Monday, October 09, 2006

The Americas: A Hemispheric History

by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
If you enjoyed Guns, Germs and Steel for its big-picture examination of long-term cultural trends, you might enjoy zooming in just a bit on the more recent history of the Americas. Just as Jared Diamond's book attempted to explain why different cultures evolve differently, The Americas follows the turbulent history of the New World, from the first human migrations up to today. Only when the Americas are studied collectively, argues Fernandez-Armesto, can one start to understand how we arrived where we are. How did the most promising, resource-rich, culturally complex zones fall into political chaos and unrest? And how did the barren hinterlands to the north grow into the United States of America? Can the "other Americas" ever hope to catch up without being allowed to exploit their natural resources the way the USA has? This brief, but masterful, survey of American history provides some thought-provoking answers and will undoubtedly spark some questions.

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