The Trial of the Cannibal Dog


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The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Encounters in the South Seas

Anne Salmond

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A masterful retelling of three voyages that changed the world

This vivid book retells the story of Captain Cook’s great voyages in the South Seas, focusing on the encounters between the explorers and the island peoples they “discovered.” While Cook and his men were initially confounded by the Polynesians, they were also curious. Cook and his crew soon formed friendships—and often more intimate relationships—with the islanders. The islanders, who initially were not certain if the Englishmen were even human, came to experiment with Western customs and in some cases joined the voyagers on their expeditions. But familiarity quickly bred contempt. Shipboard discipline was threatened by these new relationships, and the culture of the islands was also changed forever. Captain Cook, initially determined to act as an enlightened leader, saw his resolve falter during the third voyage. Amicable relations turned hostile, culminating in Cook’s violent death on the shores of Hawaii. In this masterful account of Cook’s voyages, Anne Salmond—a preeminent authority on the history of the south seas—reimagines two worlds that collided in the eighteenth century, and the enduring impact of that collision.

Anne Salmond is Distinguished Professor of Maori Studies at the University of Auckland and a Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University. An award-winning author, she was made Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1995 for services to literature and the Maori people.

"In this masterful and highly original account of Captain Cook’s three Pacific voyages, Anne Salmond examines the encounters between Europeans and Polynesians and reveals how both were changed by their contact with each other. The book culminates in a significant reassessment of the circumstances of Captain Cook’s death."—Glyn Williams, author of Voyages of Delusion

The Trial of the Cannibal Dog brings us the voyages of Captain James Cook as we’ve never seen them before. In Anne Salmond’s hands, Pacific exploration becomes an intricate drama of mutual discovery, with Polynesians having as profound an impact on Europeans as Cook and his men had on those they encountered. Salmond’s nuanced, multi-voiced book is a ground-breaking addition to the Captain Cook canon.”—Tony Horwitz, author of Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before

"This is a compelling book of contrasts. . . . There is, happily, no need for 'other' here for this is truly an example of imperial history at its best, a chapter in world history, so to speak. It is a book about encounters—some easily explained, some clouded in mystery and some, as true history is, the subject of wonder and amusement."—Barry Gough, Albion



“The massive amount of detail is both informative and impressive. Salmond’s book makes a genuine contribution to the study of exploration. Highly recommended.”—Choice


"A record of Captain Cook’s voyages and final tragedy that is Homeric in its scope."—Independent

"Anne Salmond, a New Zealand historian and anthropologist, presents her comprehensive, astounding record of Cook’s three voyages to the Antipodes, in 1768, 1772, and 1776, with scrupulous balance. . . . This book is exemplary in its approach. . . . The book demonstrates triumphantly that scholarship and readability need never exclude one another. . . . The book also stands as an honorable record of the names and deeds of many Polynesians and Europeans: a record Homeric in its scope."—Min Wild, Independent on Sunday

"[This] outstanding study will be of interest to specialists and to a broad reading audience."—Christon I. Archer, Itinerario

"The Trial of the Cannibal Dog is a triumphant synthesis of modern scholarship and story telling. With its publication, Anne Salmond moves into the front rank of our most eminent historians."—Michael King, New Zealand Listener

"All of Cook’s three voyages to New Zealand and the Pacific are traced in fresh and exciting detail; it’s a rediscovery of Cook, sympathetic and probing, as Salmond follows his travels in a kind of psychological pursuit right to the end, when she builds a thesis around the circumstances that led to his brutal death on a beach in Hawaii in 1779."—Steve Braunias, New Zealand Listener

"An eminently readable book that adds considerably to our knowledge and understanding of Cook and his relationship with the people of the Pacific."—John Robson, The Historian
ISBN: 9780300100921
Publication Date: August 11, 2003
538 pages, 6 x 9
50 b/w + 16 color illus.

Sales Restrictions: For sale in the U.S. only