1421:The Year China Discovered the World – Gavin Menzies

This is almost a non-fiction parallel to Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt, with Gavin MacKenzie setting out his thesis that between 1421 and 1423 various elements of a huge Chinese fleet discovered and mapped the Pacific Islands and Australia, North and South America, the Antarctic, Greenland and Iceland, and not forgetting the northern coast of Scandinavia and Russia, settling some and spreading flora and fauna, language, customs and technology to the others.

It’s an ambitous and seductive work, drawing upon seemingly incontrovertible evidence (in Menzies’ view) combined with the author’s wealth of experience of times and tides gained from his career in the British Navy. Parts of me want to believe that a more culturally and technologically advanced people discovered the world before Columbus and Cook and to re-write the history of the age of European Empires, but the historian in me winced many-a-time at the huge leaps of faith required, and my gut feeling is that once I’ve finished I’m going to have to seek out the reactions of some professional historians to read the counter-arguments.

Ah, look at these…..

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