America Began At Greenwich

Aw – c’mon – I may be parochial – but I’m not totally unaware of what’s going on in the world…

So today, folks, in recognition of what has to be one of the most important elections the US (and hence the rest of the world – we don’t get to vote, but we do suffer or benefit from whatever the outcomes of elections are) has ever seen, I bring you a rare, slim volume from 1976 with the mildly provocative title America Began At Greenwich.

Published by the long-defunct Poseidon Press, which was based in Turnpin Lane, (there seems to be a publisher in America which has picked up the name) the booklet is by Nigel Hamilton, who you may recognise on your shelf if you haunt second hand bookstores – his other books, Guide to Greenwich, Royal Greenwich and Greenwich in Colour are relatively easily available second hand. He’s long-since moved from writing Greenwich books for a tiny press in an alley by the market to in-depth biographies of major figures such as JFK, Bill Clinton and Field Marshall Montgomery for heavyweight publishers Random House, but Greenwich was what he cut his literary teeth on.

Just 34 pages long, the pamphlet gives a general overview of the part Greenwich played in the discovery of the New World – from the voyages of Drake, Ralegh and Frobisher, bringing back loot, through the sailing of the Mayflower, just upstream, from Rotherhithe and the granting of a charter in 1606 by King James to colonise Virginia (Jamestown, geddit?) all the way to the laying of the Greenwich-made Atlantic Telegraph by the Great Eastern, a ship so enormous the Thames couldn’t take her bulk and she had to be launched sideways.

It’s a useful, interesting little volume, and if you come across one as I did – nestled with a bunch of random maps, guidebooks and postcards in a 50p box by the door of a second-hand bookshop in Eastbourne, snap it up. Hand on heart, though, I wouldn’t be beating the door down to pay £48.52 for the only copy I found on Abebooks just now. There will be a copy at the Heritage Centre – hop on the bus – your wallet will thank you.

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