Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Land That Never Was: Sir Gregor MacGregor And The Most Audacious Fraud In History” as Want to Read:
The Land That Never Was: Sir Gregor MacGregor And The Most Audacious Fraud In History
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Land That Never Was: Sir Gregor MacGregor And The Most Audacious Fraud In History

3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  88 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
Once upon a time, in the heart of Central America, there was a country named Poyais. It was exceptionally rich in natural resources, civilization, and culture and was ruled by the brave and enlightened Scottish soldier, Sir Gregor MacGregor, who became its ruler after his heroic exploits in the fight for South American independence. On a cold January morning in 1823, a gro ...more
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published January 7th 2004 by Da Capo Press (first published 2003)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Land That Never Was, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Land That Never Was

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 227)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
The story of Poyais, the gorgeous South American country that never existed... The tale is fascinating, but Sinclair sucks a lot of the interest out of it with a pedestrian writing style. He can't seem to distinguish between what is interesting detail and what is just excess. I was left feeling that the book was interesting in spite of, rather than because of, the way it was written.
Nov 24, 2008 Jen rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Oh my dear God. I can't believe I finally finished this book. I don't even know how long I've been reading this book - at least 8 months, I'd say. The story *should* be interesting. A professional soldier of Scottish descent swindles hundreds of Scots and Brits into giving him money and buying land in a country that does not even exist. He even puts the ones who bought land on a ship and sends them off to this fake country in South America. It sounds fascinating. In reality, this is like reading ...more
Mike Goldstein
Read this book on a rec. It's not bad by any means, but I think my ratings trend wayyyy too high on here, so "The Land That Never Was" is going to be sacrificed in the name of regaining balance.

It's definitely an interesting story, and I got to learn a decent bit about Latin American wars of independence and the wanky way in which British people participated in them. The idea of joining a war voluntarily in order to get famous and make tons of money is obviously insane and worthy of condemnation
David R.
Sinclair breathes a lot of life into the story of a glory-starved Scotsman who fails as a mercenary and conjures up a land fraud that persisted for years. It's astonishing how gullible so many people were in the face of this huckster despite the many clear indiocations. Sinclair might have given a little more attention to the reasons why MacGregor charmed his victims so well, but it is a solid work.
Bookmarks Magazine

Sinclair opens his book with the moment that settlers realize they've been bamboozled and abandoned. He then backtracks to MacGregor's murky pre-Poyais history, where he fabricated military successes, an aristocratic past, and his great land fraud. In retelling this colorful history, Sinclair relies primarily on the records of one of MacGregor's enemies and the swindler's own pompous lies, but documents contemporary sources as well. Critics cite the story's structure, not its writing, as its str

Teachers Travelers
An amazing story! I could not believe it actually happened!
An extremely fun book that will disgust you over and over again with both the gullibility and cruelty of human nature.

Gregor MacGregor reminds me of what would result if cells were scraped from Matthew Lesko and Sean Hannity and then grown in a Petri dish; the chimerical offspring would be equal parts charlatan and coward.

Sinclair's narration is lively and often left me both chuckling and sick to my stomach at the attempts of MacGregor to appear to be a great man, and the terrible amount of deat
Tom Darrow
Jun 29, 2011 Tom Darrow rated it really liked it
Amusing story about a self-styled nobleman who tricks people into buying land in an imaginary country in Central America. I enjoyed this book for several reasons... 1) it was an interesting biography of a larger than life character. 2) it does a good job at showing the chaotic nature of the post-Napoleonic world... where a person can make up a country and people don't know any better because the maps had changed so many times 3) it shows how gullible people can be at times.
Oct 12, 2007 krin rated it liked it
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.
This is an easy-reading account of the great Poyais fraud, although hampered somewhat by the patchiness of the sources about McGregor and his associates.
Jun 17, 2013 Caitlin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It's a really great story but seriously just read the wikipedia page. Like every bit of interest in this book is way more succinctly written there.
Geoff Wyss
Jun 05, 2009 Geoff Wyss rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Skip the turgid Foreward. After that, great stuff.
Jeffrey Johnson
interesting story but not especially well written.
Philmon marked it as to-read
May 27, 2016
Vhari is currently reading it
May 16, 2016
Anthony Stell
Anthony Stell rated it really liked it
May 21, 2016
Taylor marked it as to-read
May 11, 2016
Paul Benefield
Paul Benefield rated it it was amazing
May 05, 2016
Yuri added it
May 01, 2016
Anna Carpenter
Anna Carpenter marked it as to-read
May 01, 2016
Betsydonnelly marked it as to-read
Apr 24, 2016
Gordon rated it liked it
Apr 10, 2016
Caleb Melchior
Caleb Melchior marked it as to-read
Apr 05, 2016
Batuhan Yılmazarslan
Batuhan Yılmazarslan rated it really liked it
Mar 16, 2016
Shadi Boshnaq
Shadi Boshnaq marked it as to-read
Mar 13, 2016
Billy Plummer
Billy Plummer marked it as to-read
Mar 11, 2016
Rob Gillespie
Rob Gillespie marked it as to-read
Mar 08, 2016
Marina popkewitz
Marina popkewitz marked it as to-read
Feb 25, 2016
Xrg marked it as to-read
Feb 24, 2016
Beth Ann
Beth Ann marked it as to-read
Feb 18, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand
  • Mastery, Tyranny, and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World
  • Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of People Who Didn't Change the World
  • The Politics of Upheaval 1935-36 (The Age of Roosevelt, Vol 3)
  • John Keats
  • The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital
  • Grey Eminence
  • Art: A New History
  • Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern
  • James Madison: Writings
  • Why Globalization Works
  • The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide, and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV
  • Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World
  • The Russian Revolution
  • Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America
  • Det Lykkelige Arabien: En Dansk Ekspedition, 1761 67
  • Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865-1871
  • Prose and Poetry

Share This Book