You are viewing an older version of the Yalebooks website. Please visit out new website with more updated information and a better user experience:

The Pacific in the Age of Empire

Nicholas Thomas

View Inside Format: Paper
Price: $28.00
Our shopping cart only supports Mozilla Firefox. Please ensure you're using that browser before attempting to purchase.

Also Available in:

An incisive, evocative history of the experience of empire in the Oceanic world

This compelling book explores the lived experience of empire in the Pacific, the last region to be contacted and colonized by Europeans following the great voyages of Captain Cook. Unlike conventional accounts that emphasize confrontation and the destruction of indigenous cultures, Islanders reveals there was gain as well as loss, survival as well as suffering, and invention as well as exploitation.

Empowered by imaginative research in obscure archives and collections, Thomas rediscovers a rich and surprising history of encounters, not only between Islanders and Europeans, but among Islanders, brought together in new ways by explorers, missionaries, and colonists. He tells the story of the making of empire, not through an impersonal survey, but through vivid stories of the lives of men and women—some visionary, some vicious, and some just eccentric—and through sensuous evocation of seascapes and landscapes of the Pacific. A fascinating re-creation of an Oceanic world, Islanders offers a new paradigm, not only for histories of the Pacific, but for understandings of cultural contact everywhere.

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.

"Thomas’ description of the journey into the imperial world of the Pacific is made inclusive and companionable with lovely asides… [a] comprehensive but gripping book"—Katrina Schlunke, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Islanders is not only a fine work of scholarship but also a lucid and engrossing read."—Rod Edmond, BBC History Magazine

“The islanders’ minds and feelings may be inaccessible in purely anthropological terms, but Thomas provides ample evidence to allow readers to fill in the gaps.”—Dr. Andrew Rudd, Church Times

"Intellectually sophisticated and clearly written, this first-rate study of the experience of the Pacific Islanders provides one of the best available studies of the nature of imperial contact and violence, and of the traumas they caused.”—Jeremy Black, University of Exeter

"We are used to idea of thinking of the Pacific in the age of exploration and empire as a play-pond for the greed, ambition and curiosity of Europeans, but now Nicholas Thomas has produced a bracing revision that - Antipodean-like - inverts many of our assumptions about the Islanders that they supposedly discovered and exploited. Drawing on a lifetime of research, and in vivid sinewy prose, he brings to life an unknown world of Islander explorers, adventurers, traders, sailors, whalers, warriors, priests and migrants - peoples who criss-crossed every ocean and whose stories have never made it into Hakluyt or any voyage anthology. Surely it is these Pacific Islanders, rather than we European intruders, who deserve to be seen as the world's first cosmopolitans." - Iain McCalman, author of Darwin's Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution

Islanders tells the compelling, sometimes shocking, story of the western world's impact on the peoples of Oceania before 1900. Using all the evidence now available, Thomas shows that the lives of individuals, both Pacific islanders and European newcomers, were profoundly altered as the contact became more persistent and intrusive. Explorers, missionaries, traders and officials jostled for status and profit in their relationship with islanders - chiefly, priestly and otherwise - who in turn pursued their own interests in the years before catastrophic population decline changed the islands for ever. Islanders will appeal to specialists and non-specialists alike as a scintillating contribution not only to Pacific history, but to the general study of relations between European and non-European peoples.” - Glyn Williams, author of The Great South Sea

"Beautifully written, with spell-binding vignettes. An important, original controbution to our knowledge of life in the Pacific." - Dame Anne Salmond, author of The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: Captain Cook in the South Seas

"Enjoyably readable."—G.E. Marcus, Choice

“Thomas has written a work of scholarship that merits close attention and, at the same time, that presumes a ready grasp of the vast geography of the Pacific. His analysis is thoughtful and often thought-provoking.”—Tim Severin, Irish Examiner

"Thomas’s book is of critical value to anyone wishing to begin research in Pacific history or who wants to incorporate the Pacific into courses on global or comparative Indigenous histories."—Coll Thrush, Journal of Native American and Indigenous Studies

Joint winner of the 2010 Wolfson History Prize given by the Wolfson Foundation
ISBN: 9780300180565
Publication Date: February 28, 2012
352 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
50 b/w illus.