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

1 rating: 1.0
A book by Gavin Menzies

In Menzies's 1421, the amateur historian advanced a highly controversial hypothesis, that the Chinese discovered America; in this follow-up, he credits the Renaissance not to classical Greek and Roman ideals (a "Eurocentric view of history") but again … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Gavin Menzies
Publisher: William Morrow
1 review about 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet...

Up next: Chinese discover Cleveland! And Weedwackers (tm)!

  • Sep 18, 2009
Menzies' followup to his landmark 1421: The Year China Discovered America stretches his circumstantial evidence-gathering approach to its seeming limits in 1434. Working from what he knows and has fairly well proven--China built huge fleets of ships that sailed around the world in the 15th century--he extrapolates to what he thinks can be proven by this circumstantial imperialism. That is, that maps, weapons, canals, silk, rice, printing, astronomy and pretty much every other material, scientific, mechanical, and cultural innovation of the Renaissance was first invented and documented by the Chinese, and dropped off at Venice on the way to Cleveland . . .

. . . Or Asheville, North Carolina, where Menzies believes a 15h-century Chinese medallion proves that the Chinese explored inland on one of their mapping journeys. Well, modern downtown Asheville is a bohemian but sanitized version of Haight-Ashbury, the home of numerous aging-hippy head shops, which come to think of it, do favor generically Asian stylistic trends like silk and bamboo curtains, wise sayings, and various porcelain and pottery Buddhas and hookahs (for decorative purposes only, of course). So I am a bit surprised Menzies hasn't used this evidence as proof in 1434--a silly aside, but one that I hopes illustrates Menzies' style of argument and may raise questions in a reasonable reader's mind as to the veracity of all his claims.

But I digress, and really don't mean to pigeonhole Menzies as an aging hippy and his book as a wasted head trip. But I do think he has a tendency to make large logical leaps with minimal evidentiary material underneath him, carrying this method of historical reasoning to its logical conclusion beyond which lies only self-parody (I haven't read Mad magazine in years--is it still published?--but I can only imagine the fun they'd have with this book and its style of breathless exclamation of great findings based on the barest of threads).

Another problem Menzies has in 1434 is that unlike 1421 where his conclusions could be based primarily on physical evidence, his argument in this book extends to areas where proving a causal relationship is very difficult, if not impossible. Short of a smoking gun letter from Leonardo saying "I got my ideas for helicopters from p. 123 of this crazy Chinese book 'Helicopters for Dummies' that I got from a Chinese sailor in a bar in Venice.", Menzies can only make circumstantial arguments and let the chips fall where they may....

....which is squarely in the laps of you, dear reader, who will judge for yourself the accuracy, completeness, and value of Menzies claims.

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