Customer Reviews of 1421: The Year China Discovered America
I bought this book as a gift for my father who is very interested in history and expanding his knowledge on all subjects. He enjoyed it very much and said that it presented a side of history he'd never known about before.
Great book but there are other perspectives out there
Overall I found this book a very good read. The structure and story are very well thought out. At some stages I questioned the evidence discussed and was dissapointed by the corresponding web site that has not been updated for quite some time. For a different perspective to I would recommend Edward L. Dreyer's "Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433" as it shed's light on areas where Gavin Menzies skirts over.
New light on old civilisation.
For many years there have been theories proposing that China discovered the world before Columbus, Magellan, Tasman et al. Now, following Louise Levathes' ground-breaking work 'When China Ruled the Seas', Mr.Menzies has drawn on her researches, supplementing them with his own material and, using his specialist nautical and navigational skills, has expanded our knowledge of Chinese exploration immensely.
15 years of devoted research has produced a hefty book, which is nevertheless very readable, split into manageable chapters and sprinkled with illustrations, with some fine colour plates. The political intrigue and the maneouvring that went on within the complex Chinese court reads like a novel at times. Then it becomes a detective story; piecing together the evidence of ancient maps and standing stones, a realistic and very plausible theory of the track of the 1421 voyage emerges. However, as others have noted, he does convert some tenuous relationships into apparent fact, but admittedly without the tunnel-vision of von Daniken.
Much of his findings are surmise, backed by a healthy dose of extrapolation and hunch, but the circumstantial evidence is very convincing. This is Mr.Menzies forte, as we see apparently useless maps converted into the real thing by appropriate adjustments for currents; then we smack our foreheads and, with 20/20 hindsight, say 'Of course, how silly not to have seen that before!'.
As we have virtually no records from China - the Ming ruler having expunged most of the records of ship construction, voyages made, lands discovered and tributes collected - it is very difficult to establish the facts in the voyages of Zheng He. But some evidence is hard to refute; for example, Chinese porcelain found in South Africa and Australia, wrecks of junks (which could only come from that dynasty) discovered in far-away places...
... BR>A very satisfying read. *****
Just who did sail the oceans blue?
1421 is a highly intriguing (and certainly controversial) book which postulates a theory that the Chinese were not only the first to "discover" the New World but had; indeed, circumnavigated the globe well before Magellan's expedition. While the author, Gavin Menzies, makes many assumptions and, at times, makes what appear to be rather wild suggestions concerning his theories, many of them do remain quite plausible.
Unlike others who have made outlandish claims as regarding early settlers in the Americas first (including the claims by one of this country's largest cults that continues to assert, in light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that a non-existent group of ancient Israelis, the Nephites and the Lamanites are the ancestors of Native Americans), many of Menzies' intriguing ideas are capable of being further tested and examined for their veracity.
I was particularly fascinated with Menzies' (a former commander of a British submarine) use of ancient maps as the impetus for his theory. Granted, there are those that will rush to snub their noses at Menzies' ideas but certainly with further study, which is something that I believe the author would personally encourage, they will eventually be proven or discarded. Regardless, 1421 is a fascinating book and I would recommend it to anyone who might be interested in examining alternative views of history (of course, with both eyes open to test the veracity of this book).
An open mind is a terrible thing to waste.
One of the problems I see in the attacks on Gavin Menzies work is that they are full of accusations and easy labels (e.g. "pop history"), without any refutation of the facts and reasoning made in the book. To the "reader" who wrote the first review: It's easy to level accusations at someone when you just don't like the way he turned long-held views upside down, but can you provide specific examples in any reasonable refutation? I can be a skeptic also, but the attacks that you have made seem shrill and cynical even to me. If you are going to criticize, at least read the book first! In your "review", you wrote that the fleets were "disassembled in 1421". What?!? If you had even read the excerpt or any other history book, you would not have made that mistake. So read the book with an open mind instead of focusing on that chip on your shoulder. Instead of calling the book "pop history," there is plenty of evidence that such attacks and accusations are pop accusations.