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Aphrodite’s Island

The European Discovery of Tahiti

Anne Salmond (Author)

Not available in Australia, New Zealand

Hardcover, 544 pages
ISBN: 9780520261143
January 2010
$47.95, £35.95
Aphrodite's Island is a bold new account of the European discovery of Tahiti, the Pacific island of mythic status that has figured so powerfully in European imaginings about sexuality, the exotic, and the nobility or bestiality of “savages.” In this groundbreaking book, Anne Salmond takes readers to the center of the shared history to furnish rich insights into Tahitian perceptions of the visitors while illuminating the full extent of European fascination with Tahiti. As she discerns the impact and meaning of the European effect on the islands, she demonstrates how, during the early contact period, the mythologies of Europe and Tahiti intersected and became entwined. Drawing on Tahitian oral histories, European manuscripts and artworks, collections of Tahitian artifacts, and illustrated with contemporary sketches, paintings, and engravings from the voyages, Aphrodite's Island provides a vivid account of the Europeans' Tahitian adventures. At the same time, the book's compelling insights into Tahitian life significantly change the way we view the history of this small island during a period when it became a crossroads for Europe.
List of Illustrations
Introduction Aphrodite's Island

Chapter 1 Thunder in ‘Opoa
Chapter 2 The Glorious Children of Tetumu
Chapter 3 Purea, ‘Queen’ of Tahiti
Chapter 4 Happy Island of Cythera
Chapter 5 Ahutoru at the Opéra
Chapter 6 A Polynesian Venus
Chapter 7 Captain Cook in Arcadia
Chapter 8 The Transit of Venus
Chapter 9 Circling the Land
Chapter 10 Tupaia’s Ship
Chapter 11 The Viceroy of Peru
Chapter 12 Tute ’s Return
Chapter 13 Hitihiti’s Odyssey
Chapter 14 The Red Feathers of ’Oro
Chapter 15 Three Tahitians in Lima
Chapter 16 Boenechea’s Burial
Chapter 17 Matimo and the Friars
Chapter 18 Ma’i on Ice Skates
Chapter 19 A Bare-chested Captain
Chapter 20 Tute ’s Portrait
Conclusion The Angel of History
Appendix I The Seasons in Tahiti
Appendix II Islands Named by Island Navigators

Selected Bibliography
Anne Salmond is Distinguished Professor of Maori Studies and Anthropology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Among her books are Two Worlds: First Meetings between Maori and Europeans 1642-1772 and The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: Captain Cook in the South Seas.
“A spellbinding, richly descriptive, and deeply thought-provoking account of late 18th-century Tahitian life and cultural conflict.”—Library Journal
“A gripping multidisciplinary history of this troubled encounter of European and Pacific cultures . . . Salmond has mined an immense archive to create a brilliant picture of Tahiti, and also the Europe it fascinated.”—Foreword
“There is awe to be had in reading this blockbuster of a book. Salmond offers us the satisfying, readerly pleasure of realising a particular place and time, as one carefully explored event after another is interwoven with fascinating detail and accounts of complex cross-cultural encounters. It is a complex pleasure, too, with the recounting of a profound historical record enlivened by exotic tales of the Pacific and the postcolonial twist of hearing at least something of both sides, European and Tahitian. Although I use the word "blockbuster" to express the impressive extent of the research, there are no authorial garnishes and there is no cliched salaciousness, just assured guidance through diverse sources and a narrative that glides effortlessly through hundreds of pages.”—Katrina Schlunke Times Higher Education
“Salmond's absorbing history of the European engagement with Tahiti is a study in mutual miscomprehension. Immense learning is worn lightly: we really sense the texture of Tahitian life, yet we can also appreciate the European view, with all its limitations.”—Scotsman
“Readers are in debt to Anne Salmond for adding a substantial and well-researched cross-cultural work to understanding of a decade in which Europeans, Captain Cook among them, discovered Otahite, Aphrodite's Island.“—Cook’s Log
“Scholars from many fields . . . and general readers may turn to this book as a freshly conceived, attractively written example of world history.”—Harry Liebersohn Journal Of World History
“A refreshingly even-handed analysis of late-eighteenth century affairs on Tahiti.”—Grove Koger Magill's Literary Annual / Salem Press
“The story is one that has been told many times, but Salmond’s book offers new insights. In more conventional accounts, the Europeans are the lead figures, the instigators of events. Here the opening chapter deals not with the coming of the Dolphin, but with the history of Tahiti in the centuries beforehand. . . . Throughout Aphrodite’s Island, the leading personalities among the European arrivals are matched by the chiefs, high priests and warriors of Tahiti.”—Glyn Williams Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
"This book offers a fresh history of early Tahiti, considerably richer than any published before, imaginative in its speculations around local cosmology and local meanings, but also precise in its reconstruction of the political relationships that evolved with the early visits of the British, French, and Spanish. Important and revelatory." —Nicholas Thomas, author of Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook

"The interpretive skills Salmond has brought to this project are truly remarkable, and she tells a complex and consequential story with clarity, élan, and insight." —Don Brenneis, author of Law and Empire in the Pacific: Fiji and Hawai'i

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