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The Fatal Impact : the Invasion of the South Pacific, 1767-1840 / Alan Moorehead Hardcover – 1987

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Hardcover, 1987
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Concise, definitive study on the opening of the Pacific 8 Aug. 2000
By Robert H. Command - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A magnificent short book which places the reader on the deck of Endeavor and the Resolution during Cook's first two voyages of discovery in the Pacific. An easy read, yet a scholarly study of the consequences of Western contact in Tahiti, Australia and the Antarctic. One of Moorhead's central themes in the book is the Noble Savage, "happy, healthy, beautiful people whose every want was supplied by the tropical forest, and who, best of all, knew nothing of the cramping sophostries of civilization." Cook brought back evidence that the noble savage indeed existed, and writers such as Boswell, Diederot and Rousseau used it to argue that life in Europe during the late 18th century had evolved into something less than desirable. It is ironic that, despite the high purpose of Cook's voyages of discovery and the pleas of those who recognized the validity and desirability of life in Tahiti or on the barren lands of Australia, the voyages touched off a frenzy by religious zealots and profiteers. A half century after Cook had opened Tahiti to the rest of the world, Gaugin sees shadows of something so beautiful that it still moves him to create his paintings; "The overwhelming physical beauty of the woman remains, but she does not dance. Instead, she lies inert and naked on her bed ... waiting for nothing, hoping for nothing, the petals of the tiare Tahiti scattered about her, a dark, conspiratorial couple in the background and all around them the mystical shapes and symbols of the Tropics. On this one canvas the painter has written in English the one word, "Nevermore."
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A Book for all time. 11 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
They say that history is written by the victor. While this may have been the case years ago, before the advent of electronic and paper printing, it is interesting to note that often small jewels of history can still be found hidden in the sands of time. This is such a book. You may have read the bestseller, "The Fatal Shore" by Robert Hughes. While this book is dedicated to Alan Moorehead's "The Fatal Impact", it is a rather overblown attempt to take off from where Moorehead left off. Moorehead, unlike Hughes, is succinct and straight to the point, describing in a paragraph what might take Hughes pages to deploy. But Moorehead goes further by re-writing history with some of the most beautiful and descriptive language ever displayed in word, especially his lyrical but simple descriptions of the Australian 'bush' before the advent of the white man.Unlike many historical essays, Mooreheads style is to grab and swallow us; it takes and immerses us in our own past, and it is frightening. This book is a true account of the effect of the white invasion of the South pacific. Though often sad, it is devoid of token sentimentality. It is books such as these that keep our history grounded and firmly established in truth, and not the often repeated propoganda that is a common style for Western academia to employ and justfiy our own convoluted history...
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Still a classic 13 Feb. 2004
By M. A Michaud - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This 1966 book coined a term that still is used to describe disastrous impacts of more powerful cultures on weaker ones. Moorehead describes the effects of initial European contacts with Tahiti, Australia, and the Antarctic, giving special attention to the voyages of Captain Cook. Early British contacts with the Tahitians are described in fascinating detail. Cook perceived that Western impact on Tahiti would have serious negative effects, writing that it would have been better for the Tahitians if the British had never visited the island. In his description of the initial British colonization of Australia, Moorehead focuses on the mistreatment of the aborigines, including the complete elimination of native Tasmanians from their homeland. Most of the section on the Antarctic is about Cook's determined attempts to reach the continent with his ships. Cook's descriptions of abundant sea life around Antarctica had the unintended effect of provoking whalers and sealers to decimate many species. Well written, this book is a chastening read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Devastation of unintended evolution - 4 May 2010
By Gary Powell - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Few books have address head on the devastation wrought by the culture of exploration. Man has sought out new worlds almost as a evolutionary response but the impact that has resulted in well-documented and discussed in the pages of Alan Moorehead's 1966 work on the South Pacific "The Fatal Impact" Traces the years between 1767 and 1840, Mr. Moorehead addresses primarily the travels of James Cook in this "short account of the penetration of the Pacific over a period of eighty years..." His overwhelming premise "the Tahitians had no need for these people before; if they had been left undisturbed they might have gone on forever without them..." threads this significant work on a tapestry sometimes illustrating amazing discovery but more often darkly shadowing the disease, cultural disruption and political devastation left in the wake of these early Pacific explorers.

Lavishly illustrated with depictions from Cook's own journals, engravings by Godfrey, paintings by George Tobin, sketches by Joseph Banks and dozens of other contributors to history, the pages of this work take us from the romanticized land of Tahiti to the incredible mysteries of Australia and on to endure the savage cold and ice of the Antarctic. A good if somewhat studious read for serious students of Pacific history.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Classic 17 Nov. 2006
By Miran Ali - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An absolute classic. No praise can do justice. Suffice to say, if you're here, you'll buy this book. It's just sad that so few people have even heard of anything written by Alan Moorehead apart from the two books on the White and Blue Nile.
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