World history

From the author of 1491—the best-selling study of the pre-Columbian Americas—a deeply engaging new history of the most momentous biological event since the death of the dinosaurs.

More than 200 million years ago, geological forces split apart the continents. Isolated from each other, the two halves of the world developed radically different suites of plants and animals. When Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas, he ended that separation at a stroke. Driven by the economic goal of establishing trade with China, he accidentally set off an ecological convulsion as European vessels carried thousands of species to new homes across the oceans.

The Columbian Exchange, as researchers call it, is the reason there are tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolates in Switzerland, and chili peppers in Thailand. More important, creatures the colonists knew nothing about hitched along for the ride. Earthworms, mosquitoes, and cockroaches; honeybees, dandelions, and African grasses; bacteria, fungi, and viruses; rats of every description—all of them rushed like eager tourists into lands that had never seen their like before, changing lives and landscapes across the planet.

Eight decades after Columbus, a Spaniard named Legazpi succeeded where Columbus had failed. He sailed west to establish continual trade with China, then the richest, most powerful country in the world. In Manila, a city Legazpi founded, silver from the Americas, mined by African and Indian slaves, was sold to Asians in return for silk for Europeans. It was the first time that goods and people from every corner of the globe were connected in a single worldwide exchange. Much as Columbus created a new world biologically, Legazpi and the Spanish empire he served created a new world economically.

As Charles C. Mann shows, the Columbian Exchange underlies much of subsequent human history. Presenting the latest research by ecologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians, Mann shows how the creation of this worldwide network of ecological and economic exchange fostered the rise of Europe, devastated imperial China, convulsed Africa, and for two centuries made Mexico City—where Asia, Europe, and the new frontier of the Americas dynamically interacted—the center of the world. In such encounters, he uncovers the germ of today’s fiercest political disputes, from immigration to trade policy to culture wars.

In 1493, Charles Mann gives us an eye-opening scientific interpretation of our past, unequaled in its authority and fascination.
Now updated! Your personal tour guide to the history of the world

Want to know more about global history? This concise guide explains in clear detail all the major players and events that have made the world what it is today. Covering the entirety of human history, this comprehensive resource highlights important developments in everything from religion and science to art and war — giving you an understanding of how the 21st-century world came to be.

  • Begin to connect with the past — label the eras as you meet the Neanderthals, home in on Homer, raise Atlantis, and preserve Pharaohs
  • Find strength in numbers — trace the growth from ancient civilizations to today's global community and discover what makes societies succeed or fail

  • Discover the impact of thought — explore the rise of religion, the roots of philosophy, and the advance of science — and how our feelings and beliefs continually redefined us

  • Know the global consequences of war — ride with the Greeks and the Romans, arm yourself with the cavalry, dig the trenches, and follow the paths humans took to wage modern war

  • Meet the movers and shakers — from great leaders and courageous revolutionaries to ruthless tyrants and unsung heroes

  • Examine significant events of the 21st century — from 9/11 and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to climate change, Hurricane Katrina, and the economic rise of China, India, and Brazil

Open the book and find:

  • A detailed overview of history
  • The development of the world's religions

  • Reviews of essential historical documents, from the Bible to the Bill of Rights

  • The invention of writing and art

  • Scientific developments that revolutionized the world

  • Capsule biographies of people who changed history — and a few who were changed by it

  • Ten unforgettable dates in world history

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