I knew next to nothing about Captain James Cook when i picked up this book... history books generally gloss over his voyages, even though he exploredI knew next to nothing about Captain James Cook when i picked up this book... history books generally gloss over his voyages, even though he explored an area that encompasses nearly 1/3 of the globe. Horwitz's urge to learn all he could about the man and his work is infectious... you can see this in the text rubbing off on those around him, as seen in Roger, his companion on many of his "Cook" travels.
Retracing Captain Cook's three voyages, relying heavily on the diaires of Cook himself, Horwitz decides to take a short trip to the Pacific Northwest to sail for 10 days in a replica of Cook's ship. He wanted a feel for the life or a seaman, and he sure gets it!! Next he sets off to Australia and New Zealand. His journalistic style brings in great aspects of history, anthropology, and language. He interviews Maori people in New Zealand and Aborigines in Australia, asking them what memories their people have of Cook and his men. Both groups remember Captain Cook, oftentimes in a negative light. It does not appear that they despise Cook as a man, but more of what he stood for, and what his exploration meant for the native culture.
Horwitz and Roger then begin to island hop around the Pacific. I particularly liked the time they spent on the island of Niue (like Horwitz, I had never heard of this island.) Describing the scene, Horwitz claims it may be the last part of Polynesia that is not spoiled by commercialism and tourists. He and Roger stay for a week on this small island (only 11 miles long!) and try to unravel the mystery of the hula hula (Cook's men were scared away from these islands by men with red teeth, and they named the island Savage Island because they thought the people were cannibals).
Roger and Horwitz go to Yorkshire, England, Cook's birthplace (and Roger's too), and take part in a few days of the Cook festival. They meet Cliff, the young president of the Captain Cook society, and try to find out as much as they can about the enigmatic Cook. Going to Cook's own home gives Horwitz a different take on the man, and he learns more about Cook's beliefs and his philosophies.
Their travels end in Hawaii, like Cook's did in 1778. They commemorate Cook on the beach where he was killed.
The other aspect of this book that fascinated me was how Horwitz tried to get "into Cook's head". Cook was a son of the Enlightenment, and did not come to Polynesia with preconceived notions of God, Gold, and Glory like earlier explorers. He wanted to discover and learn about others, and was very scientifically conscious for a man of his time. ...more
Adventure tales by intrepid explorers, the maniacal greed and cruelty of a despotic monarch, and the tireless work of a small group of people to uncovAdventure tales by intrepid explorers, the maniacal greed and cruelty of a despotic monarch, and the tireless work of a small group of people to uncover the truth: this book describes the cast of characters and the story of Belgium's colony in the Congo.
What started as a quest for resources (specifically ivory and rubber) and an expansion beyond the borders of a small European country turned into a holocaust of epic proportions. There are harrowing and graphic scenes of cruelty and torture described (I had to set the book aside more than once - very disturbing), but also some of hope, seeing the birth of some of the human rights advocacy groups that we see today.
The last chapter was the crowning achievement - I really liked how Hochschild wrapped the book up by talking about memory and records. Leopold went to such great lengths to destroy all of the official records - literally burning the State Archives - but he could not take away the memories and oral histories. These stories live on - most notably in Joseph Conrad's *Heart of Darkness* that features characters based on real people and events witnessed in the Congo, and in meticulous research like Hochschild's.
It is a book that was hard to read, but I am so glad I did. Highly recommended....more
While I really enjoy the thesis of this book, I can help but get information overload. There is so much - and such a large geographical region discussWhile I really enjoy the thesis of this book, I can help but get information overload. There is so much - and such a large geographical region discussed. It is taking me a long while because I am listening to this one on CD while at work... ...more