Gavin Menzies explains how a life as a submarine commander gave rise to the revolutionary notion that Europeans were not the first to sail round the globe.
Gathering the material for my new book, 1421: the Year China Discovered the World, has been a journey through paradise, a voyage across an unspeakably beautiful and fascinating planet in search of a world of long ago.
It all started after the Second World War when my parents bought a mediaeval farmhouse near the Suffolk coast. With no electricity or running water, life remained almost unchanged from the Middle Ages: in winter a constant struggle to keep warm, in summer a battle to keep flies off the meat. We all shared our hunger and our pride; Hitler was beaten, we were free – no more bombs, doodlebugs or air raid sirens. There was plentiful work for all, no-one feared losing their job, an era of huge self-confidence had dawned.