Captain James Cook: A Biography

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Overview

"[Hough's] thorough and lively biography . . . interprets the life with sympathy and skill. From first page to last, Hough leaves no doubt that he is telling the story not merely of a great sailor but also of a great man."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World
James Cook, born in 1728, was one of the most celebrated men of his time, the last and the greatest of the romantic navigator/explorers. His voyages in the Royal Navy to the eastern and western seaboards of North America, the North and South Pacific,...

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Overview

"[Hough's] thorough and lively biography . . . interprets the life with sympathy and skill. From first page to last, Hough leaves no doubt that he is telling the story not merely of a great sailor but also of a great man."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World
James Cook, born in 1728, was one of the most celebrated men of his time, the last and the greatest of the romantic navigator/explorers. His voyages in the Royal Navy to the eastern and western seaboards of North America, the North and South Pacific, the Arctic, and the Antarctic brought a new understanding of the worlds geography and of the peoples, flora, and fauna of the lands he discovered.
Richard Hough's vivid narrative captures all the excitement of this age of discovery and establishes Cook as a link between the vague scientific speculations of the early eighteenth century and the industrial revolution to come. A pioneer in many fields, Cook produced maps of unprecedented accuracy; revolutionized the seaman's diet, all but eliminating scurvy; and exploded the myth of the Great Southern Continent imagined by earlier geographers and scientists.
Hough consulted numerous archives and traveled in Cook's wake from Alaska to Tasmania, visiting many of the Pacific islands—including the spot where Cook was stoned to death by cannibals in the Hawaiian archipelago—to produce a comprehensive and immensely readable biography, full of new insights into the life of one of the worlds greatest mariners.

This meticulous narrative captures an age of discovery and establishes Cook as a link between the vague scientific speculations of the 18th century and the industrial revolution to come. Includes an interesting new element is medical evidence that may explain Cook's strange behavior on his final voyage.

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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
An engaging, intelligent retelling of Cook's extraordinary life.— Verlyn Klinkenborg
Chicago Tribune
Lively and scholarly. . . . Hough, by condensing Cook's life into a single volume, has brought his achievements into a sharper and stronger focus.— Jon Manchip White
Verlyn Klinkenborg - Boston Globe
“An engaging, intelligent retelling of Cook's extraordinary life.”
Jon Manchip White - Chicago Tribune
“Lively and scholarly. . . . Hough, by condensing Cook's life into a single volume, has brought his achievements into a sharper and stronger focus.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Is James Cook to be best understood as an explorer and scholar or an agent of European imperialism? This comprehensive biography by a noted writer of popular maritime history tells Cook's story without taking much of a stand. Even as a junior naval officer, his abilities secured him one key appointment after another on exploration and survey expeditions between 1763 and 1779. Hough emphasizes the importance for military, commercial and scientific purposes of the accurate charts and maps produced by Cook. Anthropological investigations were by-products of Cook's usual primary missions. A mixture of arrogance and innocence led him to ignore signs of increasing friction between British sailors and Pacific islanders. His death by stoning at the hands of Hawaiian warriors on Feb. 14, 1779, heralded the end of the Age of Reconnaissance in the Pacific and the beginning of an age of conquest. Illustrations. (Mar.)
Library Journal
A prolific author of scholarly and popular works, including The Last Voyage of Captain James Cook (LJ 12/15/79), Hough has now authored a highly readable narrative of the life of the great 18th-century navigator, explorer, and cartographer who "shaped the shores" of the Pacific Ocean, including many of its islands and polar regions. This new biography does not supplant J.C. Beaglehole's definitive The Life of Captain James Cook (LJ 4/1/74). However, the author's travels in the wake of Cook's voyages and his scrutiny of the scattered archival sources give this work a fresh and lively quality. Hough sustains his opinion that Cook is a bridge between the scientific speculations of his own day and the industrial revolution that followed in the next century. Recommended for both academic and public libraries.-William F. Young, SUNY at Albany Lib.
John Manchip White
Lively and scholarly... an incomparable introduction to Cook's extraordinary career.
Chicago Tribune
Jonathan Yardley
[A] thorough and widely biography... [Hough] interprets the life with sympathy and skill. From first page to last, Hough leaves no doubt that he is telling the story... as a great man.
Washington Post Book World
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393315196
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/17/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 436
  • Sales rank: 551,783
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Hough, a noted naval historian and author, lives in England.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2003

    Converted!

    I bought this book at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, because it was the only book in the giftshop, and I was desperate for something to read. I like Jane Austen, not naval history. But lo and behold, I was converted! This bio is scholarly, but engrossing and very readable. Hough's passion for sea adventure comes through, but he remains a fair narrator. Try it!

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