Simon Winchester: Outposts at the edge of the world

Simon Winchester

If you think colonialism ended after the Second World War, then my latest conversation may surprise you.

There are still some 56 colonies and dependent territories in the world today, — or 61, depending on how you count them. Some are uninhabited hunks of rock, but many are home to thriving communities with strong ties to their parent country.

I naively considered traveling to these places, just to see what life was like there. But a trip to my favourite English-language bookstore in Tokyo told me someone had already done it.

Simon Winchester’s book Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire was published in 1985, but as you’ll hear in our conversation, getting to the UK’s last remaining dependencies took years, incredible perseverance, and much creativity.

This is one 5 or 6 books I had in mind when I started the Personal Landscapes podcast. It left a lasting impression on me, and it remains one of my favourite books about place.

Simon is the author of 29 books, including Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, and The Men Who United the States. He has contributed to many publications over a long writing career, such as The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian Magazine, and National Geographic.

In 2006, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to journalism and literature. 

You can read more about Simon on his website, and follow him on Twitter.

We spoke about Tristan da Cunha, hiding under a bed in the Falklands, and how he bluffed his way into one of the world’s most notorious military bases. 

These are the books we mentioned in the podcast:

We also mentioned:

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About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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