Title/Author: VOYAGERS: The Settlement of the Pacific by Nicholas Thomas
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: June 15, 2021
In a nutshell (Publisher):
The islands of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia stretch across thousands of miles of ocean and encompass a multitude of different peoples. Starting with Captain James Cook, the earliest European explorers to visit the Pacific is lands were astounded to find populations thriving thousands of miles from continents. Who were these people? Where did they come from? How did they reach these seemingly remote islands and what was the reason for their journey?
In VOYAGERS: The Settlement of the Pacific, distinguished anthropologist Nicholas Thomas charts the seaborne migrations that populated the islands between Asia and the Americas from late prehistory onwards. Drawing on the latest research from linguistics, archaeology, and past climates, he provides a dazzling account of these long-distance migrations, the sea-going technologies that enabled them, and the societies they left in their wake. While the islands of the Pacific seem remote to many in Europe and America, Thomas reveals how intimately they are connected with world-historical events and developments. The business of economic globalization that looms large in political debate today got underway with sixteenth-century voyages in the Pacific by explorers like Ferdinand Magellan. During World War II, the Pacific was a major theater of conflict, marked by battles and campaigns throughout New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Marianas, and Palau, among other archipelagoes. And today, some of these island nations are those most vulnerable to sea-level rise. Among the most eloquent voices in debates around climate change are Islander leaders and activists.
For Pacific Islanders, the beginning of the twenty-first century has seen both new opportunities and grave threats. Recent decades have been marked by political instability, separatist movements, and sometimes unstable governance. New international relationships have emerged. China, Malaysia, and other Asian states have pursued mining, logging, and fishing projects, which have brought investment and employment but also environmental threats and conflict. These challenges may appear typical of the postcolonial world, but as Thomas demonstrates, anyone who travels in the Pacific can only be inspired by the extent to which Islanders remain, in a profound sense, themselves, their lives intimately tied to the localenvironment.
VOYAGERS is the fascinating story of a civilization that has seldom been recognized as such, shedding light on long-debated questions (who, from where, how), alongside the new. What was it, and what is it, to be an Islander?
“A brisk and intriguing account of how the islands of Oceania came to be inhabited by humans… With lucid explanations of modern advances in historical anthropology and evocative reflections on the author’s own fascination with Oceania, this is an accessible introduction to an astounding chapter in human history.”
“The peopling of the Pacific is one of humanity’s greatest feats of imagination, ingenuity, and courage. Voyagers authoritatively recounts that achievement with both sympathy and wonder.”
—David Armitage, Harvard University
My thoughts at a glance:
Here’s a short one-minute video on a brief history of Oceania I found on YouTube. Hope it piques your interest!
Upon receiving the book, I couldn’t resist browsing it! Honestly, the cover did it for me. Isn’t it gorgeous? I have always been fascinated by Oceania’s history (the voyages, the Islanders way of lives, their language) but never really thought of reading more about it until now. Today, I even learned the correct pronunciation for it! I’m going to try put some other books away and make time for this one of these days. It seemed like there is a lot to digest. Diving into something new always excites me!
Thank you Jenny and Basic Books for providing me a copy of the book and for bringing this book to my attention. I am looking forward to reading this. Do look out for the review once I get to it!
Does this book sound like one you’d like to read too? Or have you read something similar to this or seen a documentary about Oceania which you enjoyed? Please do share with me your thoughts!