Listen: Hear an extended version of Bob Edwards' interview with <I>1421</I> author Gavin Menzies.
Book cover from 1421, The Year China Discovered America.
Columbus discovered America in 1492, any elementary school student will tell you. But an amateur historian says Columbus was about 70 years too late. The Chinese beat him to it in 1421, says Gavin Menzies, author of 1421, The Year China Discovered America.
"I came to the astonishing conclusion that a huge Chinese fleet of 800 vessels had sailed from China in March 1421 and they'd circumnavigated the world and they had created settlements in North and South America, in Australia, New Zealand, across the Pacific and in the Indian Ocean," Menzies tells NPR's Bob Edwards in a Morning Edition interview.
Menzies claims "the first Europeans who reached the New World met Chinese people." He says there's also evidence from shipwrecks, linguistics, Chinese porcelain and jade and even diseases that were specific to China that were all found in the Americas.
His findings have stirred skepticism among historians. "But I don't think there's really much disagreement about my central thesis that the Chinese settled Pacific and Atlantic coasts of both North and South America long before Columbus set sail," Menzies says.