Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Review: 1434 The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance

         In June I posted a post called How Accurate is Our History? This was after I had read The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester. This was a biography of Joseph Needham who's premise was that many of the many things Europeans claimed to originate had first been developed in China.

       After that I read 1421 The Year China Discovered the World written by Gavin Menzies. Menzies presents the idea that in 1421 the Chinese put together a large fleet and set about travelling around the world. In the process the Chinese made many fairly accurate navigational charts. The Chinese had developed a sophisticated navigational system long before the Europeans had any kind of accurate navigation system. Menzies presents a case that when the Europeans travelled to North America, they had a map that the Chinese had given them. The Chinese had visited Europe on trading missions and gave the Europeans their charts. So When Columbus came to North America he had a map. Columbus knew exactly where he was going. Columbus wasn't a very nice guy as he wanted lots of riches and also wanted power and to be the governor of any new lands he found. Columbus didn't care how he obtained these things. Columbus was not a very nice guy. However , in our schools students have always been taught that Columbus discovered America. On Monday I teased my daughter about celebrating Columbus Day as she lives in Chicago.

      Now I've read 1434 by Gavin Menzies. In this book Menzies claims that the European Renaissance was made possible by information the Chinese left in Europe when they visited in 1434. The Chinese had produced a huge book which described all the things the Chinese had developed up to that time. For example, the helicopter Leonardo da Vinci was credited with originating was copied from the Chinese book. Other examples are bridge building and agricultural developments. Menzies also has a large website with much more information. The Italians learned to produce a large amount of rice by controling their rivers with canals and gates to hold water. A much larger and more reliable food source allows time for people to develop other interests.

      Reading these three books has really given me a large amount of information to rethink the traditional European history we have been taught.

     Now I'm looking for a book that takes issue with some of the things Menzies has proposed. So there is another book review on the way.