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Island at the End of the World: The Turbulent History of Easter Island Hardcover – 1 Aug 2005
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"Many books about Easter Island are superficial fluff. . . . There is no such flummery in Steven Fischer's new book. As befits the head of the Institute of Polynesian Languages and Literatures in Auckland, New Zealand, he has produced a scholarly and readable account of the island's turbulent history. . . . Mr Fischer tells this long and complicated tale clearly, precisely and sympathetically. . . . A fascinating and highly readable history of one of the most exotic islands on earth."--The Economist
"Fischer has produced an academic work. . . that chips away at the distorting varnish of mysticism that has surrounded the island in recent times. There is a moving drama in his charting of a remarkable community that has lost its cultural identity and faces a uniquely challenging future." -- Kate Colquhoun "The Daily Telegraph" (05/28/2005)
"Fischer''s fluent narrative reveals how smallness, isolation, and a fragile environment have shaped the history of this tiny community. . . . Its strength lies equally in the author''s sensitive micro-study approach and its subject matter. Above all, it deserves a wide readership because Easter Island still presents a global warning about the imperative of environmental sustainability."--"American Historical Review" --Philippa Mein Smith"American Historical Review" (04/01/2006)
"Fischer's fluent narrative reveals how smallness, isolation, and a fragile environment have shaped the history of this tiny community. . . . Its strength lies equally in the author's sensitive micro-study approach and its subject matter. Above all, it deserves a wide readership because Easter Island still presents a global warning about the imperative of environmental sustainability."--Philippa Mein Smith"American Historical Review" (04/01/2006)
Famed for its breathtaking isolation, Easter Island was a verdant South-Sea idyll when a small canoeful of Polynesians arrived in c. ad 700. Centuries later the island's statues were famous throughout the world. This book presents, for the first time in the English language, the history of Easter Island told by a writer who is intimately familiar with the island, its people and their extraordinary story. When voyaging in the South Pacific became far less widespread around 1500, Easter Islanders became stranded on their desert-like isle, and were forced to adapt to survive. The first European visitors, in 1722, encountered a people thriving in total isolation, surrounded by huge architectural platforms of fitted stones topped by hundreds of monolithic busts. Subsequent intruders brought trade, disease, violence, and the Easter Islanders adapted to this change, too, through cultural re-invention: new leaders, new rituals, new gods.Steven Roger Fischer relates the compelling history of this unique region: how wars, smallpox and the Great Death decimated the island, how Catholic missionaries arrived in 1866 to relieve the suffering of the dying people, and how a despotic Frenchman claimed the island for himself, but was then killed by the remaining islanders - a population then of only 111. The author also examines the modern history of the island, and its colonization and annexation by Chile. He relates the peaceful but insistent civil rights movement in 1964-65 whereby the Rapanui people were granted citizenship and could move freely about their island again for the first time in 70 years. Today, the population has increased, as has tourism of the island - from 2,000 visitors in 1991 to 20,000 in 2001 - which continues to be managed by the Rapanui themselves. Foreign interest in Easter Island has never been so keen, for the majestic archaeological endowments of the island is still one of Earth's most impressive. This book is a much-needed history of this little-known but remarkable island. See all Product description
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Obviously, the arrival of the first Polynesian settlers and the earlier history of the island is based a fair amount upon conjecture and steeped in somewhat retrospective myth and folklore. Therefore, a lot more space is devoted to the arrival of Europeans and onwards where events have been more documented. However, even during the twentieth century there is certainly some murkiness surrounding events due the objectives of those with vested interests.
The latter stages endeavour to adopt a fairly more optimistic tone suggesting the Rapa Nui people (which the book determines as now being more multicultural due to their interaction with the larger world) are beginning to take some control once more of their own destiny. But it also firmly suggests that the continual threats to the island’s limited resources is still present.
Being essentially a work of history the book doesn’t really focus at all on anything archaeological. Obviously, the archaeological remains are referred to but only in so far as they relate to politics of the time and the events happening on the island. For example, the Japanese restoration of Tongariki is discussed from the viewpoints of it bringing employment and promoting tourism rather than any detail of the actual surveying or processes behind the restoration.
‘Island at the End of the World’ provides a good background for a visit for those who wish to know something of the island’s history, its modern and recent history in particular. It would serve equally well as informed armchair reading and would also work reasonably well as an accompaniment to a more archaeologically oriented guide.
I couldnt put it down and enjoyed every page, highly recommended to all.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
A good book.
Seth J. Frantzman