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Captain James Cook was a supreme navigator and explorer. Gascoigne details what happened in Cook's voyages when he came across peoples with hugely different systems of thought, belief and culture. Born in North Yorkshire in 1728, when Cook entered the world of the peoples of the South Pacific, the gulf between the two cultures was not nearly as vast as it was a century later, when ships made of metal and powered by steam were able to expand and enforce European Empires.
In their different ways both the English and the peoples of the Pacific had to battle the seas and its moods with timber vessels powered by sail and human muscle. Captain James Cook represented – in those places to which he voyaged – English attitudes in the eighteenth century. In his voyages he came across peoples with hugely different systems of thought and cultures. John Gascoigne explores what happened when the two systems met, and how each side interpreted the other in terms of their own beliefs and experiences.
2. The Sea
Professor John Gascoigne was educated at the universities of Sydney, Princeton and Cambridge. He has taught in Papua New Guinea and since 1980 has been a member of the School of History, University of New South Wales. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. His five previous books and other publications have dealt with the impact of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment and include a two-volume study of Joseph Banks and his world. His most recent work is The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia (Cambridge, 2002).