Study Questions for Mann, 1491
1. Until quite recently, most American history textbooks taught that before Europeans invaded the Americas Indians were savages who lived in isolated groups and had so little impact on their environment that it remained a pristine wilderness. We now know from scientific discoveries that this account was wrong. What is the effect of learning that most of what we have assumed about the past is "wrong in almost every aspect," as Mann puts it on page 4?
- What we have assumed as correct has cost our assumptions to being thought over and being challenged. Also, figuring out that the information is incorrect will have a negative effect because it will change what we believed was right and it will just be confusing. Since the Europeans arrived and destroyed the pristine nature that once existed, if we were to look back and if we see there never was a pristine environment, what can we say about that? There really wouldn’t be a way to defend the destruction anymore.
2. There are many scholarly disagreements about the research described in 1491. If our knowledge of the past is based on the findings of scholars, what happens to the past when scholars don’t agree? How convincing is anthropologist Dean R. Snow’s statement, "you can make the meager evidence from the ethnohistorical record tell you anything you want" [p. 5]? Are certain scholars introduced here more believable than others? Why or why not?
- The scholars regardless need to publish their work, with the evidence they found but it can be a bit hard to understand what really happened in the past because there will be a lot of different theories, evidence and events being published. Snow’s statement is persuasive because we use the evidence in the way we want to use it, leading to defending our ideas. All the scholars are introduced reasonably due to all of their theories being possible and all have sufficient amount of evidence to support them.
3. In the...
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