Quick test! How do you tell a real historian from a pseudohistorian? A pseudohistorian will almost certainly tell you Atlantis was real!
Zheng He (which, for some reason, is pronounced but not spelled as “Jung Huh”), was by all accounts a pretty impressive fellow. He traveled with a large fleet around the Indian Ocean at a time when that was the major trading area of the world. He charted new lands, increased trade and expanded China’s influence in the world. All this was largely undone later on by an emperor who decided China didn’t need the outside world, but it was still pretty damn impressive.
You will notice, in that Wikipedia article I’ve linked to, that it has a comprehensive list of the journeys he made. No where in there is a visit to the Americas, but according to pseudo-historian Gavin Menzies, that’s exactly what happened. Of course he also claims that Zheng and his crew made it to Italy, and that Atlantis was totally thing (cause, as we all know, there’s no way that Plato could have just made that shit up), so…yeah. Cum grano salis, and all that.
Menzies, who appears in a “History” channel special I am watching as I type this, has been on my annoyance radar for quite a while. He’s published three books so far, and gotten farther and father off the rails each time. Now, to be fair, I haven’t read any of his books, nor do I plan to. I don’t need to read the Book of Mormon to know that Joseph Smith was a liar. I don’t need to read Dianetics to know that L. Ron Hubbard was a money-grubbing scam-artist. I don’t need to read Chariots of the Gods to know that Erik von GermanName is a lying publicity hound. Likewise I don’t need to read Menzies’ books to know that he’s basically making all this crap up to sell books and make money.
With this his first book, he claims that Zheng discovered America, despite there being absolutely no evidence to support this. Oh, he pretends there’s evidence. He claims that there is, for example, a submerged Chinese drydock off the coast of Bimini. It’s something called the Bimini Road, and it’s a neat natural phenomenon. In the special, he dismisses any claims that it is natural, saying that if you asked 100 people what it was, 99 of them would think it’s man-made. Yes, Mr. Menzies, but what if you asked 100 geologists? He offers up a few other things, as evidence, but from what I can tell, they’re all of the Bimini Road level.
The sad part is that in doing this, Menzies’ takes away from the legitimate, actual accomplishments of Zheng He who did indeed do an impressive amount of traveling. The other sad part is that while it is good to look at possible accomplishments of other explorers and people who aren’t European, making up shit does not help the cause at all.
So I guess the take-away from all this is that he’s a lying liarpants and I really should stop expecting real history from History.