26 June 2010

That's not a very constructive contribution

From a discussion of the 16th century negotiations between Spain and Portugal on the line of demarcation between their two overseas empires, known as the Tordesillas Line:

To symbolise the strict impartiality of the deliberations, the summit was held on a bridge spanning the Guadiana River, along the Spanish-Portuguese border, but the location nearly undid the conference. As the distinguished members of the Portuguese delegation happened to be walking across the bridge, they were stopped by a small boy, who asked if they were carving up the world with King Charles. The former governor of India, Diogo Lopes de Sequeira, acknowledged that indeed they were. At that, the boy lifted his shirt, turned to reveal his bare bottom, and with his small finger traced the line between his buttocks.

"Draw your line right through this place!" he declared.

- Laurence Bergreen, Over The Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe, New York, 2003

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