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Episode 19 - The Greatest Showman:
​​​​​​​Gregor MacGregor's South American Mania

Uploaded: 28 June 2018

In the 1820s, the capital markets of Britain surged on the ramping price of South American bonds. As the Spanish Empire was beaten back by nationalist forces (unofficially assisted by the British Legions), new countries were popping up all over the map. Governments in Columbia, Venezuela and Bolivia all sent word to London for loans to start their new nations, free from Spanish interference and suddenly boasting the prospects of a very healthy ROI. 

Among these nations was Poyais – a small coastal territory, freed from the yoke of Spain in the early 1810s and gifted by the esteemed Mosquito King to one Brigadier-General Sir Gregor MacGregor of the 57th Regiment of Foot (the “Die-Hards”), veteran of the South American wars of independence and Knight of the Portuguese Order of Christ.

​​​​​​​MacGregor, the now “Cazique” of Poyais, accompanied by his glamourous South American wife arrived in Britain’s capital to consult on their nation’s prospects, secure financial investment and to encourage emigration of pioneering and intrepid individuals to its shores. 

Spoiler alert: almost nothing about Poyais was true. As MacGregor’s hapless confidants (both financial and colonial) found out to their cost less than five years later in what is the most astounding con-trick of the nineteenth century.

Further sources:

B. Hughes, Conquer or Die!: British Volunteers in Bolivar's War of Extermination 1817-21, https://amzn.to/2IBzSWr

Sketch of the Mosquito Shore, Including the Terrtory of Poyais, https://archive.org/stream/sketchmosquitos00conggoog#page/n24/mode/2up

D. Sinclair, The Land That Never Was: Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Most Audacious Fraud in History, https://amzn.to/2MtGA3m​​​​​​​

Poyais - allegedly

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