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1421
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About the Author

Gavin Menzies is the bestselling author of 1421: The Year China Discovered America; 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance; and The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History's Greatest Mystery Revealed. He served in the Royal Navy between 1953 and 1970. His knowledge of seafaring and navigation sparked his interest in the epic voyages of Chinese admiral Zheng He. Menzies lives in London.

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In this bold feat of historical imagination, Menzies asserts that 15th-century Chinese navigators charted the world's oceans, made landfall, and established colonies in North and South America as well as many other places long before the European voyages of "discovery" by Christopher Columbus and other early European explorers. Menzies, a retired British navy commander, amasses a wealth of circumstantial evidence from early maps, folklore, the distribution of flora and fauna, shipwrecks, material artifacts, and so on in support of his thesis that Columbus and his peers actually sailed with maps that showed the New World they were credited with discovering. Admiral Zheng He and his fellow Ming dynasty navigators were far in advance of European navigation at the time and deserve credit, Menzies says, for unsurpassed feats of seamanship that have been lost to history because of the deliberate destruction of the Chinese records after their return home. Whether Menzies's claims have any historical merit is a matter for specialists to debate as his research is reviewed. But fact or fantasy, Menzies has produced an exciting and eminently readable work that both the armchair traveler and the amateur historian are certain to enjoy.-Steven U. Levine, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

A former submarine commander in Britain's Royal Navy, Menzies must enjoy doing battle. The amateur historian's lightly footnoted, heavily speculative re-creation of little-known voyages made by Chinese ships in the early 1400s goes far beyond what most experts in and outside of China are willing to assert and will surely set tongues wagging. According to Menzies's brazen but dull account of the Middle Kingdom's exploits at sea, Magellan, Dias, da Gama, Cabral and Cook only "discovered" lands the Chinese had already visited, and they sailed with maps drawn from Chinese charts. Menzies alleges that the Chinese not only discovered America, but also established colonies here long before Columbus set out to sea. Because China burned the records of its historic expeditions led by Zheng He, the famed eunuch admiral and the focus of this account, Menzies is forced to defend his argument by compiling a tedious package of circumstantial evidence that ranges from reasonable to ridiculous. While the book does contain some compelling claims-for example, that the Chinese were able to calculate longitude long before Western explorers-drawn from Menzies's experiences at sea, his overall credibility is undermined by dubious research methods. In just one instance, when confounded by the derivation of cryptic words on a Venetian map, Menzies first consults an expert at crossword puzzles rather than an etymologist. Such an approach to scholarship, along with a promise of more proof to come in the paperback edition, casts a shadow of doubt over Menzies's discoveries. 32 pages of color illus., 27 maps and diagrams. Book-of-the-Month Club alternate. (On sale Jan. 7) Forecast: Menzies's theory was featured in the New York Times and elsewhere last March after he spoke at the Royal Geographical Society in London (see Book News, Nov. 25, 2002). Controversy surrounding the book should be lively, generating sales. In addition, PBS will air a documentary series in 2004. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Captivating . . . a historical detective story . . . that adds to our knowledge of the world, past and present."--Daily News
"No matter what you think of Menzies's theories, his enthusiasm is infectious."--Christian Science Monitor
"Menzies' enthusiasm is infectious and his energy boundless. He has raised important questions and marshaled some fascinating information."--Toronto Globe and Mail
" is likely to be the most fascinating read of 2003."--UPI
"[Menzies] makes history sound like pure fun...a seductive read."--New York Times Magazine
"What you've done, brilliantly, is to raise many questions that people are debating."--Diane Rehm, The Diane Rehm Show

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