1492: The Year the World Began

Written by Felipe Ferńandez-Armesto
Review by Eva Ulett

Felipe Ferńandez-Armesto’s contention in 1492: The Year the World Began is that in the titular year events occurred that shaped the global community we live in today. 1492 may seem a date both too distant and too specific to bear the claim of being the year in which the world began to shrink, to experience a convergence of peoples and cultures, but Ferńandez-Armesto presents a fascinating case.

In separate chapters the events of the late 15th century in Europe, Africa, Asia, and America are examined. For Europe, 1492 was the year when “the resources of the Americas began to be accessible to Westerners.” The documenting of Atlantic wind patterns that resulted from Columbus’s voyages helped change the perception of the globe. In Africa the division of the continent into regions adhering to Christianity or Islam is detailed as having been established in the decades around 1492. Events in Russia, China, India, Japan, and the Americas are also covered. Whether or not Felipe Ferńandez-Armesto convinces with his argument that 1492 was a pivotal year in history, this is a book full of insight into the world and events of the late 15th century.