1493 was Year One


In hindsight, 1492 might have been a good point at which to reset the calendar. Traditionally, the year in which Columbus discovered America is seen as the moment Europe began to shape a New World. Today it looks more like the start of a process that has stitched the drifting continents back together: 1492 was the Year Zero of globalisation, and 1493 was Year One. It has been a thrilling and frequently catastrophic ride for humankind ever since, and science writer Charles C Mann’s excitement never flags as he tells his breathtaking story. His account enshrines Columbus as a founding father of globalisation, and recognises that its effects have been as much biological as economic. Here he borrows from the historian Alfred W Crosby, who in 1972 coined the phrase “Columbian Exchange” to describe the traffic of species between continents. The term is elegant, but the exchange was often anything but equitable. Europe sent malaria to the Americas; in return the Americas gave Europe a cure, the Andean cinchona bark from which quinine is derived.

more from Marek Kohn at the FT here.