Summary: The publication of Nicholas Thomas's brilliant Cook heralds what will be the definitive chronicle of the three historic and world-changing voyages made by Captain James Cook in the 1770s. Blending an elegant, assured style with bold, cross-disciplinary originality, Thomas breathes life into the complex and controversial legacy of an often-misunderstood man.
Commonly regarded as the greatest sea explorer of all time, Cook wrote that his ambition led him ''no ...show moret only farther than any man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.'' At a time when ships were routinely lost around the English coast, this son of a Yorkshire peasant made history by making geography--sailing through southern seas previously known only as a blank space on the maps, charting the eastern Australian coast, circumnavigating New Zealand and putting many Pacific islands on the map, exploring the northwest coast of North America. His epic journeys captured the imagination of his time, introducing a European public to heretofore unheard-of animals and plants, a barren Arctic and Antarctic, and an erotically charged tropical world. His lieutenants--including George Vancouver and William Bligh--became legendary captains in their own right. Exploits among Aleuts, Maoris, Tahitians, and many other peoples combined to make Cook a celebrity, a legend, and a hero.
James Cook is not, however, viewed by all as a heroic figure. Some Hawaiians demonize him as a syphilitic racist who had a catastrophic effect on local health. Indigenous Australians often see him as the violent dispossessor of their lands. Exploring complicated, interrelated issues from a variety of viewpoints--as has never been done before--Thomas offers greater understanding of a fascinating time and place and new perspective on a man torn between modern and primitive ideas, caught between conqueror and victim.
Cook's life is the story of a world in transition, of the expansion of minds as well as empires. Just as there were other places to live, Cook discovered other ways to live. Thomas ranges widely over the cultural dimensions of Cook's unique experience, as well as the more familiar maritime drama. Dealing extensively with Cook's time in the Pacific, he reconstructs the many sides of encounters that were often curious and strange for Europeans and islanders alike, encounters that reveal the interplay between cultures and the beginnings of stereotypes that later dominated Western imaginings of native peoples.
Nicholas Thomas's magnificently rich portrait, drawn from twenty years of research, renders Cook accessible to today's readers by presenting him as neither hero nor villain. Cook's cross-cultural encounters mirror modern interactions and conflicts, offering insight into the world where we now live. ...show less