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Gavin Menzies The Year China Discovered America
Book Review
© 2012 James LaFond
1421
The Year China Discovered America
Gavin Menzies, Harper, NY, 2002, 650 pages and additional material
I had a blast reading this book. Most historians will place this book in the same category as Chariots of the Gods, and consign Gavin to that intellectual pit occupied by ‘ancient astronaut theorists’. Don’t let that hold you back. Even though I had read this book, and it was just a paperback; when I had to trash 600 of 800 books, I kept this one, so I could reread it.
Gavin is a former submarine commander for the British Navy. That is an occupational niche only available to the best and the brightest, and it permits him to evaluate navigational records from an uncanny perspective. As a boxing coach, I can make vivid tactical deductions based on a pretty rude account of a fight related by a misinformed casual fan. Then, when I see the fight, I find my deductions were correct. And, as boxing coaches go, I’m no genius. Gavin has that knack with navigation, and, based on his submariner discipline, has a particular facility with polar navigation.
In the 1980s I did some preliminary research into Chinese exploration on the high seas. The authors I consulted would not permit—in their mind’s eye—the ancient Chinese navigators to venture Beyond Madagascar or Timor [where they fished for some real big sea snails]. Gavin has a gift for the informed deduction and logical extrapolation. I do not expect you to swallow his theory in its entirety. However, he makes a much better case for Chinese circumnavigation than traditional historians have made for the supposed Chinese tendency to self-limiting thought.
I am looking for his other title 1434. In the meantime, as republican political ads remind us that the USA is quick becoming a holding of China Inc., we might want to take this book as a cue that not every good idea emerged from the blood-drenched forests of primordial Europe, where our hairy ancestors were cleaving each other over muddy fields while the people that were eventually brought down by British opium set out to explore the globe in ships that would take your breath away, even today.
Did they get as far as Mister Menzies thinks?
I had too much fun with the question to ruin it with an answer.
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