1421 by Gavin Menzies is a controversial book. It reads entirely believably; he does not sound like a nutcase. The thesis is that the Chinese sent huge "treasure fleets" out to map the entire world in the years 1421-23 and, indeed, they did just that. Menzies offers ample evidence, including extant and very accurate maps. This thesis made quite a splash several years ago when the book first came out. I remember articles it Nantional Geographic.
I didn't read the book until just now because it's very big but I am always curious about ideas that set the given history on its heels. I am inclined to believe the Eurocentric view of history is flawed. The books, and a couple of subsequent books by Menzies have caused a lot of controversey and the popular opinion from what I gather looking at Google is that many commentators think he is flakey. The feats he ascribes to four Chinese admirals, each in charge of a huge fleet, become so encompassing that skepticism sets in. Yet, his "evidence" seems convincing. At this point in our political thinking we begrudge the Chinese superiority in almost anything. (I personally despise many policies of the current leaders.)
I think Menzies' book is worth reading and pondering. Few of us have the historical background to make an informed judgement about the historical accuracy; but it sounds reasonable to me. He grasps at many incidental archeological tidbits and pulls them together to make his case--that is suspiciously like some of the "far out" books I read in the '60s and '70s. But I am convinced that much, much more is to be known about pre-modern civilizations.
Only this week, I'm reading of a huge city in Cambodia now "discovered" because of laser mapping from helicopters. Similar lost cities have been found in the Amazon and Central America. Technology is beginning to eat away at the hubris of the colonial period that still is a part of European and American history. The Europeans did not come to a savage, uncivilized pair of continents and bring superior cultures. They came to plunder and pillage. If the Chinese came out of curiosity and perhaps to set up colonies we should make a place for their feats in out history.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!