Ok. So I've just finished with the 4th chapter. There is so much information squashed into that chapter! It's really interesting to hear about Mr. Menzie's methods and path of deductive reasoning as he's pieced together this bit of history.
I sort of felt torn about this chapter. Part of me really appreciated that he was so thorough in the support of his claims about his abilities of deduction based on looking at maps and reading travel-logs (basically the support for thesis of the book.. heh) He went into great detail explaining how exactly he determined how the Chinese were so accurate in their mapping abilities, and who met whom where and when. However, it was that same detail that I got bogged down in as I was reading. Maybe it is just that I'm not much of a seafarer nor am I an expert on cartography, but I found the gobs of details rather laborious.
In the end, I took notes on the people he introduced and and tried to summarize the rest of the detail things. In the end I thought myself fairly successful :) I find, however, as I read further, that his claims seem more and more substantiated. This amuses me slightly, just because I have approached this book with a substantial amount of skepticism. Not that I thought that, irrevocably, Columbus MUST have been the first to find the Americas, but that I was skeptical how reading maps could really be the way he would support his thesis.
I am perfectly ok believing that other people found the Americas first. It seems pretty reasonable that it be the Chinese, especially when looking at them as Mr. Menzies has painted them. They were so much more knowledgeable and advanced at the time compared to the Europeans. Still, this new light really doesn't change much for me here in the United States in 2008; the Europeans still were the folks who made the immigration and colonization stick. But now, I begin to let my mind wander as I wonder how things would've been different if all the records had not been destroyed so carefully. And also if the Chinese culture of the time had been more prone to sharing their amazing amounts of knowledge with the rest of the world.