Book Recommendation: 1491, Charles C. Mann, Part 1

1491

Hello everyone! Today’s post is on the book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann. While I have not yet completed this book, I am currently enjoying it very much, and so thought that a post would be a good idea. As the title implies, the subject of this book is the civilizations of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. The book weaves a rich tapestry on this subject, drawing on the work of generations of historians, historical demographers, archeologists, sociologists, and others to bring to life civilizations which have since passed from the face of the Earth. In reading this book, a whole new historical world has opened for me. Previously, I was unaware of most aspects of the history of the Americas; one good example of an interesting historical fact contained in this book is that it is a strong possibility (though not certain) that the Inca developed a writing system in the form of long, knotted strings called khipu. The colours of the string, subsidiary strings which descended from the main knots, and the design and order of the knots were able to tell a story, an entirely unique writing system in the history of civilization. “Reading” the khipu depended on both sight and touch, making this also one of the only tactile writing methods in history. It is through glimpses such as this that Mann is able to evoke a feeling of nostalgia for a world which ceased to exist long ago; the loss of these civilizations and the majority of their records was truly a tragedy on a massive scale, and one which can never be undone.

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How Accurate Is: Marco Polo (TV Show, 2014-, S1E1) Post 2

Kublai Khan
Kublai Khan

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be, as promised, on the first episode of Marco Polo, from the Mongol and Chinese point of view rather than that of Polo. In the previous post, it was discussed that the show was fairly faithful to the life of Polo principally because the surviving accounts of his life (including his own) were not especially detailed. The same cannot be said of Mongol and Chinese life during this period, however, so how does the show measure up in this respect? Before entering into a discussion of this subject, it should be noted that there are less personal details on the Mongol or Chinese characters than Polo, so a direct comparison between the treatment of the two cannot truly be made.

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How Accurate Is: Marco Polo (TV Show, 2014-, S1E1) Post 1

Marco POlo

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be on the first episode of the Netflix show Marco Polo, released in 2014. My personal opinion on this show was that it was a promising historical drama derailed by numerous and wholly unnecessary graphic scenes; however, for the sake of this review, that is neither here nor there. In terms of historical accuracy, the show was significantly more accurate than expected, with some caveats. The first is that nearly the only source on the life of the historical Marco Polo is his own book, Il Miliones, which he published upon his return; the second is that this book does not relate his life in great detail, giving the creators of the show significant leeway with their interpretation of events. In many ways, this makes Marco Polo the perfect historical drama from the perspective of television producers; they are permitted to tell a compelling historical story without having to worry too much about getting the details right.

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How Accurate Is: Gladiator (Film, Ridley Scott, 2000)

Gladiator

Hello everyone! Today’s post is on the film Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe. To begin I should point out that Gladiator is only a historical film in the sense that Inglorious Basterds is; the names are right, and the story is quite satisfying, but there is little relation to actual history. Just as Hitler was evidently not assassinated, so too was the Roman Republic evidently not restored in 180 CE (I should point out that I am not making any comparison between these two events). It is, therefore, a difficult task to truly assess the historical accuracy of Gladiator.

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