Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Good bookshop, lousy book

The other day I went to check out the website of the Women's Bookshop, a long-time favourite watering hole for Auckland bookworms. Imagine my dismay when I found that the bookshop was not only stocking but enthusiastically promoting Gavin Menzies' piece of pseudo-history, 1421: the Year China Discovered the World. Here's what the Women's Bookshop site says about Menzies' offspring:

On 8 February 1421 the largest fleet the world had ever seen sailed from its base in China. The ships, 500 foot long [yep, you read it right, 500 foot long] junks made from the finest teak and mahogany, were led by Emperor Zhu Di's loyal eunuch admirals. Their mission was 'to proceed all the way to the end of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas' and unite the whole world in Confucian harmony. Their journey would last over two years and circle the entire globe...

Gavin Menzies has spent fifteen years tracing the astonishing voyages of the Chinese fleet. Now, in a fascinating historical detective story, he shares the remarkable account of his discoveries and the incontrovertible evidence to support them, bringing together a compelling narrative, ancient maps, precise navigational knowledge, astronomy and the surviving accounts by Chinese explorers and the later European navigators. It brings to light the artefacts and inscribed standing stones left behind by the emperor¹s fleet,the evidence of sunken junks along its route and the ornate votive offerings left by the Chinese sailors wherever they landed, in thanks to Shao Lin, Goddess of the sea.

1421 is the story of a remarkable journey of discovery that rewrites our understanding of history. Our knowledge of world exploration as it has been commonly accepted for centuries must now be revised. 1421: The Year China Discovered the World is destined to become a classic work of historical detection.

Since Menzies published his book, not a single historian has assented to his claim that a fleet of Chinese ships circumnavigated the world in the 1420s. The maps that Menzies produced to back his claims that the Chinese got to places like Greenland and New Zealand have been exposed as obvious hoaxes. Some of them, for instance, include place names written in the modern Chinese script, which was only developed after Mao came to power at the end of the 1940s (Menzies may not have noticed this small problem because, despite wanting to rewrite Chinese history, he doesn't actually know Mandarin).

Much of the non-cartographic 'evidence' that Menzies cites for his theory is similarly absurd. For instance, he claims that the wrecks of fifteenth century Ming dynasty ships have been discovered up and down the coast of New Zealand. I must keep an eye out the next time I go down to Pt Chev Beach for a swim...

A lot of the evidence against Menzies' claims is presented at this website, which was set up by historians and Sinologists irritated by 1421.

Despite its absurd theses, Menzies' book has become a bestseller in many countries. Partly this reflects a slick marketing campaign by his publishers, who are the same outfit that gave us the Da Vinci Code. A big part of the success of the book, though, is due to the resurgent Chinese nationalism which has been one of the side-effects of the spectacular economic growth there over the past couple of decades. And the 1421 myth has support in high places: in 2003, Chinese President Hu Jintao regurgitated one of Menzies' claims when he told a joint session of China's parliament that his country had 'discovered' Australia.

I know what you're thinking. Why get so het up about a bit of Chinese myth-making, especially when it's being orchestrated by a former Pommy submarine driver who left school at fifteen and doesn't know that coconuts can float across oceans? The Brits have King Arthur, the Americans have JFK - why can't China's burgeoning elite create its own fact-free nationalist myth? And fair enough, I'd say, were it not for the way that Menzies' book contributes to some pervasive, harmful, and - let's not forget - profoundly stupid myths about the history of this fair land.

After working on the Information Desk at a major New Zealand museum for a few months, I can tell you, dear readers, that there is still a bewildering amount of bewilderment about the pre-history of these islands. A lot of the confusion surrounds the question of pre-Maori habitation of New Zealand. Despite a complete absence of evidence, many New Zelanders - Maori, as well as Pakeha - and not a few foreign visitors still believe that Maori conquered an earlier people who had settled on these islands. The pre-Maori people in question varies: I've heard theories about South American, Celtic, Phoenician, Haida, and Portugese settlers who were rudely disturbed by latecomer Maori. (A variant strain of thinking holds that Maori were the first settlers of these islanders, but that they are not a Polynesian people. A co-worker was solemnly informed that Maori were a Papuan tribe, for instance.)

But by far the most pervasive myth of a pre-Maori people is built around Moriori, the indigenous people of the Chatham Islands. Moriori are descended from a group of Maori who travelled to the Chathams from one of the two main islands of New Zealand in or before the fourteenth century AD. It is likely, but not certain, that the travellers came from the southern part of the South Island. The travellers did not return, probably because the trees on the Chathams could not be made into canoes capable of making long sea journeys. In their centuries of isolation, and in response to the unique conditions on the Chathams, the settlers developed a distinct culture and identity.

Perhaps because of the harsh climate of the Chathams, Moriori did not grow crops. Like the Australian Aborigines, they lived as hunter gatherers. Moriori society was more egalitarian than most Maori societies. Slavery did not exist, and elders wielded less power than most Maori chiefs. Moriori society was also distinguished by its pacifism. Early in Moriori history, an elder named Nunuku-whenua forbade war, and placed strict limits on violence. ‘Nunuku’s law’ ordered that fights between individuals must stop as soon as blood was spilt.

Moriori physical culture was also distinctive. Moriori carving was less ornate than Maori carving. Unlike Maori, though, Moriori made dendroglyphs (carvings on living trees). Moriori often made ingenious uses out of simple materials. For instance, Moriori built wash-through rafts (waka korari) out of seaweed and reeds. The rafts floated partially submerged in water, and this gave them considerable stability in the rough seas around the Chathams.

In 1835 two Taranaki iwi, Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama, invaded the Chatham Islands and enslaved the Moriori. By 1862, when slavery was abolished on the Chathams, 1,500 Moriori had died, and only about 100 remained. After they were freed Moriori were unable to recover much of their land, and their population continued to decline. In recent decades, though, there has been a ‘Moriori renaissance’, and in January 2005 the first modern Moriori marae opened on the Chathams.

There is no doubt about the origin of the Moriori. The Moriori and Maori languages both belong to the Eastern Polynesian subfamily of Polynesian languages, but they share many similarities that the other languages in the subfamily do not have. This suggests a shared history. Tools made from obsidian and argillite, materials which were available in the North and South Islands but not in other parts of Polynesian, have been found at Moriori archaeological sites on the Chathams.

Nevertheless, a very powerful myth has developed which says that Moriori were Melanesian pre-Maori settlers of New Zealand, who were conquered and then driven to the remote Chathams by the more 'advanced' and 'aggressive' Polynesians. Even though it has no credibility amongst scholars, the myth of Moriori as a pre-Maori people has persisted in the minds of many Pakeha, and a surprising number of Maori.

Gavin Menzies has plugged in to some of the myths of pre-Maori habitation of these islands in a doomed attempt to make his argument for the Chinese circumnavigation of the world seem more convincing. In 1421 he suggests that many Maori are actually the descendants of members of the Chinese fleet that set out in the fifteenth century and thus, presumably, not really the indigenous people of these islands. That was bad enough, but last year Menzies visited New Zealand to inform us all that 'Maori do not exist'. According to Menzies, Maori are the descendants of Chinese prostitutes and Melanesian slaves. Here's an excerpt from a report on the talk Menzies gave:

Chinese miners were in New Zealand from about 286 BC, he said. They brought concubines from China and on the way to New Zealand picked up Melanesian slaves who revolted, killed the Chinese men and took the women for themselves. This, he said, was the origin of the Maori people.

Menzies said his book had been well-received around the world but had drawn hostile criticism in New Zealand...

Funny that. One person who has responded warmly to Menzies' bizarre reformulations of the Moriori myth is Muriel Newman, former Act party MP and scourge of solo mothers, 'bludging Maoris' and the 'Treaty industry'. In her weekly newsletter Newman regurgitated the musings of Menzies and other pseuds:

Gavin Menzies and his 1421 Team presented new evidence of early Chinese exploration by Zheng He, strengthening their belief that Chinese colonies existed in New Zealand for hundreds of years before the arrival of Maori...

Claims have been made that New Zealand was discovered from as early as 600BC by Phoenician, Indian, Greek and Arab explorers. In fact, claims of these visits help to explain the existence in the South Island of the fossilised remains of rats that have been carbon dated at 160 BC - more than 1,000 years before Maori!

Well, only if you can explain what the Polynesian rat was doing in Greece or Phoenicia, Muriel. The real reason for the enthusiasm Newman and other right-wingers show for the pseudo-histories of Menzies and others is easy to understand. Many Pakeha want to believe that Maori took New Zealand from the Moriori, or from some other people, or that Maori are some kind of historical freak, because that would, according to the Darwinian logic of the right, somehow make the subsequent Pakeha colonisation of Maori more justifiable. 'We only did to you what you did to the poor old Morioris, mate'... What mystifies me is why the Women's Bookshop, which has always been associated, in my deluded mind at least, with the warm fuzzy liberal left, would want to go out on a limb and promote a load of racist baloney like Menzies' book. I can understand the free speech, 'fair's fair, let him have his say argument' for stocking 1421 , but to call it 'a classic' that 'rewrites history' goes above and beyond the call of liberal pluralism, surely?

Pseudo-historians like Menzies like to apologise for their stupidity by claiming that they represent some heroic intellectual 'alternative' which a hegemonic scholarly 'establishment' wants to gag. The truth is that history, like most fields of scholarship, is a nest of infighting between rival schools and theories. Every year in this country, dozens of interesting, innovative and carefully researched histories are published; it's a pity that so few of them attract the hype or readership of 1421. If anyone has been dissuaded from reading 1421 by this post, but still wants to connect this part of the world with China, then they ought to check out Jade Taniwha, Jenny Bol Lee's just-released study of the 'Maori Chinese' culture that has developed in New Zealand over the last eighty years or so. Real history is always better than the counterfeit stuff.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your last paragraph holds the answer for why an "alternative bookstore" would promote the book. These bookstores (which generally are great to hang around and have some books that outside of the Internet you might not find elsewhere, along with various periodicals) are a sort of coalition of the alternative, culturally, politically, sexually, historically etc. Sometimes, through a wish to question and investigate dominant historical narrative, members of that coalition get excited about, frankly, crap. The Da Vinci Code success speaks to fascination and doubt and anger among many people raised Christian who are attracted to some elements of Christianity, but find themselves repelled by, for example, the common sexism and misogyny found in much of its institutional form (Dan Brown's neo-pagan answer, with its fulfillment of women in their union with men, mundane and divine, isn't a good one).

I appreciated your explanation of where some of the allegations of 1421 reverberate today. Not having read the book, I'd just dismissed it as more pop-pseudo-history when I saw it in stores. Pretty disturbing what you get when you dig into it.

Finally, my speculations about the reasons for promotion are that they got a good deal (I mean, it's not that new), someone on staff likes pseudo-history, and that it is an antidote to Eurocentrism.

3:53 am  
Blogger maps said...

Good point. I'm actually more of a secondhand bookshop man, but I did always think of the Women's Bookshop as a quality outift - then again, I never really looked to co closely at the 'Therapy' section...here's my favourire bookshop(s) in Auckland:

9:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's next? Banning books?

2:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nathaniel nailed it. Just take a look at their history section.

2:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're a European New Zealander, then for the last 30-years you've been reminded, fairly frequently, that you're merely the unwanted "flotsam and jetsam", caste-off floating garbage of Britain that got washed up on, and now pollutes these shores! Apparently, New Zealand has fallen from its former, pre-colonial paradisiacal state to become "the land of the long white crowd" and now it's open season on Europeans, which allows activists like Harawera to make her "kill-a-white" comments with legal impunity!

But in fact, as every true Maori Kaumatua or Tohunga knows and will probably tell you, if you ask politely enough, Europeans have occupied New Zealand, constantly, for many thousands of years and were, once, the core population of the country before the arrival of Polynesian/ Melanesian Maori! The old Maori Kaumatuas, who were properly trained in the wharewaanangas or at the feet of the elders, memorised the oral histories handed down from their distant forebears!!!! This was no small task or accomplishment and it took the alert minds of the most gifted children, coupled with tremendous discipline, to learn the histories by song or cadence rhythm and keep them alive! Oral traditions have to be memorised perfectly and are, generally, very reliable! Many regional oral histories have been recorded and are available in the history books of the last 200-years!

Generation upon generation of old Kaumatuas and Kuias have always acknowledged the existence of the kiri puwhero (light complexion, reddish skinned) and uru-kehu (light coloured, golden tinged or reddish hair) taniwha races (the pre-Maori stonebuilders). It is only the lately trained corporate kaumatuas, with a degree in business management or law, who have, all-too-conveniently, forgotten who the actual Tangata Whenua (Lords of the soil) of New Zealand truly are. The ruined stone structures and highly visible landscape excavations of the stonebuilders dot our countryside in their thousands and many of these structures relate to astronomy, just like in Britain or Continental Europe and the Mediterranean.

Virtually everything one sees in Maori culture has been derived from the earlier kiri-puwhero and uru-kehu stonebuilders, as the spoils of war and conquest by the Maori warriors, who, subsequently, annihilated the earlier people.
The name Turehu, from whom Maori acknowledge they learned the art of "Moko", the "Haka" dance and many other cultural expressions, describes a large sub-group of the kiri-puwhero, uru-kehu races, which came under an umbrella term or name of Patu-paiarehe. Other names for these people were Pakepakeha, Maruiwi, Ngati-Hotu, etc. In fact, remnants of the Ngati-Hotu survived into colonial times and were also called Te whanau o Rangi…or the children of heaven.

J.M. McEwen researched the Ngati-Hotu for over 15-years and used for reference the writings of Hawke's Bay chiefs Raniera Te Ahiko and Paramena Te Naonao. Other researchers gleaned information from genealogical tables related by tribes bordering Lake Taupo and by interviews with the learned elders there. One quotation about the Ngati-Hotu, derived from these Maori sources, states:

Generally speaking, Ngati Hotu were of medium height and of light colouring. In the majority of cases they had reddish hair. They were referred to as urukehu. It is said that during the early stages of their occupation of Taupo they did not practice tattooing as later generations did, and were spoken of as te whanau a rangi (the children of heaven) because of their fair skin.
There were two distinct types. One had a kiri wherowhero or reddish skin, a round face, small eyes and thick protruding eyebrows. The other was fair-skinned, much smaller in stature, with larger and very handsome features. The latter were the true urukehu and te whanau a rangi. In some cases not only did they have reddish hair, but also light coloured eyes.
(See Tuwharetoa, chapter 7, page 115, by Rev. John Grace).

Our rapidly disappearing older books are replete with oral tradition quotes or observations about the pre-Maori "Stonebuilders" and, during the 1960's and before, these people were common knowledge and openly talked about. Even the "collectable picture cards" from our Vita-Brits breakfast cereal box mentioned them, as did old tourist maps of Taupo, etc. Felton Mathew, Surveyor General in Hobson's fledgling government, observed during his first visit to Thames-Waitemata on February 23rd 1840:

'There are several very singular hills rising boldly from the surrounding land, in shape and form closely resembling the Roman encampments on the Tumuli that abound in many parts of England & having like them three or four distinct fops or ditches encircling them towards the summit - This singular too that these have been formed for defence by the natives - the top of every hill is marked in this way with distinct lines of circumvallation. An antiquary might from this circumstance deduce a connection between the New Zealanders and the ancient Romans!!' (see Felton Mathew's unpublished letters to his wife, Special Collections, Auckland Public Library.

Another early explorer noted:

'Arriving at the foot of the mountain [Mt. Eden] we assayed its ascent in the course of which my friend evinced a deep interest in traces of Maori fortifications of a past age, which were everywhere in evidence, the escarpments, trenches and what had once been covered ways and store pits though fallen in or overgrown, were yet in a wonderful state of recognition.
Several of the stone walls of these fortifications could still be traced with considerable accuracy, although the oldest living Maori could not tell when, or by whom, they were erected.
The Maori race show a wonderful aptitude for field engineering in warfare, and these traces of ancient fortifications, in particular, have often called forth the highest commendation from those most capable of judging such matters.
It must have taken a much larger population than was then to be found to man these fortifications effectively, so extensive were they, the whole mountain appearing to be girt by them, line after line, from bottom to top (see Sketches of Early Colonisation in New Zealand -and its Phases of Contact With the Maori Race, (circa late 1840's), by "Te Manuwiri", pg. 123, Whitcomb & Tombs).

Another publication states:

"Maungawhau, 'the mountain of the whau', a shrub believed to have been growing in the area. The shrub was valued for its cork-like wood, used for floats on fishing nets...Maori legend tells of Maungawhau's [Mt. Eden's] first inhabitants, the Patupaiarehe or Turehu, who were skilled in the arts of fishing, hunting, weaving and warefare. It is said that this nocturnal people were destroyed as they lingered building a bridge after dawn"(see The Changing Face Of Mt. Eden, pg. 8, Mt. Eden Borough Council, 1989).

Indeed, British Archaeologist, Aileen Fox made much the same observation in her 1976 book, Prehistoric Maori Fortifications in the North Island of New Zealand, remarking on the distinct similarities between Maori PA's and the ancient, palisade encompassed, pre-Celtic hill forts of Britain. A mass of such landscape evidence, incorporating many kinds of structures across New Zealand, has been, in recent years, increasingly relegated to the realm of politically incorrect, fringe or pseudo-science and, consequently, never allowed to be seriously investigated by our mainstream archaeologists or historians!!!

Of these extensive fortifications, built in a very European style, leading historian Elsdon Best said:

The Maori did not live in this manner in his former home in eastern Polynesia. Did he evolve the pa system after he settled here, or did he borrow it from former inhabitants? (see: The Maori As He Was - A Brief Account of Maori Life as it was in Pre-European Days, Chapt. VI, pg. 165).

If the Polynesian Maori brought the artefacts, symbols and motifs here, then why are they not found in their lands of origin? Historian/ anthropologist, Edward Tregear, asked this same question. Professor Thor Heyerdahl wrote the following on this very subject:

'Irrespective of how and when the Maori began to cover their carvings with spirals, the habit is absent in their Polynesian homeland and may therefore very well be so in their still earlier fatherland further away. There is, indeed, no such curvilinear surface design on the wood carvings of the Society Islands and these include the very tall ancestral posts which were erected in ancient Tahiti' (see American Indians in the Pacific, pg. 116).

Skeletons of the uru-kehu people have been observed, frequently, in burial caves or in a sitting (trussed position) in sand dunes, since the earliest colonial times! In burial caves, they often have been seen to have red hair or other light brown and blond hues. Samples of their braided hair, taken from the Waitakere rock shelters, used to be on display at Auckland War Memorial Museum and were the subject of written commentary by Maori anthropologist, Sir Peter Buck. Our earliest maritime explorers frequently saw the, red headed, freckle-faced Maori or "waka blondes" and large pockets of them survived well into the 20th century as people who had never mixed their blood with colonial era European settlers! These days, on occasions when ancient, pre-colonial European Caucasoid skeletons are located, the iwi takes possession of them and no scientific investigation is permitted!!!!!

Celtic New Zealander

2:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a Maori scholar taking Newman and her racist mate Menzies apart:

3:11 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I used to love reading Thor Hyerdahl 's books -but his theory was flawed -polynesian movement took place over 40,000 years and they populated almost every Island in the Pacific. There were no Europeans or Chinese here. There are always (by natural mutations and genetic cross over at meiosis)) such genetic variants - such as red-headedness in any "racial group" - today in fact anthropologists and scientists reject the concept of race - but culturally and by language the Moriori are basically or were another tribe - Moriori is believed to be "semantic slide" of the word Maori...they were a tribe who went to the Chatams as much as Ngapuhi or Arawa were tribes.
The theory is basically a racist theory to justify present wrongs done to Maori. Micheal King wrote a good book about the Moriori.

1:58 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found this on the net - could be a model letter:

October 21, 2005

Popular History and Bunkum -- on *1421, The Year China Discovered
From: Geoff Wade

Dear H-Asia members,

I have just submitted the following complaint against Transworld
Publishers of Britain to the Consumer Complaints body of the United


The complaint derives from Transworld publishing and advertising
"1421: The Year China Discovered the World" , authored by Gavin
Menzies, as a work of history, which I believe is a violation of the
British Trade Descriptions Act of 1968

Best wishes,

Geoff Wade


Copy of complaint submitted:

I purchased a copy of Gavin Menzies' "1421: The Year China Discovered
the World," published by Transworld, on the basis that it was
classified as "History" in their catalogue. A detailed reading of the
text revealed that the work is a fairtytale and fiction of the worst
kind. I detail some of the outrageous fiction perpetrated within the

Claims by Mr. Menzies followed by facts

1. Claim: Four eunuch admirals�-Hong Bao, Zhou Man, Zhou Wen and Yang
Qing --led fleets to the Americas, Australia, Greenland and the
Antarctic during voyages between 1421 and 1423.

Fact: There are no Chinese or other texts which suggest in any way
that these four eunuchs, or any other Ming commanders, traveled
anywhere at all beyond Asia, the Middle East and the East coast of
Africa. All other voyages derive solely from Mr. Menzies'
imagination. Further, the currents, winds and dates Menzies cites in
support would not have carried the ships anywhere near where he
claims. In short, there is no archaeological, textual or archival
material to support the Menzies thesis as set down in *1421*. In this
book Menzies intentionally distorts known materials and deliberately
alters known facts in order to support his thesis.

2. Claim: Sailors and concubines from these fleets settled in the
Americas, Australia, New Zealand and islands across the Pacific. In
evidence, he cites studies of "recent" inflow of "Chinese genes" and
"East Asian DNA" into the Americas.

Fact: There is no evidence of Ming settlement sites in, or even Ming
knowledge, of these places until the arrival of the Jesuits in China
in the 16th century. The genetic evidence on which Menzies relies is
provided by a company whose genetic tests have been labelled a "scam"
by Stephen O'Brien, the US National Cancer Institute's laboratory

3. Claim: There exists a range of wrecks of the ships from these
voyages spread around the world, and these are proof of the voyages
claimed by Menzies.

Fact: Not one wreck which can be linked with the eunuch voyages in
the first 30 years of the 15th century (or indeed any Chinese wreck)
has been identified outside of the Asian region.

4. Claim: The Ming voyagers built celestial observation platforms at
24 places across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Menzies names and
provides coordinates for these platforms. (*1421*, pp. 416/17, 457)

Fact: There is no textual or archaeological evidence to even begin to
suggest that the Ming voyagers built observation platforms anywhere
in the world. Again, their existence derives only from the fertile
imagination of Mr. Menzies.

5. Claim: The Ming armadas left a range of other built structures
around the world, particularly in Australasia and the Americas,
including the Newport Round Tower, the Gympie pyramid and other
structures and mines. They also left a ship's slipway made of stones
on the Bimini islands in the Caribbean.

Fact: Not one of the structures Mr. Menzies cites has been shown to
have any links with China. The Bimini "slipway," which is in any case
parallel to the shore, has been shown to be a completely natural

6. Claim: The Chinese "were aware that the earth was a globe and had
divided it into 365 and a quarter degrees (the number of days in the
year) of latitude and longitude." (*1421*, p. 449)

Fact: There is no evidence that during the early Ming, the Chinese
had any knowledge of the earth as a globe and certainly none that
they were aware of latitude and longitude.

7. Claim: The Ming voyagers surveyed South America, Antarctica, North
America and the Atlantic as well as Australasia. "The whole world was
accurately charted by 1428." (*1421* p. 411)

Fact: There is no text or other evidence which suggests that the Ming
voyagers went anywhere near these places and no Chinese maps which
indicate any surveying of these places. Further, there are no
contemporary Ming artifacts found in any of these regions.

8. Claim: A range of European maps show anomalies which can only be
explained by accepting the Chinese voyages proposed by Mr. Menzies as
having taken place

Fact: The cartographic anomalies which Mr. Menzies points to, real or
imagined, can be explained through many avenues, the most likely
being that Arab navigators, who had been traveling these waters for
600 years before the Chinese, had produced maps of areas they traveled

9. Claim: Mr. Menzies noted that the Venetian Niccolo da Conti was
the crucial and only link between Chinese and European cartographers.
Menzies claims that he participated in the voyages over several years
and carried Chinese maps back to Europe. He notes that Da Conti "had
spent years aboard a junk of the treasure fleet" and that "Chinese
maps passed from Da Conti to Fra Mauro, and from him to Dom Pedro of
Portugal and Prince Henry the Navigator." (*1421*, pp. 369, 84-87,

Fact: Da Conti, who left us detailed accounts of his travels,
recounts neither meeting any Ming envoy in Calicut, nor traveling on
any Chinese ship for even a day, nor seeing or receiving any Chinese
maps showing a new world. The utter and complete contempt for truth
with which Menzies depicts these events is disheartening.

10. Claim: Mr. Menzies claims that a number of mylodons (a type of
giant sloth) had been taken from South America to New Zealand and
China by the Ming ships.

Fact: All available evidence suggests that the Mylodon has been
extinct for several thousand years, which militates somewhat against
the likely veracity of Mr. Menzies' claims in this respect. But such
sloppy research is found throughout the volume. He notes, for
example, rubber trees in Malacca 450 years before they had been
introduced from South America by the British, etc., etc. ad nauseam.


In short, all major claims within the work are fictional.
Representing this work as history is a flagrant violation of the
Trade Descriptions Act of 1968 which makes it an offence both to
apply a false description to any goods and to supply or offer to
supply any goods which have a false trade description applied.

To be an offence the Act notes that the indication must be false to a
material degree. To represent fiction as history does indeed meet
this criterion.

The role of the Local Trading Standards authorities is to enforce the
provisions of this Act and they are able to take whatever steps they
consider necessary to prevent others from being deceived. I trust
that appropriate action will be taken in this case.

If you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact


I do not know if similar legislation to the British Trade
Descriptions Act exists within the United States, but William Morrow,
the publishers of the US edition of the book "1421: the Year China
Discovered America", and an imprint of Harper Collins, lists the
book under Non-fiction/History/World:

Harper here

With best wishes,

Geoff Wade
National University of Singapore

7:57 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's even a Maori-are-Indian theory out there:

9:49 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Celtic New Zealander" thanks for providing such a great example of the Voices of Waitaha style racist claptrap the O.P is referring to.

Regards, Pakeha New Zealander

2:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Historians and Sinologists are not beyond promoting and safeguarding their realm of orthodoxy by all means. Whereas Menzies’ tale fails the most stringent tests of historical research, the pedants are also guilty of avoiding all arguments and evidence of contrary brands. A key example is the recently released documentary DVD “Pre-Columbian Chinese Exploration of the World” which clearly presents real historical evidence that shows the Chinese not only did explore the world before Europeans, but also provided much of the material for the introduction of the Age of Discovery. Exclusion of such genuine work is just as biased as those the mainstream intellectuals try to denigrate.

3:33 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"Historians and Sinologists are not beyond promoting and safeguarding their realm of orthodoxy by all means. Whereas Menzies’ tale fails the most stringent tests of historical research, the pedants are also guilty of avoiding all arguments and evidence of contrary brands. A key example is the recently released documentary DVD “Pre-Columbian Chinese Exploration of the World” which clearly presents real historical evidence that shows the Chinese not only did explore the world before Europeans, but also provided much of the material for the introduction of the Age of Discovery. Exclusion of such genuine work is just as biased as those the mainstream intellectuals try to denigrate."

But this is not about this.As Mr Wade shows, this particular book is "corrupt"; sure we know that there is an Eurocentric aspect to all history and that "true" history is not possible, we are always reading what is, to some degree or other, somebody's bias. We tend (perhaps wrongly) to read what we agree with: but this book is clearly just incorrect (it is pseudo-history)even racist, and by the looks of it, deliberately misleading. To publish and or write such books is immoral if not illegal.

To deliberately mislead and corrupt information as the Nazis did is not desirable - such books should be sent through shredders with their authors. The CIA and other organisations people to write similar such misinformed books - about "communism" or "terrorism: and so on - and to certain extent we are all biased as I say.* But this is pretty bad stuff. I applaud Mr Wade, who also has the courage and integrity to sign his posts.

* History is greatly subject to many distortions.

7:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS Beware of FAKE 'Pakeha!'

10:05 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"PS Beware of FAKE 'Pakeha!'"

What does this mean??

12:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the poster above has a paranoid fantasy that I am secretly Maori or maybe Chinese.

Regards, Pakeha New Zealander

4:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love to see you try to explain those rat bones Maps. They blow apart all the myths of the liberal intellectual establishment. That's why there's a conspiracy to keep quiet about them. The bones don't lie!

David Dray

11:58 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

With regards to the rats, part of a research project I had to do for a course at uni came to the general conclusion that someone had visited NZ earlier than generally accepted Maori settlement, left Polynesian rats behind, but hadn't stayed. Probably Polynesians.
We were also told that if you wanted early (carbon dating) dates, send samples to Auckland, if you wanted late dates, send them to Wellington. Or it might have been the other way around, it was a few years ago.

12:19 pm  
Blogger Rick said...

Bloody interesting. Seldom seen this debate on the blogs.

4:28 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re the commentators using the ratbone' evidence' for pre Maori colonisation of ANZ:

well, that one just turned to custard didnt it?

The Holdaway 1996 findings have been controversial since their publication. They have been effectively refuted by a paper by Wilmshurst et al (read it on the
PNAS site) which drew quite a bit of publicity this week
(3rd June 2008.)

3:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to work in a book store and begrudgingly had to sell Menzies' book and others I found intellectually repugnant (Ian Wishart anyone?). I had some success convincing them to instead buy Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel or Michael King's History of NZ.

Just like those who believe in ID or refute global warming, readers of pseudo-history like to believe there is an alternative truth that mainstream academics are covering up. No amount of reason or facts will convince them otherwise.

10:14 pm  
Anonymous chinaprinting said...

If you ask me, printing press is what revolutionized modern world, and not technology. The history of printing, like the history of so many things, begins in ancient China. Although the modern printing press was invented by a German goldsmith, his invention would not have made it very far without Chinese inventions such as paper and ink for printing.

7:01 am  

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