Gavin’s Fantasy Land, 1421: The Year China ...
by Bill Hartz
Menzies wrote 1421: The Year China Discovered America and labelled it non-fiction. It purported to be a factual rewrite of history: the true story of the previously unknown exploration of the world by the fleet of Zheng He in 1421-23. The Chinese admiral was indeed the premiere maritime figure of his era, and his exploits are impressive, well known and documented. During seven voyages, 1405 - 1433, the ships of Zheng He‚Äs fleet visited as many as 37 countries of the South Asia Seas, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. Gavin now proposes they also discovered the world during the sixth trip in 1421. He contends they sailed through the Arctic Ocean and around Russia and Greenland, visited the Caribbean, the east and west coasts of North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and many islands in the Pacific Ocean.
At least superficially the book looks as if it might be a serious history; it has the form, quite a few endnotes with source citations, a long bibliography, etc. And it has some heft, 552 pages. But alas, in our opinion it‚Äs not really a history, it‚Äs a poser, and belongs on the fiction list: Gavin promised gravitas and delivered only avoirdupois. We speculate Gavin had the dream first, and then went looking for evidence to prove it real, couldn‚Ät find any, so he just made it up.
How did I reach that view?