Newsletter summer 2008
The real significance of Columbus, Cabot and Vespucci
What is it about Columbus, Cabot and Vespucci – the trio who stumbled upon America in search of a sea route to China – that makes them worthy of interest in the twenty-first century?
It can't be because they got there first. The place was already populated, and the Vikings, the Chinese and probably the Bristol fishermen had long since made a similar crossing.
It can't really be because they understood there they had arrived, though there is new evidence that Cabot may have done so, and Vespucci grasped something of the immensity of the new continent.
No, what guaranteed them a place in history when those before are all but forgotten is that they worked out a method whereby they could cross the Atlantic and profit by it.
Explorers before them had either sailed on behalf of a monarch (and received a knighthood and grateful thanks) or had done so secretly (and had kept their discoveries secret for fear that the whole world would make the profits instead).
Columbus and Cabot weren't so much the Atlantic pioneers; they were pioneers in the pursuit of intellectual property.
Did they actually cook up this idea together and then fall out? Almost certainly, but the close links between all three men only become clear when we put aside centuries of rivalry between their respective scholars and nationalist supporters and tell the story as it originally was – as one tale, one race, before it was bowlderised by competing experts and artificially separated.
That's what I've tried to do with Toward the Setting Sun. And to incorporate the very latest discoveries about Columbus (his bizarre cruelty), about Vespucci (his distortions), and about Cabot (he didn't disappear but may have sailed all the way from Canada to the Caribbean). The result is published in the USA on June 10, but is available also on Amazon UK:
The great public services debate continued
Spring has arrived in the Lib Dems! At last, a real debate about how to make our struggling public services both more effective, more human and more Liberal. Or is it?
Do you believe in fairies?
Maybe it's because it's the beginning of a century, when fairies are traditionally trendy, but for some reason the little people – so much a joke in recent decades that the Fairy Investigation Society went underground – are suddenly back in fashion. What is going on?
Targets – just say no!
When four police forces rejected their Whitehall target regime, it was an Emperor's New Clothes moment for the whole of centralization. It looks set to usher in very different public services and some urgent questions.
The future of money
It's paradoxical – both international and determinedly local. But then, it's really a question of how you see into the future.
There's also still time to buy my novel Leaves the World to Darkness, also now on Amazon list of 'best adult fairy novels'.