gave birth to a new era in the history of life”(Mann, 8). Part Two looks at the exchanges that developed across the Atlantic. “The focus is on the first global craze for a new product and on the arrival of a new and deadly disease that helped shape African slavery in the Americas” (Mann, 9). Part Three moves the focus to the Pacific, “where the era of globalization began with massive shipments of silver from South America to China” (Mann, 9). Part Four shows the role of the Columbian Exchange in two revolutions: the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. “Two plant species, each transplanted to a new parts of the world, fueled these revolutions and helped the West emerge as a controlling power in the world” (Mann, 9). Part Five examines the most significant exchange of all: the slave trade. “This discussion focuses on how slavery worked and its later effects, rather than on the moral argument against it” (Mann, 10).


Mann’s 1493 for young people: from Columbus’s Voyage to Globalization was adapted by Rebecca Stefoff was published in 2014 by Seven Stories Press. The original book was written and published in 2011 by Alfred A. Knof, Inc.

Charles C. Mann born 1955, is a graduate of Amherst College where he studied journalism. He is a journalist and the author of 1493, a New York Times bestseller, and 1491, which won the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Keek Award for the best book of the year. A correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, Science, and Wired, Mann has covered the intersection of Science, technology and commerce for many newspapers and magazines here and aboard, including National Geographic, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and The Washington Post. Mann is the co-author of five other books in addition to 1491 and 1493.

I believe that Mann’s 1493 was mostly from a narrative perspective with a twist of revisionist ideas. For instance, Mann discussed the 19th century ecological disaster that consumed China. Traditionally, it was the belief that the floods that killed millions of Chinese people were the result of geography. According to Mann, the introduction of the “New crops (from the Columbian Exchange) led to more food and to rising population growth, and at the same time to more potential cash crops, increasing the pressure on existing and holdings, and leading to vast land clearances. That made the floods far worse when they came, undermining the political structure and compounding China’s problems” ( ).


The historical events in Mann’s book is organized thematically rather than chronologically. Throughout the text the author uses several primary sources to help his readers understand the book. He used Histoire Naturelle des Indes which is an illustrated manuscript, various maps including the map of the islands of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, archives, photographs and newspapers as resources for his book.

I believe that Mann has provided thorough and valid arguments for his thesis. Ever since Columbus explorations, animals, plants, people, viruses and ideas have been “exchange more freely among continents” ( ).


Mann argues that it wasn’t Christopher Columbus voyage that was significant, it was all the activities that followed that truly created a New World. “It was a tremendous ecological convulsion-the greatest event in the history of life since the death of the dinosaurs,” says Mann. “And this underlies a huge amount of history learned in schools: the Industrial Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, the rise of the West-all of these are tied up in what’s best called the ‘Columbia exchange’( ).

Mann was inspired by the writings of Alfred Crosby and I believe other historians will be inspired by this book. This book can be used by other historians and in other fields. He begins this book with a scientific interpretation of the past. The author’s audience was the general public. The use of text features such as: illustrations, maps, timelines, captions, and subheading made it easier for the reader to understand the text.


I like how the author introduce the subject by asking how the tomatoes got to America. He takes his readers on a journey through history to answer the question. It is fascinating how he was able to link many events in history back to the Columbian Exchange. I’ve been taught that Europeans colonized the Americas, but Mann challenges that notion. According to Mann, “from 1500 to 1840, about 3.4 million Europeans immigrated to the Americas. Over the same period, about 11.7 million captive Africans were sent to the Americas. Which resulted in, much of the United States and most of Latin America was far more black than white. Mann states the racial balance changed as white immigration ramped up and millions of blacks died too young.

I would definitely recommend “1493.” It is a great book for an 11th or 12th grade history class. Students can learn about the Columbian Exchange and the unforeseen consequences it brought about.

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Charles C. Mann “1493”. (2019, Oct 16). Retrieved from