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Describes how recent archaeological research has transformed long-held myths about the Americas, revealing far older and more advanced cultures with a greater population than were previously thought to have existed.
Up until very recently it was believed that in 1491, the year before Columbus landed, the Americas, one-third of the earth's surface, were a near-pristine wilderness inhabited by small roaming bands of indigenous people. But recently unexpected discoveries have dramatically changed our understanding of Indian life. Many scholars now argue that the Indians were much more numerous, were in the Americas for far longer and had far more ecological impact on the land than previously believed. This knowledge has enormous implications for today's environmental disputes, yet little has filtered into textbooks and even less into public awareness. Mann brings together all of the latest research, and the results of his own travels throughout North and South America, to provide a new, fascinating and iconoclastic account of the Americas before Columbus.
Why do we keep talking about so many environmental problems and rarely solve any? If these are scientific issues, then why can't scientists solve them or at least agree on what to do? In his new book, The Moon in the Nautilus Shell, ecologist Daniel Botkin explains why. For one thing, although we live in a world of constantly changing environments and talk a lot about climate change, most of our environmental laws, policies, and scientific premises are based on the idea that the environment is constant, never changing, except when people affect it. For another, we have lost contact with nature in personal ways. Disconnected from our surroundings, we lack the deep understanding and feelings about the environment to make meaningful judgments. The environment has become just another one of those special interests that interferes with our lives. Poised to be a core text of the twenty-first century environmental movement, The Moon in the Nautilus Shell challenges us to think critically about our role in nature.
An Empire of Regions is a refreshing interpretation of British American history that demonstrates how the thirteen British mainland colonies grew to function as self-governing entities in distinct regional clusters. In lucid prose, Eric Nellis invites readers to explore the circumstances leading to the colonies' collective defense of their individual interests, and to reevaluate the founding principles of the United States. There is considerable discussion of social conditions and of the British background to the colonies' development. Extensive treatment of slavery, the slave trade, and native populations is provided, while detailed maps illustrate colony boundaries, settlement growth, and the impact of the Proclamation Line. This absorbing and compelling narrative will captivate both newcomers to and enthusiasts of American history.
In its first seven years, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tripled trade and quintupled foreign investment among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, increasing its share of the world economy. In 2001, however, North America peaked. Since then, trade has slowed among the three, manufacturing has shrunk, and illegal migration and drug-related violence have soared. At the same time, Europe caught up, and China leaped ahead. In The North American Idea, eminent scholar and policymaker Robert A. Pastor explains that NAFTA's mandate was too limited to address the new North American agenda. Instead of offering bold initiatives like a customs union to expand trade, leaders of the three nations thought small. Interest groups stalemated the small ideas while inhibiting the bolder proposals, and the governments accomplished almost nothing. To overcome this resistance and reinvigorate the continent, the leaders need to start with an idea based on a principle of interdependence. Pastor shows how this idea--once woven into the national consciousness of the three countries--could mobilize public support for continental solutions to problems like infrastructure and immigration that have confounded each nation working on its own. Providing essential historical context and challenging readers to view the continent in a new way, The North American Idea combines an expansive vision with a detailed blueprint for a more integrated, dynamic, and equitable North America.
In the traditional narrative of American colonial history, early European settlements, as well as native peoples and African slaves, were treated in passing as unfortunate aberrations in a fundamentally upbeat story of Englishmen becoming freer and more prosperous by colonizing an abundant continent of "free land." Over the last generation, historians have broadened our understanding of colonial America by adopting both a trans-Atlantic and a trans-continental perspective, examining the interplay of Europe, Africa, and the Americas through the flow of goods, people, plants, animals, capital, and ideas. In this Very Short Introduction, Alan Taylor presents an engaging overview of the best of this new scholarship. He shows that American colonization derived from a global expansion of European exploration and commerce that began in the fifteenth century. The English had to share the stage with the French, Spanish, Dutch, and Russians, each of whom created alternative Americas. By comparing the diverse colonies of rival empires, Taylor recovers what was truly distinctive about the English enterprise in North America. He focuses especially on slavery as central to the economy, culture, and political thought of the colonists and restores the importance of native peoples to the colonial story. To adapt to the new land, the colonists needed the expertise, guidance, alliance, and trade of the Indians who dominated the interior. This historical approach emphasizes the ability of the diverse natives to adapt to the newcomers and to compel concessions from them. This Very Short Introduction describes an intermingling of cultures and of microbes, plants, and animals--from different continents that was unparalleled in global history. Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.
The plaza has been a defining feature of Mexican urban architecture and culture for at least 4,000 years. Ancient Mesoamericans conducted most of their communal life in outdoor public spaces, and today the plaza is still the public living room in every Mexican neighborhood, town, and city—the place where friends meet, news is shared, and personal and communal rituals and celebrations happen. The site of a community's most important architecture—church, government buildings, and marketplace—the plaza is both sacred and secular space and thus the very heart of the community. This extensively illustrated book traces the evolution of the Mexican plaza from Mesoamerican sacred space to modern public gathering place. The authors led teams of volunteers who measured and documented nearly one hundred traditional Mexican town centers. The resulting plans reveal the layers of Mesoamerican and European history that underlie the contemporary plaza. The authors describe how Mesoamericans designed their ceremonial centers as embodiments of creation myths—the plaza as the primordial sea from which the earth emerged. They discuss how Europeans, even though they sought to eradicate native culture, actually preserved it as they overlaid the Mesoamerican sacred plaza with the Renaissance urban concept of an orthogonal grid with a central open space. The authors also show how the plaza's historic, architectural, social, and economic qualities can contribute to mainstream urban design and architecture today.

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