20 Jun 2011

Prize-winning Pacific history book reframes traditional view

2:09 pm on 20 June 2011

The author of a new account of the Pacific's 19th century history says it deviates from the traditional approach by focusing on the lives of specific historical figures.

Islanders: the Pacific in the Age of Empire, which came out at the end of last year, was recently awarded the internationally prestigious Wolfson History Prize.

Nicholas Thomas says his book highlights how much more cosmopolitan the Pacific was at that time than historians generally acknowledge.

He says Pacific people took advantage of as well as suffered from the effects of European colonisation.

"This was an extraordinary process of interaction that had all sorts of consequences I think for the ways islanders imagined who they were, what they were engaged in, what their political projects were, what their possible futures might be."

Nicholas Thomas says his book tries to give a sense of the complexity of movement within the Pacific.