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BLIGH: William Bligh in the South Seas Hardcover – Oct 11 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (Oct. 11 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520270568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520270565
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 816 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #582,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Gripping and definitive.”
(Ronald Wright Times Literary Supplement (TLS) 2012-03-16)

“A rich and riveting biography. . . . Salmond has successfully brought to life the complex personality of William Bligh and his world.”
(Elizabeth Salt Library Journal 2011-11-15)

“A fine and measured biography . . . a model of depth, style and scope.”
(Alexander Rose Wall Street Journal 2011-10-25)

“Bligh is presented here in as full a picture as anyone is ever going to be able to draw.”
(Rob Hardy Columbus Dispatch 2012-01-24)

“Salmond brings a fresh perspective to a well documented topic. . . . Bligh is a book that will have wide appeal and a worthy addition to Salmond’s award-winning repertoire.”
(Maria Amoamo Journal Of The Polynesian Society 2012-03-01)

"This readable book . . .  is likely to set the standard for thorough research, ethnographic insight and psychological discernment."
(Bernd Lambert Pacific Affairs 2013-06-01)

From the Inside Flap

“Anne Salmond draws on her unrivalled knowledge of early Polynesian cultures to re-tell the extraordinary story of William Bligh's voyages and the mutiny on the Bounty. Salmond writes marvelously and brings the Pacific as well as the European protagonists to life, and thus her book situates Bligh in the Pacific more effectively than any previous attempt. Bligh reveals not a British history with an exotic setting but a genuinely cross-cultural history that remains thought-provoking to this day.”—Nicholas Thomas, author of Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages

“The notorious Captain Bligh and the Bounty mutiny have captivated audiences for two centuries. Although one might think that there is nothing new to be learned of Bligh and the Bounty, Anne Salmond surprises and engages us with her retelling of this epic tale. Bringing the nuanced perspective of a sensitive ethnographer of both the Polynesians and the British Navy, Salmond traces Bligh's character over the course of his storied and occasionally tragic career, beginning with his role on Captain Cook's famous third voyage. What emerges is a portrait of a complex personality, an Enlightenment gentleman sensitive to Tahitian culture, a commander who cared deeply about his crew and their ship, a loyal husband and father, yet someone prone to fits of temper and sudden rages. With an engaging narrative style, Salmond follows Bligh's voyages and encounters in the South Seas and elsewhere, not neglecting Fletcher Christian, Peter Heywood, and the many others whose lives were forever changed by the Bounty affair. Salmond has added another masterpiece to her already brilliant repertoire.”—Patrick V. Kirch, author of How Chiefs Became Kings: Divine Kingship and the Rise of Archaic States in Ancient Hawai’i

"Bligh is not only a splendid reappraisal of the Bounty's misunderstood captain; it is that and much more. Anne Salmond has produced an extraordinary account of Bligh’s voyage that simultaneously offers new perspectives on biography, exploration, encounters, and the vast Pacific itself. This is a masterful and engrossing work." —David Igler, University of California, Irvine

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa0f67174) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0f67fb4) out of 5 stars Reassessing a Legend Jan. 24 2012
By Rob Hardy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
When I first opened _Bligh: William Bligh in the South Seas_ (University of California Press), I went to the index to learn what it said about the Bligh I know. Marlon Brando was not listed, nor was Trevor Howard; the two had played Fletcher Christian and Bligh in the 1962 movie _Mutiny on the Bounty_. Clark Gable and Charles Laughton were not there for their roles in the 1935 movie. Not even Nordhoff and Hall were listed as the authors of the famous trilogy of books based on the mutiny. It was a bit of a surprise that within this big book's 500 pages there is little account of, or even commentary upon, the mutiny as it has most recently been presented to us, but as I read though, I realized that these sources of legend had no place in Anne Salmond's fine biography. She does allude to how the image of Bligh as sadistic commander has come down to us, but she gives authoritative evidence that the image is wrong. Bligh was a mix of high degrees of good and bad traits, and it seems as if circumstances conspired against him in the mutiny, and afterwards against his reputation. Salmond is a professor in New Zealand, and has written books about the discovery of Tahiti and about Captain James Cook, subjects essential to understanding Bligh. He is presented here in as full a picture as anyone is ever going to be able to draw, and there is much about the British and Tahitian cultures of the time, so that the context of the legend and the facts behind it can be better understood.

Bligh tended to get along well with the islanders his ships visited, and had a better understanding of them than any European of the time. He had a devoted wife and adored his two daughters. Bligh was not a flogging captain, or at least not as much as Cook and far less than other captains. Salmond even goes into statistics which show that he "flogged his men less often than almost any other British commander in the Pacific during this period." The movies get this wrong, probably because it is easy to show the brutality of the punishment, which was, of course, standard in the British navy at the time. His difficulty was that Bligh had interpersonal problems and would go on tirades with little provocation. One observer called these "violent tornadoes of temper," and Bligh might inexcusably belittle officers while their subordinates could hear, making accusations of incompetence or cowardice. After such a show, it mattered little that his rage would be short lived or that he would do the victim a kindness or ask him to dinner immediately thereafter. Salmond is careful to show that the Admiralty compounded the difficulty with the ship's overcrowding, lack of marines, and misscheduling which required a long Tahitian stay that undermined discipline. Originally, upon his return to England, Bligh had been celebrated as a hero; the Admiralty and the British government did not want his overthrow to remind their populace that Frenchmen at the time were busily overthrowing their own royalty. Some of the returned mutineers escaped hanging because of some clever legal work by law professor Edward Christian, brother of Fletcher. Edward Christian wrote an account of the mutiny, with a sadistic Bligh harassing an intimidated crew, and the Romanticists lapped it up. Fletcher Christian was sanctified as a freedom-loving hero, and Bligh was vilified as a symbol of despotic rule.

And there they remain today, in popular culture. Salmond's perceptive volume expands the tragedy of Bligh and the tragedy of the mutineers and gives insight into nautical power-broking and patronage as well as Bligh's astute observations of Polynesian culture when it was mysterious and unspoiled. Bligh's name has come down to us as synonymous with brutality, but Salmond admonishes us that it is all only "a triumph of rhetoric over reality." The rhetoric has continued to triumph for over two hundred years, and her book deserves to be the work that brings the reality back.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0798d2c) out of 5 stars Iron Men In Wooden Ships Oct. 25 2011
By dream factory - Published on
Format: Hardcover
These were heroic times; in America they were swearing in a President! In France they were storming the Bastille. In the middle of the Pacific a legend was born.

Captain William Bligh. Here presented wonderfully and fairly by Anne Salmond. Telling us not only of the heroics of that small boat in the middle of that gigantic ocean, but building the foundation of the events which transpired. Bringing us the microcosm of the British sociey and what came together which led up to the mutiny, and what transpired afterwards.

Why did Christian revolt? Was Bligh really that tyrannical? Cook proved to be alot meaner and had no issues with his crews. Bligh did make it back to Britain in an unbelievable 47 day, 3600 mile voyage in a small boat. While with time the mutaneers settled on Pitcairn island and turned upon oneanother, Only one survived. Edward Christian , a lawyer defended the captued bunch of mutaneers. Some hung, others excused. Life in Polynesia.

Who was Bligh? Who was Christian? What were the times which fostered this mutiny? The book is beautifully composed. An interesting and fantastic story written with depth and great interpretation.
HASH(0xa09a5e7c) out of 5 stars The best adventure story ever March 4 2014
By David Roman Bermejo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's really hard to make a mess of Bligh's amazing story. And Ms. Salmond doesn't. She actually does a great job.