1492, By Felipe Fernández-Armesto

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In 1492, so much more happened than Columbus and his frail tubs sailing the ocean blue. In west Africa, an empire tottered; in Spain, the expulsion of the Jews re-made Mediterranean culture; in Russia, a czar flexed new muscles. And in the East– well, the inaction of China proved the biggest event of all.

A far-seeing admiral of global history, Fernández-Armesto shows off all his gifts of rattling narrative and cross-cultural comparison in this portrait of "the year our world began".

However confused, Columbus's voyages "initiated European long-range imperialism" and so "re-carved" the Earth. And withdrawal in the East put a (temporary?) stop to the hegemony of – until then - "the planet's most dynamic and best-equipped exploring cultures".