8 ) 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance – Gavin Menzies (History)
I started this book last spring… sent in my ARC review… and then never bothered to finish the last hundred pages or so. Thus, for the sake of getting it out of the way, I sat down on the couch with a cup of tea and began reading.
And promptly fell asleep.
Not the most glowing thing to say about the book, I realize, but I think maybe I got in over my head with this one. I have far more interest in ancient history than ‘modern’ history (what myself and my archaeology pals jokingly call anything after the Fall of Rome), so it was hard for me to stay focused while reading this one. And the chapters that focused on Da Vinci vs. Chinese mathematical calculations and physics really didn’t do much to help me wake up.
Still, I think Menzies made some very important points in his book. I have to say I didn’t read his first book, 1421 (so I’m not sure how much is overlap), but he presents some startling evidence about Da Vinci’s inventions… and how they were essentially very slight modifications (or exact reproductions) of Chinese inventions from several hundred years prior. Menzies shows illustrations from Chinese manuscripts right next to Da Vinci’s (and other Italian inventors, let’s be fair) illustrations… and when you see that, it will be very difficult to deny what Menzies has theorized.
There were several other brief points of interest in this book, though it went off on too many tangents that my brain had difficulty connecting with the main argument (again, it could have been that I was dozing off). Still, I think the author presents a very important case for Chinese influence in Europe at this time, and he’s obviously done an incredible amount of work and research to build his case. I think if you’re interested in this time period, this book will be a very valuable read that provides plenty of opportunities for future research.
Rating: 3 coffees out of 5