James Cook: The Voy­ages

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - ART - Jo Knowsley

Bri­tish Li­brary, London Un­til Aug 28

He dis­cov­ered Hawaii, ex­plored New Zealand, Aus­tralia and Alaska, and shaped Europe’s knowl­edge of the wider world. In­deed, James Cook pro­duced maps so ac­cu­rate that many are still used to­day.

He was hailed a Bri­tish hero of global ex­plo­ration. His mur­der in Hawaii in 1779 by na­tives was viewed as a tragedy of the time.

This exhibition marks 250 years since his ship En­deav­our set sail and at­tempts to show us two view­points of Cook’s role.

It’s el­e­gantly cu­rated with rooms de­voted to each of his voy­ages,

fea­tur­ing orig­i­nal maps, arte­facts, art­works, jour­nals and even spec­i­mens.

But it also in­cludes films and in­ter­views with in­dige­nous lead­ers of to­day in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, who pro­claim Cook as a har­bin­ger of de­struc­tion.

To re­vise his­tory with a modern con­scious­ness is in­vid­i­ous, even if the times in which Cook lived - im­pe­ri­al­ism – may be flawed. Sir David At­ten­bor­ough praises Cook, de­scrib­ing him as ‘the great re­vealer of the Pa­cific’. We should have no reser­va­tions in fully cel­e­brat­ing that.

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