Gavin Menzies: Another book, another wild theory

Historians in the News

His first book claimed that the Chinese discovered America. Now, in a controversial sequel, Gavin Menzies says they also sparked the Renaissance
Gavin Menzies does not look robust enough to take the brickbats that are surely coming his way.

Six years ago, the retired submarine commander caused apoplexy among historians with his controversial theory that vast fleets of Chinese adventurers in multi-masted junks beat Christopher Columbus to the Americas and mapped the entire world centuries before the European explorers. It made him rich and infamous.

Whole websites sprang up devoted to debunking his claims. Scholars called him a fantasist.
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, professor of history at the University of London, dismissed his book, 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, as "the historical equivalent of stories about Elvis Presley in Tesco and close encounters with alien hamsters".
But while boiling oil was being poured on him from the ramparts of academe, Menzies's book was surging up the bestseller list. It has sold a million copies worldwide, and run to 24 editions in 135 countries.

"I get criticised for being a charlatan and making millions," he says wearily. "But people are astute and if my theories were false and didn't stack up, I would soon know about it from the public."
Every day, 2,000 people go to his website, - which was set up to deal with the response to the book - pouring in new evidence and ideas. "It is staggering," he says. "Conceited as it may sound, people now think of us as a centre for collating evidence on this period of European and Chinese history."...

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