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The Land That Never Was: Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Most Audacious Fraud in History
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The Land That Never Was: Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Most Audacious Fraud in History

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  91 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
Once upon a time, in the heart of Central America, there was a country named Poyais. It was exceptionally rich in 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 group of Sc ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 28th 2004 by Da Capo Press (first published 2003)
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Mar 15, 2008 Kirsten rated it liked it
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.
Jul 28, 2008 Jen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 16, 2015 Mike Goldstein rated it it was ok
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
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

Sep 13, 2007 krin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
David R.
Dec 27, 2014 David R. rated it really liked it
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.
Tom Darrow
Jun 29, 2011 Tom Darrow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 15, 2013 Caitlin rated it it was ok
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.
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