The Island That Disappeared is an enthralling history of Old Providence – an island located off the east coast of Nicaragua, although part of the Colombian Archipelago – that was once hugely important to England, as the site of one of its earliest (and most ambitious) colonies.
In fact the book began life as a project on the UK. Tom Feiling toured the country in a camper van, trying to discover the truth about his home nation, after years of visiting the far-flung corners of the world. Whilst trying to learn more about the English Civil War, he kept noting references to the Providence Island Company. Having spent time in (and writing about) Colombia, his interest was piqued: he had “an inkling that the island had something new to tell me about the UK.”
When he began to research it he found hardly anyone in the UK had heard of it – records pertaining to the Providence Island Company having been wrongly archived under New Providence.
Old Providence was founded by the puritans from the Seaflower – sister ship of the Mayflower – in 1631, but wiped out just ten years later by the Spanish. In the brief history of the settlement’s founding, Feiling identified a fundamental tenet of globalisation: “like puritanism it is a utopian project, and the post-national, post-racial ideal at its core is part of England’s contribution to world culture.”
Feiling ends up spending four months on the island, researching its history and revelling in its peace and beauty, discovering that it is also a fascinating microcosm of the Atlantic story. At first glance, it is an island of devout churchgoers – but, looking closer, you’ll find that it is still dependent on smugglers. At once intimate and global, Providence’s story of puritans and pirates goes to the heart of the contradictory nature of the Caribbean. But The Island that Disappeared also offers telling insights into Britain’s history, and the global role that it imagines itself playing post-Brexit.
A very happy publication day to Tom Feiling and The Island that Disappeared, already delighting some very discerning readers…
“A fascinating story with an extraordinarily exotic cast of characters.”
— Andrew Marr
“A superb job and the interweaving of past and (personal) present works brilliantly… the reader is richly rewarded.”
— Dervla Murphy
“A hidden history, a forgotten island, an engaging author… nothing could be finer.” — Dr Sam Willis, author and presenter: ‘Britain’s Armed History’, ‘Britain’s Outlaws’, ‘Shipwrecks’
“The Island that Disappeared is to be celebrated as a triumph… Tom Feiling has captured humanity in all its guises and in doing so has held up a mirror to the politics and culture we are shaping today. This book is an absolute gem and not to be missed.” — The Bookbag
- Post by Rachel
Tom Feiling’s The Island that Disappeared is published today by Explore Books (9781911184041, p/b, 400pp, £14.99)