Discoveries by Nicholas Thomas
Discoveries: the Voyages of Captain Cook.
I really enjoyed this one. Relating the events of James Cook’s three voyages of discovery, the book takes a gratifyingly sociological view of events, focusing largely on the interaction between Cook and his British officers, crew, and scientists and artists, and the various indigenous people they met: Maori, Tahitians, Hawaiians etc. This is neither a hagiography nor a bleeding-heart liberal tome. It’s fair minded, well written, and never less than enjoyable. The complex rites and social niceties of, for instance, the Hawaiians – who in the end killed Cook in the surf of their own beach – are explained, but not with such complexity as to reduce the impact of the event. Fair time is given to other officers’ interpretations of events, while much use is made of first hand accounts and other historical sources. With maps, paintings and a simple chronological narrative, this is a terrific read. Highly recommended.