Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Non-fiction

Published by: Cambridge University Press

This book surveys the consequent encounters between European expansionism and the peoples of the Pacific.

John Gascoigne weaves together the stories of British, French, Spanish, Dutch and Russian voyages to destinations throughout the Pacific region. In a lively and lucid style, he brings to life the idealism, adventures and frustrations of a colourful cast of historical figures.

Drawing upon a range of fields, he explores the complexities of the relationships between European and Pacific peoples.

About the author

John Gascoigne

John Gascoigne was educated at Sydney (BA hons), Princeton (MA) and Cambridge Universities (PhD and Doctor of Letters).

He has taught in Papua New Guinea and has been at UNSW since 1980.

His publications have dealt with the impact of the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment along with eighteenth-century exploration.

His monograph Captain Cook: Voyager between Words (Continuum, 2007), won the Frank Broeze biennial prize of the Australian Maritime History Association. Encountering the Pacific was awarded the 2014 NSW Premier's History Prize (General Category).

Judges’ comments

The central theme of this work of massive scholarship is the final convergence of mankind across the globe.

More particularly, it charts the last great chapter of this convergence, in which the various European explorers—Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, British, Russian—merged into a single entity, the enormously heterogeneous peoples and cultures lapped by the waters of the vast Pacific Ocean.

Driven variously by God (saving the heathens), gold (trade), and glory, all the great figures we learn about at school are here, from Magellan and Tasman to Bougainville and Cook, but scores, perhaps hundreds of less famous adventurers are also acknowledged.

By the end of the book we are, in a sense, at the end of history: all the peoples of the world have become one human race.