Friday, June 8, 2007

Paul Chiasson develops 1421 in Canada

Canadian architect Paul Chiasson has used the 1421 theory as a basis for his book about the origins of an ancient abandoned structure in Cape Breton. He believes the design is Chinese!

Where Chinese already there when Columbus came to North America? An interesting theory. So far, not much evidence. However, Chiasson may just be the start of a whole load of new research into the possibility.

As with Gavin Menzies, a retired submarine captain, Chiasson the architect also has no historian background. Instead, both men rely on their expertise in their own fields and attempt interdisciplinary studies. As Menzies points out in his own book, a regular historian could not know what he knows about navigation at sea. Chiasson, no doubt, thinks the same about historians looking at architecture.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2007/05/27/2003362738


http://www.islandofsevencities.com/mainindex.htm


It seems that historians are a pretty territorial breed though. They study history. They don't necessarily have the expertise in other areas, the cross-discipline. Menzies is a submarine captain / navigator. Chiasson an architect. Can you really expect the average historian to be able to grasp the necessary skills to paint the picture accurately?

When I studied politics it became painfully clear that just studying politics was not enough. One has to study history and economics at the same time. Maybe even psychology and sociology too, thrown in for good measure.

Let's take another analogy. If someone who lived in Taiwan for a long time were to write a book about Taiwan then I think that's it would be worth a lot more in some respects than someone writing about Taiwan from a college office in another country with little or no experience on the ground here.

And despite earning your university education, everything you learn in university may be fine, hidden in textbooks, but it's quite often not much of a substitute for the experience in the field, is it? I disagree when people say they have the caveats to be the only true holders of any official knowledge in any particular field.

This being said, I also don't accept Menzies and Chiasson outright. I do point out that their theories are intriguing and feel new in a field of history that is pretty stale AND that has been proven to be inaccurate in the past (remember Columbus being named the first person to 'discover' America, even before the Vikings?).

So who wins or who loses? The Chinese government has a lot to gain by promoting the 1421 theory (earning more national pride and feelings of superiority). Historians on the issue also have reputations at stake. Further, Western-centric historians may not be able to stomach the idea of an age of Chinese exploration. Publishing houses make money of the controversy. Readers of history potentially become deluded. The issue is clearly loaded.

However, both authors present several mysteries that are worth looking at. I think history is always worth a re-examination, even by outsiders of the field. Too many people have a historical agenda (remember 'history is written by the victors'?).

Obviously, for the sake of sales, the publishing houses thought the 1421 theory and the Island of Seven Cities sub-theory were too hard to pass up.

Ultimately the material is available for us the readers to judge reasonable or not... For me, it's far from perfect but it creates discussion and hopefully further work to prove or disprove the theories. And that's a win-win situation.
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