IPMA International Project Management Association
9 May 2018 / 12:56

Projectors in Denmark – A comedy from the 17th Century

Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Santibáñez (1580 – 1645) was a Spanish nobleman, politician and one of the most prominent Spanish poets of the 17thCentury [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_de_Quevedo]. He produced a vast quantity of poetry, ranging from satirical and mythological subjects to love poetry and philosophical pieces. In his “Dreams” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Sue%C3%B1os], the somewhat misanthropic Quevedo showcased his antipathy for numerous groups, including but not limited to tailors, innkeepers, alchemists, astrologers, women, the Genovese, Protestants, constables, accountants, Jews, doctors, dentists, apothecaries, and hypocrites of all kinds. “Fortune in Her Wits, Or The Hour of All Men” [https://books.google.de] he adds projectors to this list, labeling them as “Antichrist”…


There is a small island on the coast of Denmark, in which there are Five Towns. The Lord of this place was very poor, rather because he coveted much, than that he wanted for anything. God had afflicted the inhabitants with a general inclination in them all to be Projectors, so that the land seemed to be infested with as many monsters as there were men. All the neighbouring people shunned these islanders as they would the plague, for the very air that came from them was so contagious, it consumed their stocks, blasted their fields, wasted their treasure, and ruined their trade. So prodigious was the natural proneness to projecting in that country, that the very sucking babies instead of daddy and mommy, cried nothing but “project”. The whole island was a confused, chaos, for man and wife, father and son, neighbour and neighbour, were ever jangling and bawling about their projects, and they were as intoxicated with them as if they had been drunk with wine.


The Lord of this place, (Avarice, which is one of the worst devils that distract the world, having gained the ascendant over him) ordered a general gathering of projects. Legions of Projectors assembled before his palace, with scripts and roles of paper stuck in their girdles, run through their button holes, and peeping out of their pockets. The Lord having made known his wants, demanded their assistance, and they all at once laying hold of their papers, and crowding till they had almost stifled one another, in an instant heaped up four tables with their memoirs. The hurry being somewhat over, he began to look over them.


The first paper he opened was entitled “A project for getting an infinite quantity of silver and gold, without asking, or taking it from anybody.” A difficult proposition in my mind, says the Lord. The second: “How to gather unmeasurable treasure by taking what they have from all men, and enriching them by taking it away.” The first part, quoted the Lord, of taking from all men, I like, but to the second, which is to enrich them by taking it from them, I am dubious, yet let them look to that. The third: “An easy, pleasing, and just project for amassing many millions, in such manner, that they who are to pay them shall not miss them, but rather shall think they are bestowed on them.” This I approve of, leaving the persuasive part to the Projector. The fourth project undertakes to make what is deficient to super abound without adding anything, or taking away, and without giving anybody cause of complaint. A project so inoffensive can have nothing of truth in it. The fifth, which offers to furnish all that shall be desired, directs to take by fair and foul means, and to ask of all men, and they will give themselves to the devil. This project having to do with the devil, seemed practicable.


The author encouraged by this approbation, added: “And I propose, that those who levy it, shall be a comfort to them that suffer by it.” The devil put it into his head to let flip that word, furies possesses the projectors, who thunder out reproaches against him, calling him, “sot” and “dog”, and crying, “Thou scoundrel, hell itself could never have proposed a comfort in tax-gatherers, they themselves being the greatest of grievances.” They called one another “sons of projectors”, as it had been “sons of hoers”, condemning one another’s proposals, and each approving only of his own.


In the height of this fray, many of the Lord´s servants came running, and crying the palace was on fire in three several places, and the wind blew high. Just began the hour, the smoke was great, and the flame ascended. The Lord in that consternation knew not which way to turn himself. The Projectors bid him sit still, and they would set all to rights in a moment; and rushing out from his presence, some laid hands on all they found in the house, casting the cabinets, tables, glasses, and all that was of value, out at the windows; others with sledges overthrew a tower; others saying, the fire would cease as soon as it had vent, uncovered a great part of the house, breaking down the roofs, and destroying all that stood in their way. None of them went about to quench the fire, but all were employed in pulling down the house and confounding all that was in it.

The Lord seeing the smoke decrease, went out, and found, that the common people with his officers and servants had overcome the fire, yet at the same time perceived the projectors were tearing up the very foundations, had demolished his palace, and spoiled all his furniture: Incensed and raging at this hideous sight, he cried out: “Dogs, you are worse than the fire, and such are all your projects, it were better I had been burnt, than to have given ear to you, so destructive are all the remedies you apply. You overturn a whole house for fear a corner of it should fall, and throw the best goods into the street pretending to save them. You feed a Prince with his own limbs, and pretend to maintain him, when at the same time he is devouring himself. If the head devours its whole body, it will remain a cancer and not a man. Villains, justly did the fir come to burn me for gathering and suffering you to live, but when it perceived me in, the power of Projectors is ceased, concluding I was already consumed. Fire is the most merciful of Projectors for water quenches it, but you increased in spite of all the elements. Antichrist will be a Projector, and shall burn you all alive, and keep your ashes to make lye to wash out the stains of all commonwealths. Princes may be poor, but when once they have to do with Projectors, they cease to be Princes to avoid being poor.”

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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.