Book Review-‘The Captain and “the Cannibal”: An epic story of exploration, kidnapping, and the Broadway stage’ by J. Fairhead

By Katherine Parker, published November 2020


British audiences tend to associate European-Pacific interaction with Captain Cook, but the United States have a different historical relationship with the region, one centred on aggressive late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century commercial and imperial expansion. Such a relationship was recently outlined by David Igler in The Great Ocean: Pacific worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush (New York, 2013). Social anthropologist James Fairhead continues to complicate America’s relations with Pacific geography, resources, and especially its peoples in this narrative history. Fairhead has recovered the story of the entrepreneurial American Captain Benjamin Morell and the indigenous islander he captured while cruising in what is today the Bismarck Sea. This captive, Dako, comes through the historical sources as an intelligent, kind, and adept leader. Morell emerges in a less rosy light, but together their stories intertwine to provide a fascinating glimpse into the complexities of imperial expansion, commercial exploration, and scientific racism…

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Filed under: Other (Eighteenth C) | Other (Nineteenth C) | Pacific
Subjects include: Biography | Manpower & Life at Sea | Science & Exploration

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