Post-classical history

1492: The Year the World Began

1492: The Year the World Began
The world would end in 1492—so the prophets, soothsayers, and stargazers said. They were right. Their world did end. Ours began.

In this extraordinary, sweeping history, Felipe Fernández-Armesto traces key elements of the modern world back to that single, fateful year. Everything changed in 1492: the way power and wealth were distributed around the globe, the way major religions and civilizations divided the world, and the increasing interconnectedness of separate economies that we now call globalization. Events that began in 1492 transformed the whole ecological system of the planet. Our individualism and the very sense we share of inhabiting one world, as partakers in a common humanity, took shape and became visible in 1492.

In search of the origins of modernity, 1492 takes readers on a journey around the globe of the time, in the company of real-life travelers, drawing together the threads that came to bind the planet. The tour starts in Granada, where the last Islamic kingdom in Europe collapsed, then moves to Timbuktu, where a new Muslim empire triumphed. With Portuguese explorers, we visit the court of the first Christian king in the southern hemisphere. We join Jews expelled from Spain as they cross the Mediterranean to North Africa, Italy, and Istanbul. We see the flowering of the Renaissance in the Florence of Lorenzo the Magnificent and go to the corrupt Rome of Alexander Borgia. We see the frozen frontiers of the dynamic, bloody Russia of Ivan the Great and hear mystical poets sing on the shores of the Indian Ocean. We sail the Atlantic with Columbus. In the depths of an old volcanic crater in the Canary Islands, we witness the start of the first European overseas empire. We observe the Aztecs and Incas laying the foundations of a New World in the Americas.

Wars and witchcraft, plagues and persecutions, poetry and prophecy, science and magic, art and faith—all the glories and follies of the time are in this book. Everywhere, new departures marked the start of a new configuration for humankind, revealing how and why the modern world is different from the worlds of antiquity and the Middle Ages.

History seems a patternless labyrinth—but a good guide can trace our paths through it back to the moment when some of the most striking features of today's world began.

Chapter 1. “This World Is Small”: Prophecy and Reality in 1492

Chapter 2. “To Constitute Spain to the Service of God”: The Extinction of Islam in Western Europe

Chapter 3. “I Can See the Horsemen”: The Strivings of Islam in Africa

Chapter 4. “No Sight More Pitiable”: The Mediterranean World and the Redistribution of the Sephardim

Chapter 5. “Is God Angry with Us?”: Culture and Conflict in Italy

Chapter 6. Toward “the Land of Darkness”: Russia and the Eastern Marches of Christendom

Chapter 7. “That Sea of Blood”: Columbus and the Transatlantic Link

Chapter 8. “Among the Singing Willows”: China, Japan, and Korea

Chapter 9. “The Seas of Milk and Butter”: The Indian Ocean Rim

Chapter 10. “The Fourth World”: Indigenous Societies in the Atlantic and the Americas

Epilogue: The World We’re In


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