Islanders: The Pacific in the Age of Empire Hardcover – Jan 25 2011
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About the Author
Nicholas Thomas is director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and professor of historical anthropology, at Cambridge University, and has traveled widely in the Pacific. Among his books is Discoveries: The Voyages of Captain Cook.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In Islanders, Thomas drives this point home with a story of 18C and early 19C Pacific imperialism that confounds imperial and romanticized indigenous history alike. Winner of the 2010 Wolfson Prize, one of Britain's most prestigious book awards, in Islanders we learn of London missionaries who consistently failed to convert islanders, not because of indigenous moral incapacities (as the missionaries thought), but because the islanders found little in the lifeways or persons of the missionaries to recommend them or their religion. We also learn about many islanders who signed on to British, American, and other European ships for no other reason than to see the places where the foreign ships had come from. Even in the darker era of late 19C imperialism, when ships raided Melanesia and the western Pacific in general for labor to work Australian plantations, we see some islanders making their own use of the exploitative labor system.
Islanders is a path-breaking book that makes the case that islanders, like everyone else in the imperial Pacific, forged their own, independent accommodations to economic and social change in an era often marked by brutality, exploitation, and subjugation.
Thomas has written an excellent history that compares well with a number of other books on this and related subjects recently published. His focus is on all the islanders and their encounters with a widening world. There is some discussion of individual cultures.