Colonize a Nation, the mental_floss Way

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.

I'm going to launch right into my guest blogging stint with one of my favorite chunks from Be Amazing, the book I recently wrote with mental_floss magazine. The basic idea: Anybody can increase their awesomeness quotient, all it takes is a little advice and inspiration.

To anybody who ever wanted to grow up to be an absolute monarch...this one's for you. (Also, there's a nice tie-in to tax day. Hooray for news hooks!)

How To Colonize a Nation
Step 1: Pick a Target

Let's face it, this was easier back in the day when it was open season on any landmass--no matter how large--provided you had guns, and the other guy didn't. Nowadays, you're probably going to have to stick to colonizing tiny nations that can't fight back. Luckily, the Pacific Ocean is home to plenty of these. Case in point: The Republic of Minerva, a would-be libertarian paradise established in 1972 by Nevada businessman Michael Oliver. According to a New York Times article form that year, Minerva was to have no income taxes--opting instead for a system that gave business and individuals special incentives for contributing to the government (sort of like a high-stakes version of the PBS pledge drive). However, the wise colonizer will note that this also meant they had no standing army.

Step 2: Make a Good First Impression
If you really clinch this step, you might not even have to fire a shot. Just ask Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, the King of Tonga, a nation located about 260 miles east of the Republic of Minerva. About five months after Oliver founded Minerva, King Tupou arrived to greet--and invade--the new neighbors. Reports on the invasion force vary, but it apparently involved one or more of the following: A military gunboat, a convict work detail, and a rowboat manned by the king and his ceremonial brass band. At any rate, the invasion was successful and on June 21, 1972, the Minervan flag was hauled down and the atoll became part of the Kingdom of Tonga.

Step 3: If At First You Don't Succeed...
Unfortunately for Tonga, that brass band wasn't enough to intimidate away all the other would-be conqueror-come-latelies. A gang of Americans showed up in 1982 and held the island for three weeks before Tonga had to send troops to chase them off. And a more legit claim was made by Fiji in 2005; one that made it all the way to the International Seabed Authority. The atoll's ownership probably won't be settled until later this year. Of slightly less concern is the claim made on the land by "Prince Calvin," a Charleston, South Carolina man who declared the atoll his principality in 2003.


  1. The most important items in colonizing/conquering a nation is, it seems, a huge ego, according to these accounts.

  2. I would have thought choosing one’s title would be the very first step (King…Emperor…Lord of….hmmmm)

  3. What is the International Seabed Authority? Are there currently open seats? Where do I nominate and/or vote?

  4. Or you could do what the legendary Athenian tyrant Pisistratus did when banished from Athens. From Herodotus:

    They devised a plan to bring Pisistratus back which, to my mind, was so exceptionally foolish that it is strange (since from old times the Hellenic stock has always been distinguished from foreign by its greater cleverness and its freedom from silly foolishness) that these men should devise such a plan to deceive Athenians, said to be the subtlest of the Greeks. There was in the Paeanian deme1 a woman called Phya, three fingers short of six feet, four inches in height, and otherwise, too, well-formed. This woman they equipped in full armor and put in a chariot, giving her all the paraphernalia to make the most impressive spectacle, and so drove into the city; heralds ran before them, and when they came into town proclaimed as they were instructed: “Athenians, give a hearty welcome to Pisistratus, whom Athena herself honors above all men and is bringing back to her own acropolis.” So the heralds went about proclaiming this; and immediately the report spread in the demes that Athena was bringing Pisistratus back, and the townsfolk, believing that the woman was the goddess herself, worshipped this human creature and welcomed Pisistratus.

    More of a “second introduction” than a first, but wotta card, that Pisistratus!

  5. So where is a readily available supply of islands for me to establish my Evil Empire, or am I going to have to build or steal one, a la Sealand? Can I lay dibs on something like Loihi that has not yet surfaced, but will in a few thousand years? I’d prefer something tropical, just because fragments of land in the Aleutians or Kerguelens are bloody cold and inhospitable.

    I’ve often contemplated owning/ruling my own island republic, and this article just made it even more imperative!

  6. It’s estimated that there are more than 20,000 islands in the Pacific, THEMADLIBRARIAN. I’d look there, first. Not all of them are populated.

    And, Anon, behold: The Web site of the International Seabed Authority:

    Headquarters: Kingston, Jamaica.

  7. You could just park your boat in some shallow, volcanically active area and hope to get lucky via the international rule of First Dibs. Land: get it while it’s hot!

    1. When will the librarians get their own nation (which will be very organized and quiet)?

      Except for the cats.

  8. dibs on the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre. Couple of more years and it’ll be solid enough to build on. Then I’ll start mining it like a guano island to sell precious hydrocarbon based plastic back to the oil starved fools that created it.

  9. come to think of it, raft up a hundred old freighters, no, a thousand, and use solar/wave/wind power to run the bilges. It could take a hundred years for the hulls to rust through. Run a tax haven (notice how they are cleaning up all the offshore tax havens now?) and casino. Sidelines in drugs, slaves,counterfeiting, guns and forbidden biomedicals.

  10. Takuan, use said solar-powered barges to herd the GPGG onto an atoll. Instant island!

  11. Could you not just melt down the lowest denomination of some hyper-inflated currency into a giant sacrificial anode that would act as the anchor for those thousand freighters? That way, the hulls don’t rust, and you’ll know to get a new zinc anchor when the whole works starts drifting on you one day.

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