Captain James Cook's
Insights about
The Polynesian People




I can’t speak for other historians, I have a list of historical figures that I would love to interview. Captain James Cook is at the top of my list. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, James Cook was a British sea captain that sailed to parts of the world that were unknown to Europe during the 18th century. According to his journal, his journey began in England. He crossed the Atlantic, headed south, rounded the tip of South America, and continued heading west. His journey took him to the Polynesian Islands, New Zealand, and Australia. His journal provided a lot of insights about the cultures he encountered. I had the good fortune of visiting the Polynesian Islands. Part of my trip was for research; the other half was for vacation. One of the questions I asked the natives was, “How did they perceive James Cook? Was he a good guy or was he a villain?” Every resident I encountered praised Captain Cook, citing that he and his crew were respectful of their people. He had also done a lot to help them, including bringing chickens to their island.

That was my conclusion before my husband and I went to the South Pacific. Captain Cook was a shrewd man who understood that they needed to get along with the natives as a matter of survival. Specifically, they depended on the natives to provide them with food. Captain Cook also learned the hard way that English weaponry was far more advanced than the weapons the Polynesians used after one of his crew shot a native for stealing. Metal was unknown to the Polynesians. Their spears and weapons were made out of wood, sharks teeth, and other natural things they found on the island. Captain Cook felt terrible about shooting the native in the back. At the same time, he needed to find a way to discourage the Polynesians from stealing from them. Cook’s answer? He ordered his crew to confiscate all the Tahitian’s canoes until they returned their belongings. Cook’s plan worked like a charm. After that, Captain Cook and his crew got along well with the natives.

That story is the reason why this explorer is one of my favorite historical figures of all time. Who is your favorite historical figure and why?

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