Book Review – ‘Captain Cook: Master of the seas’ by Frank McLynn

By John Mack, published October 2020


It may reasonably be thought that J. C. Beaglehole’s publications have long since had the final word on Captain Cook and his pioneering maritime exploits in the second half of the eighteenth century for all that the publishing industry’s appetite for retelling the heroic tales in more popular forms retains its position in a crowded marketplace. Yet, like proverbial buses, at least two more heavy-weight scholarly studies have already come along in the last decade and books of revision and reassessment continue to emerge undiminished. The first of the larger studies is Nicholas Thomas’s impressive book Discoveries: The Voyages of Captain Cook (2003). The second is the present work, a comprehensive and impressivelyresearched study by an established biographer and historian, Frank McLynn. Of course, like the existing library of books on Captain Cook and his era, each rehearses many of the same events from largely the same sources. The dramatis personae are the same: Cook himself and, among others, the natural scientists Joseph Banks and the Forsters, the artists Parkinson and Webber, Captains Vancouver and Bligh and a number of Pacific Islanders amongst whom Tupaia and Omai are the best known from having joined Cook’s ships (though neither inspired Cook’s own unwavering enthusiasm). Many of the events culminating in Captain Cook’s final demise on Hawaii on the morning of 14 February, 1779, are likewise familiar….

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Filed under: James Cook | Eighteenth Century | Pacific
Subjects include: Biography

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