Review Blog

Nov 21 2019

James Cook: The story behind the man who mapped the world by Peter FitzSimons

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Hachette, 2019. ISBN: 9780733641275.
(Age: 15+) Recommended. The discovery of the east coast of Australia, by Captain James Cook's first expedition had a significant impact on the history of the continent. The lives of its Aboriginal inhabitants were changed forever, convict settlements were later established by the British, and unique flora and fauna was revealed to the world. Cook's expeditions also had other significant results which are highlighted in the book.
This well researched and interesting story describes how the character and skills of the great explorer led him from his impoverished Yorkshire boyhood with little formal education, to rise through the ranks of the British navy and on to scientific exploration. Cook's ability to lead his crew in a variety of dangerous situations was extraordinary. When life expectancy at sea was low due to scurvy, Cook did everything he could to ensure fresh food was available and on most expeditions death through on board illness was very low. Cook was awarded by the Royal Society for his research in this field.
Peter FitzSimons delves into Cook's motivations and reasoning in many situations, to reveal his true character and his essential compassion for his fellow human beings. In telling the story the roles of others, especially Sir Joseph Banks, are vividly described.
Descriptions in the book are written by the author based on first hand accounts with footnotes. The text includes maps, illustrations and portraits from the time of the explorer as well as sketch maps to aid understanding. A plan of the ship 'Endeavour' was omitted.
Students of History will find this book useful in understanding James Cook, the early exploration of the Pacific and the experiences of the native inhabitants and their often violent engagement with the ship's crew.
Paul Pledger

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