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- History - general, Book reviews
- RAN Ships
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- March 2014 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Discovery and Empire – the French in the South Seas edited by John West-Sooby. Published by the University of Adelaide Press, 2013. Paperback of 281pages with b&w maps and illustrations. rrp $55.00. Also freely available online http://www.adelaide.edu. au/press/.
Discovery and Empire is taken from a collection of eight essays originating out of a symposium that was held at the State Library of South Australia in July 2009. These review a collection of historic papers on the principal French maritime explorers from the time of Gonneville who, in his voyage from 1503 to 1505, believed he had discovered the fabled great south land. The voyages of such navigators as du Fresne, La Pérouse, Baudin and d’Entrecasteaux are examined. These were all men of intellect and understanding who made significant discoveries in New Holland, New Zealand and Van Diemen’s Land and they presented their findings for the benefit of later generations in charts and scientifically based written records supported by elegant illustrations and paintings. This is exemplified in the French understanding of natural history which far surpassed that of England and Spain. They were not however as successful in following their knowledge with the practical aspects of settling new lands in this region.
The early French explorers were handicapped by Spanish claims to the Pacific and later British territorial claims. This led to a contest between Britain, France and Spain for new possessions in the South Pacific and expansion of trade particularly to northwest America.
Among those listed or mentioned are works by Doctor Frank Horner and Commander Andrew David who, during WW II, served in or commanded RAN patrol boats in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
This book contains a fund of information about Pacific history and is full of information and theories with abundant references. It is sometimes difficult to do justice to the technical excellence of the illustrations in the way they are presented in this volume. The scholar and those with an academic interest in Pacific history will find it an engaging and useful source of reference.
Reviewed by Marsden Hordern