Could anyone summarize chapter 3 of 1491?

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Charles Mann’s 1491 is a fascinating book. Chapter 3 is called “In the Land of the Four Quarters,” a reference to the name the Inka gave their empire—in their language, Tawantinsuyu.

In 1491, the Inka ruled the greatest empire on earth...The Inka dominion extended over a staggering thirty-two degrees of...

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Charles Mann’s 1491 is a fascinating book. Chapter 3 is called “In the Land of the Four Quarters,” a reference to the name the Inka gave their empire—in their language, Tawantinsuyu.

In 1491, the Inka ruled the greatest empire on earth...The Inka dominion extended over a staggering thirty-two degrees of latitude—as if a single power held sway from St. Petersburg to Cairo.

The chapter details the rise of the Inka emperors and their strategies of conquest, which they used to manage territory from the upper Amazon rainforest, across the Andes, and to the desert along the coast. The Inka managed to develop agriculture at high elevations (much of the territory lies 10,000 feet or more above sea level) using steep terraces to cultivate potatoes and later, maize. Because the Inka ruled such a vast array of landscapes, each region contributed to trade and all benefited from a higher quality of life than would have been possible using only local resources.

Though the Inkan empire was one of the largest in the ancient world, it had a short lifespan. Only about a hundred years passed from the time of Pachakuti, the first Inka (emperor) to expand the territory, until the Spanish arrived under Pizarro. Much of the chapter, and the book in general, deals with how Europeans managed to wipe out indigenous cultures so completely, in a short amount of time. As others have noted, Mann includes an in-depth look at the work of Henry Dobyns, an anthropologist who had an eye-opening realization while working on population records in 1960s Peru.

Dobyns realized that the massive mortality rates recorded in archives was almost entirely due to European diseases, especially smallpox, and that diseases may have killed over 90 percent of the indigenous population. Especially interesting is the hypothesis that disease spread so quickly that communities were affected before Europeans even arrived there. So often when Europeans estimated native populations, the numbers they saw were already a fraction of the original population. In the case of the Inka, one epidemic of smallpox had already struck by the time Pizarro and his 168 soldiers arrived, killing up to 200,000.

Mann also examines the popular assumption that it was simply the Spaniards’ horses, steel, and superior battle skills that led to the Inka’s collapse. In fact, many other factors played a part. The first smallpox epidemic in 1524–25 killed the ruling Inka and his designated heir and set off a civil war as his other sons vied for the title. The ensuing battles killed off tens of thousands more. This led to a crumbling of the internal infrastructure and food supply. To top it all off, Pizarro and his men staged an ambush that captured Atawallpa, one contender for the throne. His court sent caravans of gold and silver for his ransom, but once the ransom was received, he was executed. With no designated leader, a weakened population, epidemics still raging, and warfare tactics they had never seen, the empire fell.

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Chapter 3 of Charles Mann's 1491 covers several topics. It includes the history of the Inca empire, its accomplishments, its demography, and the reasons for its defeat at the hands of the Spanish.

The chapter tells the story of an anthropologist by the name of Henry Dobyns. In 1963, he published an article on his findings. His research showed that diseases ravaged the Inca and all Indian societies in the New World. Dobyns believed that this was the main reason why Indian societies could not withstand European aggression. Guns and horses were not the reasons for the Inca defeat. Dobyns argued that 95% of the Indian population died from diseases during the first 130 years of contact.

Mann writes that the Inca empire was one of the greatest in world history. It was huge and it thrived in an inhospitable mountainous environment. The empire would not endure for long, however.

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The third chapter of 1491 is entitled "The Land of Four Quarters," and its subject is the Inka people who lived in modern-day Peru. It begins with the recognition, made by anthropologist Henry F. Dobyns, that "Peru . . . was one of the world's cultural wellsprings, a place as important to the human saga as the Fertile Crescent." But this was not widely recognized, Mann writes, because the Spanish had so thoroughly devastated the Inkan Empire—which, at the end of the fifteenth century, was the largest on the planet.

Centered on the Peruvian Highlands (a very inhospitable environment), this empire ruled over a vast swath of territories along the Andes Mountains, connecting the far corners of their domains with stone-paved roads and communicating with a system of beads on strings that Mann compares to modern binary code. They deliberately settled people in areas that could produce food for the rest of the empire and conducted trade using a barter system. Their empire was spread along what one anthropologist quoted by Mann calls "vertical archipelagos," a means of dividing labor by living at differing altitudes. The Inka rulers called their far-flung empire "Land of the Four Quarters," a reference to the way they understood the cosmos.

Mann attributes the downfall of the Inka to a civil war that broke out between contenders to the title of "Inka," or emperor. The arrival of Pizarro and his subsequent conquest of the city of Cajamarca (and his execution of Atawallpa, the Inka contender) was facilitated by this fracture in Inka politics. This victory was also made possible by the technological gap between the two peoples, though Inka weapons and armor were nowhere near as "primitive" as has been imagined. Another major factor in the downfall of this great empire, Mann points out, was smallpox, which wiped out thousands of people, including the political elites.

At the end of the chapter, Mann recounts how Dobyns's work on the Inka led him to the conclusion that the pre-Columbian population of the Americas was much higher than previously believed. He estimated that, in 1491, the population was somewhere between 90 and 112 million people, the vast majority of whom were destroyed by the "virgin soil" smallpox epidemic that struck people with absolutely no immunity to this terrible disease.

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Chapter 3 deals primarily will the composition, rise, function, and fall of the Inca to the Spanish and how an army of 200 men could topple an empire. The author talks about the establishment of the Inca Empire as an autocratic regime that was highly bureaucratically competent and ruled over vast quantities of land, people, and resources. The Inca welded a massive empire together primarily through conquest, making their eventual defeat by an armed band all the more surprising. The author describes the coup by which the Conquistadors destabilized the Empire. They ambushed and kidnapped the autocrat of the Inca, leaving them leaderless and directionless. Then, they had him ransom himself. Much to their benefit, he had also ordered all of his heirs executed, meaning the Inca were left leaderless. While most historians agree that the tactical success of the Conquistadors even when vastly outnumbered was due to steel and horses. The author, however, contends that Inca metal craft was equivalent in skill to European skill, but in different areas.

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