Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Captain Cook

Captain Cook: Explorations and Reassessments

Edited by Glyndwr Williams
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 280
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Captain Cook
    Book Description:

    In the more than two hundred years since his death, Cook's reputation has been much discussed, opinion ranging from celebration of his achievement to more subjective assessments of the long-term implications of his voyages in those countries of the Pacific which he visited. The thirteen essays in this book, grouped in four sections, continue the debate. 'The Years in England' cover Cook's Whitby background and the part played by the Royal Society in the Pacific ventures of the period. 'The Pacific Voyages' investigates the clash between the Endeavour's crew and the Aborigines on the banks of the Endeavour River, the process by which Cook and his crews became 'Polynesianised', Cook's visit to the Hawaiian Islands, and his call at Nootka Sound, both on his final voyage. 'Captain Cook and his Contemporaries' views other European explorers in the Pacific, and concludes with an analysis of Russian attitudes towards Cook. 'The Legacy of Captain Cook' compares Cook's death on Hawaii with the later killing of a missionary on Eromanga, examines fluctuations in Cook's reputation, and describes life on board the replica of the Endeavour. GLYNDWR WILLIAMS is Emeritus Professor of History, Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London. His many books include an edition of Captain Cook's Voyages, 1768-79, from the official accounts derived from Cook's journals.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-252-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The conference on ‘Captain Cook: Explorations and Reassessments’ held at the University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, on 11–14 September 2002, was the sixth International Conference sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Board Centre for North-East England History. In one way it was an appropriate commemoration of local allegiances, for James Cook was born at Marton-in-Cleveland, only five miles from the conference hall, and his earliest experience of the sea and ships was at Whitby, less than thirty miles away. In another way the conference represented world history, for as with any meeting on Cook and his voyages the subject-matter...

  8. Part I The Years in England

    • 1 Cook’s nursery: Whitby’s eighteenth-century merchant fleet
      (pp. 7-20)

      Whitby, in North Yorkshire, seems a very unlikely place to have owned the sixth largest outport fleet in England for most of the eighteenth century. It faces due north from its narrow estuary, at the mouth of a 24-mile-long river described, in 1720, as ‘a little nameless river, scarce indeed worth a name’ by Daniel Defoe.¹ There is no major river system such as that which backs the Humber or the Thames. Indeed, the tidal estuary is only one mile long, and at its maximum now 120 yards wide. There is no fertile hinterland and no great mineral deposit, and...

    • 2 ‘Remember me to my good friend Captain Walker’: James Cook and the North Yorkshire Quakers
      (pp. 21-36)

      James Cook’s formative years in and around the port town of Whitby have been well documented. In his early childhood, he moved with his family from Marton-in-Cleveland to Great Ayton, near the Cleveland Hills, where he received a basic education at the village school. In 1745, he gained employment at William Sanderson’s haberdashery and grocery shop at Staithes, a small fishing village near Whitby.¹ The lure of the sea, however, had a stronger calling, and in July 1746 Cook, aged 17, entered into an apprenticeship with John Walker (1706–85),² a prominent Quaker shipowner and coal merchant at Whitby. From...

    • 3 James Cook and the Royal Society
      (pp. 37-56)

      The standard view of James Cook’s three voyages of exploration embraces the idea that the Royal Society was a thoroughly involved participant in their preparation, execution and results. Because, perhaps, of his early death, the status and fame which James Cook achieved by the time of his third voyage and posthumously, have been casually transferred by many writers back to the time of his selection in 1768 for naval promotion from master to lieutenant and command of the convertedEarl of Pembroke.¹ Cook had no later life for historians to plot the rise and rise of his career into old...

  9. Part II The Pacific Voyages

    • 4 ‘Notwithstanding our signs to the contrary’: textuality and authority at the Endeavour River, June to August 1771
      (pp. 59-76)

      Gananath Obeyesekere’s 1992 studyThe Apotheosis of Captain Cookmarked the high point of a critical postcolonial approach to the dynamics of Pacific exploration. Obeyesekere’s ferocious attack on the methodology of those non-Pacific/non-indigenous scholars, here with special reference to Marshall Sahlins, who seek to read the processes of culture contact and exchange in the region, ultimately offered not so much another way of reading events, as a completely different idea of rationality at the heart of the construction of history.¹ In a similar vein, Dennis Foley’s insistence that only Aboriginal commentators can interpret the full meaning of Cook’s contacts in...

    • 5 Tute: the impact of Polynesia on Captain Cook
      (pp. 77-93)

      Without doubt, Captain James Cook was one of the world’s great explorers. During his three Pacific journeys his wooden ships circled the world, navigating the ice-bound fringes of the Antarctic and Arctic circles, where sails froze solid and the rigging hung with icicles; sailed into tropical seas, where they survived hurricanes, lightning strikes and volcanic eruptions; edged around uncharted lands and islands, always in danger of shipwreck; and in one harbour after another, found unknown peoples. For any time and in any culture, these were remarkable voyages, like the journeys of Odysseus, or the Polynesian star navigators.

      At the same...

    • 6 Some thoughts on Native Hawaiian attitudes towards Captain Cook
      (pp. 94-109)

      Captain James Cook on his third voyage of exploration created the circumstances that resulted in the beginning of modern Hawaiian history,¹ for a major consequence of the voyage was the opening of the northeastern quadrant of the Pacific Ocean, including the Hawaiian Islands, to world commerce and international politics. The effects on the eight populated Polynesian islands were revolutionary. The four domains ruled by high chiefs of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui, and Hawai‘i were united into one kingdom. The subsistence economy was transformed by its role in trans-Pacific commerce. Its cultural life gradually blended with Christian-British-American values to create a new...

    • 7 Captain Cook’s command of knowledge and space: chronicles from Nootka Sound
      (pp. 110-134)

      In an elliptical line in the preface to his edition of Cook’s journal of his third voyage, J. C. Beaglehole writes: ‘Where Cook went, why he said what he did, the accidents of the weather: all this may be taken as matter of historical geography.’¹ Beaglehole was interested in the geographical circumstances in which Cook worked, and had a great feel for how Cook’s writing was influenced by his personality and the diverse pressures placed upon him as a naval commander. Yet in important respects, matters of historical geography, at least as they are construed in the recent critical literature...

  10. Part III Captain Cook and his Contemporaries

    • 8 A comparison of the charts produced during the Pacific voyages of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville and James Cook
      (pp. 137-160)

      European voyages to the Pacific in the eighteenth century did not always carry good quality charts, nor did all the voyagers make an effort to improve matters by drawing new ones. However, by the second half of the century, this attitude was changing and the need to possess good and accurate charts had been realised.¹ Able cartographers now accompanied or led many of the voyages, and instruments for making accurate surveys and drawing correct charts had been developed.

      Against this background, two expeditions set off from Europe in the late 1760s to explore the Pacific. The first was French, led...

    • 9 Successors and rivals to Cook: the French and the Spaniards
      (pp. 161-178)

      The discovery of the Pacific not only determined its entry into the consciousness of Europe, but also confirmed that its destiny was to reflect the shifting balance of power in the struggle for continental hegemony. At the same time, the ebb and flow of European interest in the vast and seemingly empty ‘great south sea’ reflected the navigational uncertainties and huge distances involved in approaching and sailing through it, as well as the existence of colonial settlements and trading opportunities in more easily accessible regions – North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and even India. Historians can speak in terms of James...

    • 10 Russian responses to the voyages of Captain Cook
      (pp. 179-198)

      In 1790, the radical Russian social critic Alexander Radishchev published hisJourney from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Amidst a harsh critique of political absolutism and serfdom which would earn him exile in Siberia, Radishchev attacked Russia’s navy for its indifference towards voyages of discovery. The navy, he said, was an institution of apathy and petty careerism, where officers might advance themselves without ever leaving a harbour. Radishchev contrasted this dismal state to the inspirational voyages of Captain James Cook: ‘O Cook! Why did you pass your life in travail and privations? If you had boarded [Russian] ships you would have...

  11. Part IV The Legacy of Captain Cook

    • 11 Redeeming memory: the martyrdoms of Captain James Cook and Reverend John Williams
      (pp. 201-229)

      Almost half a century had passed after Cook’s death, when the Revd William Ellis of the London Missionary Society sat in a house in Oahu with several local chiefs, a folio edition of Cook’sVoyagesspread before him. While poring over the image of the navigator’s demise together with the chiefs, Ellis observed: ‘They were greatly affected with the print which represented [Cook’s] death . . . I perceived Karaimoku more than once wipe the tears from his eyes, while conversing about this melancholy event.’¹ Substituting the name of a British evangelical for that of Karaimoku would change nothing in...

    • 12 ‘As befits our age, there are no more heroes’: reassessing Captain Cook
      (pp. 230-245)

      For long, exploration history remained one of the last literary arenas in which heroic, almost superhuman, figures could be seen performing. It was conceived in essentially personal terms, with its sagas of fearless leaders setting off across uncharted seas or trackless wildernesses. Most histories of exploration were written as a series of biographical capsules, and the names of individual explorers served as stepping-stones to mark the progress of knowledge of the wider world. Some of the most celebrated explorers have biographies by the dozen – Columbus, Lewis and Clark, Livingstone, Shackleton. And in the Pacific there was, of course, Captain James...

    • 13 Retracing the Captain: ‘Extreme History’, hard tack and scurvy
      (pp. 246-256)

      In September 2001 I was in hospital on Thursday Island in the Torres Straits. For me the horror of 11 September unfolded in the middle of the night, as I stood in a corridor, watching television. That I was so far from home was, in no small part, due to our enduring fascination with Cook.

      Three months earlier I had been sitting in the Courtyard at Somerset House, discussing a BBC project to retrace part of Cook’s first Pacific voyage. The idea of picking a volunteer crew, and some contemporary ‘experts’ to man the replica HMSEndeavour, and then sailing...

  12. Index
    (pp. 257-266)