The Untold Story of Captain Cook and His Legacy
- Kirstin Downey
15th June 2024
250 years ago, English explorers roaming the Pacific Ocean stumbled upon a group of islands previously unknown to the outside world. The lush archipelago, later known as Hawaii, would become a hub of global trade and a tempting prize for the ambitious powers of Europe, America and Asia.
Cook's 'discoveries' have made him a hero in Britain, but the real impact of his voyages has never been accurately described. A cover-up British Admiralty at the time still shapes our understanding. However, this book offers important new evidence – of how deadly disease, notably syphilis, was introduced by the Europeans, and plagued the islanders. Of how easily the white men could kill native islanders with guns. And how British armaments were later used by islanders against each other. Kirstin Downey uses her knowledge of the Hawaiian language and original handwritten letters, government records and eyewitness testimonies from research in the US, the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand, the UK and elsewhere. She unearths the story of the Hawaiian queen who welcomed the English explorers and whose descendants had to deal with the consequences, ultimately bringing recovery to their people with education, medicine and diplomacy. This is a tale of two worlds colliding and of how guns, germs and steel transformed the Pacific region. It is an important reappraisal of an enduring British hero, which adds a new chapter to the region's history, and show what really happens when imperialists and indigenous people have met - a story familiar around the world.