Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Land That Never Was by David Sinclair

First sentence:

"The new year of 1823 announced itself in violent fashion with a vicious storm that battered the east coast of Britain for a fortnight."


"Once upon a time, in the heart of Central America, there was a country called Poyais. It was exceptionally rich in natural resources, civilization and culture and it was ruled by a brave and enlightened Scottish soldier, General Sir Gregor MacGregor, who had been made its cazique, or prince, of Poyais, after his many heroic exploits in the cause of South America's struggle to liberate itself from the Spanish empire.

In 1821, the Cazique of Poyais and his beautiful princess arrived in Britain to promote the virtues of their country and encourage immigration and investment. They rapidly became celebrities, honoured with an official welcome from the Lord Mayor of London, feted in the press, and enthusiastically sought after in the best social circles. Within a year, Sir Gregor MacGregor had persuaded thousands of people to subscribe to a £200,000 development loan he floated on the London stock market. More importantly, he had succeeded in attracting hundreds of would-be settlers, many from his native Scotland, who set off on the long and perilous journey to this promised land -- a journey from which the majority would never return.

It was not until some time later that the truth about Poyais and its prince began to emerge..."

My thoughts:

This was an informative account showing how one persuasive man with a well-written, descriptive document exploited people's greed and gullibility. Other major topics include the independence movements in Central and South America in the early 19th century and the eagerness of Europeans to help militarily and financially. Sinclair wraps up the book nicely in his analysis of how MacGregor started becoming caught up in his own fantasy towards the end.

Date read: 9/21/2007
Book #: 85
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Nonfiction - History/Biography

ISBN-10: 0755310799
ISBN-13: 9780755310791
Publisher: Headline Review
Year: 2003
# of Pages: 384
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

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