In Bligh, the story of the most notorious of all Pacific explorers is told through a new lens as a key episode in the history of the world, rather than simply of the West. Award-winning anthropologist Anne Salmond recounts with a fresh perspective the triumphs and disasters of William Bligh’s life in a riveting narrative that for the first time portrays the Pacific islanders as players. Beginning in 1777, when Bligh, at twenty-two, first arrived in Tahiti with Captain Cook, Salmond charts Bligh’s three Pacific voyages—and tells how they transformed lives on the islands as well as on board the ships and back in Europe. She sheds new insight into the mutiny aboard the Bounty—and on Bligh’s remarkable 3,000-mile journey across the Pacific in a small boat—through revelations from the raw, unguarded letters between him and his wife Betsy. This beautifully told story reveals Bligh for the first time, as an important ethnographer adding to the paradoxical legacy of this famed seaman, and it captures more definitively than ever the excitement, drama, and terror of these events.
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 European 1642-1772 and The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: Captain Cook in the South Seas.
“Anne Salmond draws on her unrivalled knowledge of early Polynesian cultures to re-tell the extraordinary story of William Bligh's voyages and the mutiny on the Bounty. Salmond writes marvelously and brings the Pacific as well as the European protagonists to life, and thus her book situates Bligh in the Pacific more effectively than any previous attempt. Bligh reveals not a British history with an exotic setting but a genuinely cross-cultural history that remains thought-provoking to this day.”—Nicholas Thomas, author of Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages
“The notorious Captain Bligh and the Bounty mutiny have captivated audiences for two centuries. Although one might think that there is nothing new to be learned of Bligh and the Bounty, Anne Salmond surprises and engages us with her retelling of this epic tale. Bringing the nuanced perspective of a sensitive ethnographer of both the Polynesians and the British Navy, Salmond traces Bligh's character over the course of his storied and occasionally tragic career, beginning with his role on Captain Cook's famous third voyage. What emerges is a portrait of a complex personality, an Enlightenment gentleman sensitive to Tahitian culture, a commander who cared deeply about his crew and their ship, a loyal husband and father, yet someone prone to fits of temper and sudden rages. With an engaging narrative style, Salmond follows Bligh's voyages and encounters in the South Seas and elsewhere, not neglecting Fletcher Christian, Peter Heywood, and the many others whose lives were forever changed by the Bounty affair. Salmond has added another masterpiece to her already brilliant repertoire.”—Patrick V. Kirch, author of How Chiefs Became Kings: Divine Kingship and the Rise of Archaic States in Ancient Hawai’i
"Bligh is not only a splendid reappraisal of the Bounty's misunderstood captain; it is that and much more. Anne Salmond has produced an extraordinary account of Bligh’s voyage that simultaneously offers new perspectives on biography, exploration, encounters, and the vast Pacific itself. This is a masterful and engrossing work." —David Igler, University of California, Irvine
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