Paradise Past

The Transformation of the South Pacific, 1520–1920


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About the Book

In the 400 years from Magellan’s entrance into Pacific waters to 1920, the lives of the people of the South Pacific were utterly transformed. Exotic diseases from Europe and America, particularly the worldwide influenza pandemic, were deadly for islanders. Ardent missionaries changed the belief systems and lives of nearly all Polynesians, Aborigines, and those Papuans and Melanesians living in areas accessible to westerners. By 1920 every island and atoll in the South Seas had been claimed as a colony or protectorate of a power such as Britain, France or the United States. Factors aiding this imperial sweep included European outposts such as Sydney, advances in maritime technology, the work of missionaries, a desire to profit from the area’s relatively sparse resources, and international rivalry that led to the scramble for colonies. The coming of westerners, as this book points out, was not entirely negative, as head-hunting, cannibalism, chronic warfare, human sacrifice, and other practices were diminished—but whole cultures were irreversibly changed or even eradicated.

About the Author(s)

Robert W. Kirk has previously written on South Pacific history, World War II and travel. His doctorate in history was earned at the University of California, Davis. A semi-retired professor of history, he lives in Santa Rosa, California.

Bibliographic Details

Robert W. Kirk
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 296
Bibliographic Info: 41 photos, 9 maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6978-9
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9298-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1
Introduction: A Traumatic Transformation      3

1. What Magellan Never Found, 1520–1521      7
2. Spaniards Explore Their Lake, 1568–1793      17
3. The Dutch Century, 1616–1722      28
4. Disturbing the Tahitian Arcadia, 1767–1842      35
5. In the Bounty’s Wake, 1789–1864      55
6. A White Tribe at Botany Bay, 1788–1911      66
7. The Death of the Last Tasmanian, 1642–1876      84
8. Maori Encounters, 1769–1840      92
9. The Sandwich Islands Transformed, 1778–1874      104
10. Missionaries Triumphant: Rarotonga and Mangareva, 1818–1887      123
11. Cannibals and Crucifixes: The Marquesas, 1774–1914      130
12. Vanished: Easter Island’s Incredible Culture, 1722–1914      138
13. Bayonets and Baguettes: French Polynesia, 1842–1914      149
14. French Melanesia Subdued, 1774–1914      161
15. Rocking the Cradle: Tonga and Samoa, 1773–1914      170
16. King Cakobau’s Dilemma: Fiji, 1803–1914      185
17. Maoris Marginalized, 1840–1914      196
18. Holding Out: New Hebrides, the Solomons and New Guinea, 1767–1914      204
19. Hawaii Subdued, 1874–1914      224
20. The Imperial Impulse, 1883–1918      233
21. An Ongoing Transformation, 1918–20      246

Appendix. Timeline of Significant Events      259
Chapter Notes      261
Bibliography      273
Index      285