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. From the Hardcover edition.
The Muslim Discovery of Europe
"Full of rare and exact information.... A distinguished work."—New York Review of Books The eleventh-century Muslim world was a great civilization while Europe lay slumbering in the Dark Ages. Slowly, inevitably, Europe and Islam came together, through trade and war, crusade and diplomacy. The ebb and flow between these two worlds for seven hundred years, illuminated here by a brilliant historian, is one of the great sagas of world history.
On 26 September 1915 twelve British battalions - a strength of almost 10,000 men - were ordered to attack German positions at Loos in north-east France. In the three-and-a-half hours of the actual battle, they sustained 8,246 casualties. The Germans suffered no casualties at all. The Donkeys is a study of the Western Front on 1915, a brilliant exposé of a key stage of the Great War, when the opposing armies were locked in trench warfare. Alan Clark scrutinizes the major battles of the year. He casts a steady and revealing light on those in High Command - French, Rawlinson, Watson and Haig among them - whose orders resulted in the virtual destruction of the old professional British Army.