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Captain James Cook: A Biography Paperback – January 23, 2013


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Captain James Cook: A Biography + The Journals of Captain Cook (Penguin Classics) + Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (January 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393315193
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393315196
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Captain Cook must have been a great leader.
Gale Simpson
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in setting sail on the open seas from the comfort of your chair, you won't be disappointed!
Ed Robbins
The book is well footed-noted and the story is told using excerpts from many of the sailors' original journals and letters.
Kim Burdick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a fine biography of a fascinating man. And, judging from a search of Amazon.com, there don't appear to be too many biographies about James Cook in print. Mr. Hough's book is much easier to read than Beaglehole's; and it is a good introduction to start with before tackling Cook's Journals.
One thing that caught my attention was how radically different Captain Cook behaved on his third and final voyage. On the earlier voyages, he acted much more decisively, and showed remarkable concern for his men. They in turn developed great affection and respect for their leader.
On that last fateful voyage, Cook acted very much out of character. He was short-tempered, even cruel. He made hasty or stupid decisions and took foolish risks. At more than one point the crew was close to mutiny.
Hough explains that perhaps Cook was suffering from a parasitic infection or other physical and mental afflictions. This might explain his unusual behavior. It also occured to me that perhaps the good captain was simply "burned out" (to use a modern phrase). After having completed two round-the-world trips of 2-plus years each, the last thing this man needed was another long voyage. Even his superiors in the Admiralty knew he needed and deserved a rest. Cook himself must have known that too. Yet, his sense of duty impelled him to volunteer for one more mission. The Admirals should never have permitted it. Certainly not so soon after Cook's return from Voyage Two.
This is a good book. I have long admired James Cook; now after reading Hough's work, I list the captain among my heroes.
One final note: another reviewer asks why Cook was "always returning to Tahiti." Perhaps I missed something, but I only counted three visits by Cook to that island.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was prompted to buy this book after reading 'Endeavour' by Peter Aughton (available from amazon.co.uk) which painted a completely different picture of Cook to what I imagined. After reading 'Captain James Cook' I now realise how the misconception arose - on his last and most famous voyage, he presents a Mr.Hyde personality, completely out of keeping with his previous Dr.Jekyll style of running his ship and dealing with the natives he meets - little wonder the Hawaiians took revenge (in the worst possible way). Interesting too, is the side-study of Bligh, who was already showing signs of despotism and seems to have fostered Cook's decline into cruelty, autocratic rule over his crew and excessively harsh treatment of the natives.
The author poses the possibility that a medical condition precipitated this sudden change of character, but it may also have been early senility, Altzheimer's or dementia brought on by stress - who knows?
The book is full of interesting clips from various people's logs, which show other views of life under Cook's leadership. The main thrust of the book is not that Cook was in the right place at the right time, but that he made such a consummate job of ensuring that the surveys were carried out in a methodical manner, with a healthy crew and sound ship. After all, it was HIS decision on what type of ship to use, what food to keep the crew healthy, how to deal with the natives and his diplomacy that ensured that the first 2 voyages were such a resounding success.
All this is in sharp contrast to the last voyage, where he allowed the shipyard to take liberties with the refitting of his ships, the lack of diplomacy, his cruelty to the natives and his lack of patience with his crew. This only serves to reinforce what an extraordinary leader he had been.
A splendid read which has furthered my interest in history and exploration - more like this please!
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Ed Robbins on September 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was prompted to read this book after finishing Longitude which alludes to the progress Captain Cook made in a seamans health at sea. What I found was a man who rose to the top of his trade by applying himself and following his curiousity. He not only changed the way men lived while at sea, he travelled the globe in search of new and exciting places. While it's true he wasn't a great discoverer, the length and success of his trips speak for his talent and drive. Imagine spending upwards of 3 - 4 years at sea seperated from you home, family and friends and doing it on a vessel 100 feet long with a crew of 100! It's unheard of today and speaks of the fortitude adventures, such as Captain Cook, possessed. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in setting sail on the open seas from the comfort of your chair, you won't be disappointed!
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Robert Blumenfeld on March 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
I had the great pleasure of recording this entertaining book for the American Foundation for the Blind's Talking Books program. Rather than summarize its contents, well done in other reviews on this site, I will simply say that I found it extremely easy to record because it is written in such flowing, evocative prose. In fact, it reads very much like a fascinating adventure novel, and Robert Louis Stevenson could almost have written it. The travels of Captain Cook are superbly recounted, and make engrossing, absorbing reading.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By William J. Higgins,III on February 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Destiny. Some people possess an innate psyche as to what they want to do in life. James Cook would be one of those people. From his days as a youth working in an English seaside shop, Cook dreamed of sailing in a ship to discover other lands and people. He did it, becoming one of England's greatest navigators.
Richard Hough effects a daring read of this fascinating man. With firsthand quotes from the men who were on Cook's three voyages, the book is complete of adventure, misfortunes, perilous storms, native peoples with their ensuing customs and demeanor, geographical descriptions, disorientation, cannibalism, scurvy outbreaks, etc.
He joined the Royal Navy and worked his way up the ranks becoming surveyor in eastern Canada. With honor and distinction from these years of service, he accepts a position to captain an expedition to the South Pacific for exploration and to study the Transit of Venus for astronomical observations.
With accolades from this voyage, Cook is again asked to lead an expedition to the South Pacific in order to discover and survey the South Pole. Adventure after adventure follows.
His third and final voyage is to locate the mythical northwest passage by first journeying east around the Cape of Good Hope and then straight north through Hawaii to the northwest coast of North America. We see during this final expedition that due to a possible parasitic intestinal infection from his previous voyage, Cook's character and conduct is unbecoming of him and at times his behavior is unrestrained. He meets his final days at the hands of Hawaiian natives.
A discerning look into an accomplished and extraordinary man.
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