"As my sense of the turpitude and guilt of sin was weakened, the vices of the natives appeared less odious and criminal. After a time, I was induced to yield to their allurements, to imitate their manners, and to join them in their sins . . . and it was not long ere I disencumbered myself of my European garment, and contented myself with the native dress. . . ."—from Narrative of the late George Vason, of Nottingham
As George Vason's anguished narrative shows, European encounters with Pacific peoples often proved as wrenching to the Europeans as to the natives. This anthology gathers some of the most vivid accounts of these cultural exchanges for the first time, placing the works of well-known figures such as Captain James Cook and Robert Louis Stevenson alongside the writings of lesser-known explorers, missionaries, beachcombers, and literary travelers who roamed the South Seas from the late seventeenth through the late nineteenth centuries.
Here we discover the stories of the British buccaneers and privateers who were lured to the Pacific by stories of fabulous wealth; of the scientists, cartographers, and natural historians who tried to fit the missing bits of terra incognita into a universal scheme of knowledge; and of the varied settlers who established a permanent European presence in Polynesia and Australia. Through their detailed commentary on each piece and their choice of selections, the editors—all respected scholars of the literature and cultures of the Pacific—emphasize the mutuality of impact of these colonial encounters and the continuity of Pacific cultures that still have the power to transform visitors today.
University professors from America, England, and Australia, the editors of this fascinating collection of travel and exploration narratives state early on that their book "is intended to serve as a resource to enable teachers and students to engage with primary materials, some of which are otherwise difficult to obtain." Fortunately, for those not in pursuit of scholarship, this work offers an interesting overview of British and American experiences in the Pacific from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Some of the narratives come from familiar chroniclers, e.g., Captain Cook, Mark Twain, and Robert Louis Stevenson, but most are from the bold souls who set forth to Oceania as mariners, missionaries, and explorers. All the ingredients for high adventure are present: shipwrecks, mutiny, cannibalism, Christian conversions, trade, and the lure of wealth. However, the abundance of anthropological observation is inevitably colored by the constraints of Western civilization. An extensive bibliography is also included, but period illustrations are sparse. Recommended for large public and academic libraries.--Janet Ross, Sparks Branch Lib., NV Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.