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Originally named Juan Fernández, the island of Robinson Crusoe in the South Pacific was the inspiration for Defoe’s classic novel about the adventures of a shipwrecked sailor. Yet the complex story of Britain’s relationship with this distant, tiny island is more surprising, more colourful and considerably darker. Drawing on voyage accounts, journal entries, maps and illustrations, acclaimed historian Andrew Lambert brings to life the voices of the visiting sailors, scientists, writers and artists, from the early encounters of the 1500s and the perilous journeys of the eighteenth-century explorers, to the naval conflicts of the First World War and the environmental concerns of more recent years. Crusoe’s Island explores why we are still not willing to give up on the specks of land at the far ends of the earth.
[An] intriguing, wide-ranging book...[Lambert's] narrative of Juan Fernandez's history takes in privateers in search of Spanish gold, scurvy ridden sailors recovering their health in a Pacific Eden, a penal colony nearly wiped out by earthquake and tsunami, and German and British warships exchanging fire during the First World War ... [Crusoe's Island] show[s] why this tiny speck in the Pacific has played a larger role on the world's stage than its size seems to warrant.
Engaging ... Lambert traces the development of the seesaw relationship between Britain and [the Juan Fernandez archipelago] ... As the EU totters and our union falters, Lambert's enquiry begins to feel less like a foray into the past and more like an urgent investigation into that strange blend of qualities that bound Britain together in the first place.
Excellent ... [Lambert] takes the reader on a steady voyage, from the moment the uninhabited islands emerged from the gloom of geographical ignorance after the Spaniard Fernandez discovered them in the 16th century. The tales involves piracy, the South Sea Bubble, fish 'so plentiful that in less than one hour's time two men caught enough for our whole company', whaling, sealing, shifts in imperial ambition following Britain's loss of America, evolving global trade patterns and the fashion for oceanic travel books. Crusoe's Island is a serious work that will remain the standard history for some time.
Interesting ... [Lambert's] credentials as a naval historian are solid.
[A] thought-provoking book about how a real place became an imagined place.
In Crusoe's Island, naval historian Andrew Lambert traces the history of island castaways and the rich cultural history that their experiences have inspired ... In this imaginative book, Lambert uses the history of one small group of Pacific islands to illustrate England's and Britain's break with a narrow European sense of identity as it turned into a global power, and demonstrates the role that literature played in this transition ... a brilliant achievement that demonstrates Lambert's vast knowledge of maritime history.
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