Tautai: Sāmoa, World History, and the Life of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson

Hardback: $72.00
ISBN-13: 9780824866532
Published: May 2017
Paperback: $34.00
ISBN-13: 9780824893910
Published: June 2022

Additional Information

432 pages | 33 b&w illustrations, 2 maps
  • About the Book
  • Tautai is the story of a man who came from the edge of a mighty empire and then challenged it at its very heart. This biography of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson chronicles the life of a man described as the “archenemy” of New Zealand and its greater whole, the British Empire. He was Sāmoa’s richest man who used his wealth and unique international access to further the Sāmoan cause and was financially ruined in the process. In the aftermath of the hyper-violence of the First World War, Ta’isi embraced nonviolent resistance as a means to combat a colonial surge in the Pacific that gripped his country for nearly two decades. This surge was manned by heroes of New Zealand’s war campaign, who attempted to hold the line against the groundswell of challenges to the imperial order in the former German colony of Sāmoa that became a League of Nations mandate in 1921. Stillborn Sāmoan hopes for greater freedoms under this system precipitated a crisis of empire. It led Ta’isi on global journeys in search of justice taking him to Geneva, the League of Nations headquarters, and into courtrooms in Sāmoa, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Ta’isi ran a global campaign of letter writing, petitions, and a newspaper to get his people’s plight heard. For his efforts he was imprisoned and exiled not once but twice from his homeland of Sāmoa.

    Using private papers and interviews, O’Brien tells a deeply compelling account of Ta’isi’s life lived through turbulent decades. By following Ta’isi’s story readers also learn a history of Sāmoa’s Mau movement that attracted international attention. The author’s care for detail provides a nuanced interpretation of its history and Ta’isi’s role in the broader context of world history.

    The first biography of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson, Tautai is a powerful and passionate story that is both personal and one that encircles the globe. It touches on shared histories and causes that have animated and enraged populations across the world throughout the twentieth century to the present day.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Patricia O'Brien, Author

      Patricia O’Brien is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of History at The Australian National University.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • In this complex, multisided history of Germany’s and then New Zealand’s colonial administration of Sāmoa, Ta’isi O. F. Nelson emerges as a fascinating, profoundly intelligent, courageous, and indefatigable leader of Sāmoa’s drive for independence.
      —Albert Wendt, award-winning novelist and poet
    • Through one extraordinary life, Patricia O’Brien has written a major account of converging modern worlds. Her study of Ta’isi O. F. Nelson links empire, war, capitalism, anti-colonialism, and internationalism over six tumultuous decades. Deeply researched, this book is both a world history of Sāmoa, and a Pacific history of the early twentieth-century world.
      —Alison Bashford, University of Cambridge
    • Dr O’Brien has meticulously researched the life of Ta’isi; a life that was both tragic and inspiring. . . . Until now his story has been barely told and now, in telling it, Dr O’Brien has provided the deepest historical account ever written of Colonial Samoa between the two World Wars.
      —Meleisea Leasiolagi Malama Meleisea, Samoa Planet
    • This book is so full and rich with detail that I advise you all, read it two pages at a time, read the two pages and put it down until the next day. It is a remarkable book that every Samoan should read.
      —former Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi
    • O’Brien brilliantly divulges how Ta'isi used Western ideologies to deal with a Western institution. . . . Tautai is a wonderful contribution to Pacific Islands resistance and decolonization studies, and more generally to world, Pacific, and Samoan political history. . . . [T]his book captures the essence of Sāmoa’s struggle in the context of a tectonic movement in world history in which passionate local agents and activists promoting change emerged to contest the injustice, instability, and odiousness of colonial forms of government across the globe.
      —Brian Alofaituli, The Contemporary Pacific, 30:2 (Fall 2018)
    • Tautai provides a fascinating view of Sāmoa’s global history, and key historical figures during a tumultuous time. Throughout the book, the author has articulated a complex and nuanced narrative which brings to life Ta’isi, his family, Sāmoa and its multiple relationships abroad. . . . O’Brien’s coverage is vast and this source provides a key reference point for interested scholars, academics, students and family members.
      —Safua Akeli Amaama, Centre for Sāmoan Studies, National University of Sāmoa, The Journal of Sāmoan Studies, 7:3 (2017)
    • Patricia O’Brien’s biography offer[s] a fascinating, detailed and deeply researched portrait of one of Sāmoa’s national heroes. It is sure to become the standard work on this remarkable man.
      —Matthew P. Fitzpatrick, Australian Historical Studies, 49:2 (2018)
  • Supporting Resources