1421 The Year China Discovered the World

What a book! It was a treat to be able to read it over the holiday break.

I had seen a used copy in a charity shop but decided they were asking too high a price. I felt triumphant when I saw a copy elsewhere at a lower price and got it. I decided to keep it until I could give it some time, and now that I have read it I think I got it very cheap indeed as it is a remarkable book and the result of over a decade of work by Gavin Menzies.

1421 is the account of the great fleet of Chinese ships that charted all oceans of the world, and discovered America and established colonies there before Europeans ‘discovered’ the New World.

The ships that this great fleet used were far in advance of anything the rest of the world would produce for centuries. Even the size of these ships must have impressed the primitive natives of the countries they visited. Mike Boss has given us a wonderful artists impression of what one would have looked like alongside European ships known at the time.

Voyagers to America

In some places the book got bogged down in detail that was hard going, but that was only in a few places and I am sure Mr Menzies will have felt the need to justify his claims carefully as he has re-written history. Though not entirely re-written as it now seems it was known that when Cook ‘discovered’ Australia, Cook was carrying maps with Australia already marked on them as Australia had been discovered centuries before by the Chinese.

A great book. I got the sequel for Christmas, 1434 but it will have to wait until I can give it the time.

From the 1434 website:

In 1434, Gavin Menzies offers a stunning reappraisal of history, presenting compelling new evidence on the European Renaissance, tracing its roots to China

In this provocative, highly readable history, Gavin Menzies makes the startling argument that China provided the spark that set the Renaissance ablaze. Based on years of research, this marvellous history argues that a Chinese fleet, official ambassadors of the emperor, arrived in Tuscany in 1434, where they met with Pope Eugenius IV in Florence. The delegation presented the pope with a wealth of knowledge, from a diverse range of fields: geography (including world maps that the author believes were passed on to Christopher Columbus), astronomy, mathematics, art, printing, architecture, steel manufacturing, civil engineering, military weaponry, surveying, cartography, genetics, and more. This gift of knowledge sparked the inventiveness of the Renaissance, including da Vinci’s mechanical creations, the Copernican revolution, Galileo’s discoveries, and more.

From 1434 onward, Europeans embraced Chinese intellectual ideas, discoveries, and inventions – all which have formed the basis of European civilisation just as much as Greek philosophy and Roman law. Erudite and brilliantly reasoned, 1434 is sure to make headlines and change the way we see ourselves, our history, and our world.

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