The People of the Sea: Environment, Identity, and History in Oceania

Paperback: $25.00
ISBN-13: 9780824832971
Published: March 2008

Additional Information

312 pages
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  • About the Book
  • Oceania is characterized by thousands of islands and archipelagoes amidst the vast expanse of the Pacific. Although it is one of the few truly oceanic habitats occupied permanently by humankind, surprisingly little research has been done on the maritime dimension of Pacific history. The People of the Sea attempts to fill this gap by combining neglected historical and scientific material to provide the first synthetic study of ocean-people interaction in the region from 1770 to 1870. It emphasizes Pacific Islanders' varied and evolving relationships with the sea during a crucial transitional era following sustained European contact. Countering the dominant paradigms of recent Pacific Islands' historiography, which tend to limit understanding of the sea's importance, this volume emphasizes the flux in the maritime environment and how it instilled an expectation and openness toward outside influences and the rapidity with which cultural change could occur in relations between various Islander groups.

    The author constructs an extended and detailed conceptual framework to examine the ways in which the sea has framed and shaped Islander societies. He looks closely at Islanders' diverse responses to their ocean environment, including the sea in daily life; sea travel and its infrastructure; maritime boundaries; protecting and contesting marine tenure; attitudes to unheralded seaborne arrivals; and conceptions of the world beyond the horizon and the willingness to voyage. He concludes by using this framework to reconsider the influence of the sea on historical processes in Oceania from 1770 to the present and discusses the implications of his findings for Pacific studies.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Paul D'Arcy, Author

      Paul D’Arcy teaches and writes on Pacific, environmental, and Asia-Pacific conflict history at Australian National University.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • This well-researched and beautifully written monograph opens a window in time and space. Its emphasis on the dynamics [of marine ecosystems] is convincing and serves to falsify the notion of a frozen ‘tradition’ as well as of a predictable maritime environment.
      Anthropological Quarterly
    • D’Arcy displays range and agility rare in a young scholar. . . . This book is daring, innovative, and should command very broad attention.
      International Journal of Maritime History
    • A superb, richly textured narrative of cultural seascapes across Remote Oceania.
      Oceania