Pacific Empires: Essays in honour of Glyndwr Williams. Frost, Alan and Samson, Jane. 1999

Pacific Empires: Essays in honour of Glyndwr Williams. Frost, Alan and Samson, Jane. 1999

Edited by Alan Frost and Jane Samson.
Pacific Empires: Essays in honour of Glyndwr Williams.
Melbourne University Press.
ISBN 0 522 84791 9.

Glyn Williams has established himself as a world authority on the history of European exploration and culture contact, especially that of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. This book is a series of chapters by scholars concerned with these subjects and how our understanding of them have developed over recent years. Of the 13 contributions, three have direct connections with Cook, and others touch on him indirectly.

The first chapter is by Glyn himself, being a reprint of a lecture he gave in 1995 and published in Mariner's Mirror in 1996. 'To Make Discoveries of Countries Hitherto Unknown': The Admiralty and Pacific Exploration in the Eighteenth Century is an explanation of why and how the Admiralty sent ships to explore "for the discovery of unknown & unsettled Parts of the World" despite Spain's view that she had exclusive rights there. Narborough, Dampier, Middleton, Anson, Byron, Wallis, Carter and Cook are all covered. Glyn notes that a book about Bougainville's voyage was published before any consideration had been given to those of Byron, etc. He also shows how the Admiralty's attention turned "from exploration to exploitation".

Andrew Cook in Alexander Dalrymple and the Hydrogaphic Office describes how Dalrymple became the first Hydrographer of Britain in 1795. His connection to Cook is not explored, except to say that he "was closely involved in the engraving of the plans and illustrations to accompany the publication in 1784 of the account of Cook's third voyage".

Greg Dening in The Hegemony of Laughter: Purea's Theatre considers Oberea's influence on Wallis and Cook, and the results of her "'machiavellian' ambitions" which led to her downfall. Though "she seemed to have died somewhere between 1775 and 1785" she lived on as a character in a pantomime in London.

The last chapter is by David Mackay. Exploring the Pacific, exploring James Cook considers the Hawaiian "tradition stretching to the first half of the nineteenth century which portrays Cook as a figure of oppression. This view was perpetuated by American missionary writers and identified by Beaglehole". For many Europeans, though, "he has been portrayed in a heroic mould; representing a fine, stoic, stern but also compassionate agent of empire." Mackay considers the recent biography by Richard Hough to be "both patronising and ignorant about Pacific peoples" and the effect Cook had in New Zealand both in 1769 and now, and concludes that "the Pacific is still in the process of discovering Captain James Cook."

During his life Glyn has "edited narratives of exploration; produced atlases of exploration; and written analytical studies, both of where explorers went, and what they saw - or thought they saw." It is fitting that a bibliography of his writings is included in this excellent book.

Reviewer: Ian Boreham

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1737, volume 23, number 2 (2000).

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