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Blog: Does History Repeat Itself?

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Happy Channukah! As the Holidays kick in with the demands of my time, my money, and my advertising, please DO remember small businesses, including authors. You will really make our day by purchasing the gift of reading for your friends and families.

I hope to be getting a sweet Christmas gift in the very near future. My upcoming title, West of Santillane is having its cover designed as I print these words, so I'll be excited to share it with you readers in the New Year. My book-launch date of March 8 is just around the corner, and I have a zillion things to do in order to prepare.

While waiting, be sure to check out this week's intriguing blog post by British historical fiction author, Justin Newland. His question is, "Does history repeat itself?" It's one of those thought-provoking rhetorical ponderings that really makes one sit back on a chilly December night to consider. Grab a hot cocoa, coffee, or cup of tea and read about Justin's story that begins in Elizabethan England--1575, when Francis Drake was sailing on the Golden Hind.

And as always, read ON, everybody!

Does History Repeat Itself?

By Justin Newland

My latest historical fiction novel, The Mark of the Salamander, has recently been published. The first title in a two-book series, The Island of Angels, it tells the epic story and secret history of England’s coming of age during the Elizabethan era.

History is fascinating for many reasons, not least because it throws up so many anomalies and apparent contradictions. One particular incident occurred during Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe. It’s a chilling and tragic reminder of how and in what way History Repeats Itself, a well-known idea that at one level refers to the repetition of similar events in history.

This blog tells of one of many uncanny coincidences in history. It happened during Drake’s voyage at Port St Julian on the Patagonian coast of what is now southern Argentina. It’s such an historic event that I featured it in The Mark of the Salamander.

The port was named by Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer, who arrived there on March 1520. Like others after him, he found Port St Julian’s natural harbour a place of rest and repair for his ships. While still anchored there, four of Magellan’s captains lost their nerve and sparked a mutiny, which

Magellan quashed with customary vigour. First, he clamped the leader of the mutiny, Captain Juan de Cartagena, in irons (see image), then he had him beheaded, drawn and quartered, and then hung the bloody body parts on a gibbet, right in the middle of the isle. After that, the place was called – somewhat ironically – the Isle of Justice.

There were extenuating circumstances for the mutineers. Because Magellan had been forced to sail where no one had ever sailed before: west around the world via the Pacific. Why? Well, the Pope of the time dictated that only the Portuguese were permitted to sail eastwards around the world, encompassing the Cape of Good Hope, the Ocean of India and the Spice Isles. The Spanish, who had commissioned Magellan’s voyage, were forbidden to sail that way around the globe. So for him, it was westwards.

Voyaging into the unknown tests a man’s tolerance to the limit. Few can handle it, some even thrive on it, and others baulk and wither in the face of it. As did Juan de Cartagena.

Skip 57 years, and Francis Drake sets out from Plymouth in his main vessel, the Pelican. Drake knew they were to sail westwards around the world, but to keep peace amongst his crew, he told them they headed for the Mediterranean. So, when Drake led the fleet towards Morocco on the African coast, the men raised concerns. By the time they’d survived the doldrums, crossed the Equator, and sailed into unchartered waters, the hands were more than anxious. First amongst the dissenters was Thomas Doughty, a senior aristocrat amongst the gentlemen adventurers.

Drake arrived in Port St Julian in June 1578 – in the midst of Southern hemisphere winter squalls. Like Magellan before him, he chose to overwinter there before attempting to sail through the treacherous seas of Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean. Seeking water and other fresh supplies, the men went ashore, only to be attacked by the natives and suffer fatalities. After burying their dead, they found the remains of the Magellan’s gallows.

Undeterred by the potential repeat of history, Thomas Doughty continued to fan the flames of discontent amongst the men, pushing Drake beyond the limits of his patience. When rumours of Doughty’s witchcraft reached Drake’s ears, he had him arrested and charged with mutiny. Submitted to a trial, he was

found guilty (see the image). At Drake's insistence, Doughty was beheaded on Port St Julain, or the Isle of Blood as the men re-named it, because blood had been spilled there twice in almost identical circumstances.

That was when Drake renamed his ship, the Golden Hind.

So does history repeat itself? What do you think? Well, ask Thomas Doughty. What do you think he would say?

All About the Book


Nelan Michaels is a young Flemish man fleeing religious persecution in the Spanish Netherlands. Settling in Mortlake outside London, he studies under Queen Elizabeth’s court astrologer, conjuring a bright future – until he’s wrongly accused of murder.

Forced into the life of a fugitive, Nelan hides in London, before he is dramatically pressed into the crew of the Golden Hind.

Thrust into a strange new world on board Francis Drake’s vessel, Nelan sails the seas on a voyage to discover discovery itself. Encountering mutiny, ancient tribes and hordes of treasure, Nelan must explore and master his own mystical powers – including the Mark of the Salamander, the mysterious spirit of fire.

THE MARK OF THE SALAMANDER is the first in The Island of Angels series: a two-book saga that tells the epic story and secret history of England’s coming of age during the Elizabethan era.

All About Justin Newland

Justin Newland’s novels represent an innovative blend of genres from historical adventure to supernatural thriller and magical realism. His stories explore the themes of war and religion, and speculate on the human’s spiritual place in the universe.

Undeterred by the award of a Doctorate in Mathematics from Imperial College, London, he conceived his debut novel, The Genes of Isis (Matador, 2018), an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies.

The historical thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador, 2018), is set in Ming Dynasty China in the shadows of the Great Wall.

The Coronation (Matador, 2019) was another historical adventure and speculates on the genesis of the most important event in the modern world – the Industrial Revolution.

The Abdication (Matador, 2021) is a mystery thriller in which a young woman confronts her faith in a higher purpose and what it means to abdicate that faith.

The Mark of the Salamander (Book Guild, 2023) is the first in a two-book series, The Island of Angels. Set in the Elizabethan era, it’s an epic tale of England’s coming of age.

His work in progress is the second in the series, The Midnight of Eights, the charting of the uncanny coincidences that led to the repulse of the Spanish Armada.

Author, speaker and broadcaster, Justin appears on LitFest panels, gives talks to historical associations and libraries and enjoys giving radio interviews and making podcasts.

Born three days before the end of 1953, he lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.

Connect with Justin


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