Rated of 5
by Graeme Foster
The Innocence of the Regency Period.
'The Land That Never Was', David Sinclair's astonishing account of the career of Gregor MacGregor, possibly the greatest swindler of his day, makes one incredulous at the credulity of those of another age. MacGregor was successful in convincing thousands of otherwise educated Europeans that he was the appointed ruler of a land far away; somewhere between Nicaragua and Panama. Poyais, as he named it, was an unsullied paradise-on-earth, just waiting to be exploited. MacGregor, the self-styled Cazique of Poyais placed himself in Regency Britain to sell mythical real estate to a willing public.
How and why he was able to sustain this ruse so capably for so long is really the astonishing nature of the tale. In a world of Google Earth and instant communication, such hoodwinking is impossible. But in a sketchy world of terra incognita and tenuous communication all sorts of hanky panky was apparently possible.
The Cazique MacGregor must have had a blindingly charismatic personality as he was able to maintain a veneer of innocence, transferring blame to others, even after the exposure of the scam.
The Land That Never Was is a truly remarkable vignette of an age of possibilities which embraced even the impossible.