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Intimate Strangers


  • 18 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 336 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.53 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521728782)

When Louis Antoine de Bougainville reached Tahiti in 1768, he was struck by the way in which 'All these people came crying out tayo, which means friend, and gave a thousand signs of friendship; they all asked nails and ear-rings of us.' Reading the archive of early contact in Oceania against European traditions of thinking about intimacy and exchange, Vanessa Smith illuminates the traditions and desires that led Bougainville and other European voyagers to believe that the first word they heard in the Pacific was the word for friend. Her book encompasses forty years of encounters from the arrival of the Dolphin in Tahiti in June 1767, through Cook's and Bligh's voyages, to early missionary and beachcomber settlement in the Marquesas. It unpacks both the political and emotional significances of ideas of friendship for late eighteenth-century European, and particularly British, explorations of Oceania.

• Uses encounter as a way of rethinking European philosophies of friendship from classical times to the late eighteenth century • Balances European and indigenous perspectives • Raises the question of the significance of friendship for studies of Empire


Introduction: amicable signs; Part I. Making Contact: 1. Crowd scenes; 2. Receiving strangers; 3. Calculated affection; 4. Performance anxieties; Part II. Particular Friendships: 5. Fellow traveling; 6. Ruinous friendships; 7. Prizeable companions.


''Friendship' looms large in stories of early encounters in the Pacific, but up until now has been unanalysed, and seemed unanalysable. This is a genuinely cross-disciplinary study, animated by an impressive understanding of anthropological sources and early voyage texts; it gives us a fresh understanding of foundational moments in the modern history of empire and global interaction.' Nicholas Thomas, University of Cambridge

'Drawing on an exceptionally wide range of recent and historical sources this richly interdisciplinary book explores the meanings of friendship in the Pacific in a series of lively and lucidly argued studies. Smith's challenging case for the centrality of personal emotional commerce to early European interactions in the Pacific islands is an important and exciting contribution to Empire studies.' Harriet Guest, University of York

'… a breathtaking and inspiring work …' History Australia

'… a bold and welcome contribution …' American Historical Review

'… an invaluable reflection on the meanings of friendship …' Pacific Affairs

'… an interdisciplinary and multinuanced exercise that does much to move our understanding of European encounters … into hitherto neglected areas …' Journal of Early Modern History

'… inspiring in the range of its insight, and has the potential to reconfigure the way we approach the history of encounters …' International Journal of Maritime History

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