Jim, on the question of the political proclivities of academics, I’d recommend Murray Rothbard’s discussions of Court Intellectuals. For example:
“It is evident that the State needs the intellectuals; it is not so evident why intellectuals need the State. Put simply, we may state that the intellectual’s livelihood in the free market is never too secure; for the intellectual must depend on the values and choices of the masses of his fellow men, and it is precisely characteristic of the masses that they are generally uninterested in intellectual matters. The State, on the other hand, is willing to offer the intellectuals a secure and permanent berth in the State apparatus; and thus a secure income and the panoply of prestige. For the intellectuals will be handsomely rewarded for the important function they perform for the State rulers, of which group they now become a part.”
For more in this vein, see “The Anatomy of the State”: http://mises.org/easaran/chap3.asp
I have not read “1491” and am reluctant to venture too many observations on the merits of theses that rely primarily on nuanced interpretation of archeological data, since that sort of falls outside the historian’s area of expertise.