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Neighbourhood watch: the Pacific Islands

Neighbourhood watch: the Pacific Islands

For many of us theThe history of the Pacific Islands represent for some people is romantic, sun-filled landscapes and golden beaches. Probably many of us know little of the history of this dynamic group of nations, other than what we read or see in the media when natural disasters or other upheavals draw news attention.

full of myth, legend and idyllic beaches. For others it is a region of obscurity or puzzlement as it is reported in the media as some catastrophic or disastrous event unfolds. The latest publication from Canterbury University Press,Ian Campbell’s Worlds Apart: A history of the Pacific Islands, the latest publication by Canterbury University Press, provides this knowledge, in a comprehensive, easy to read new book.

Based upon his earlier work, History of the Pacific Islands, this book is a heavily revised and expanded edition, spanning from first inhabitance through to (and including) the tumultuous decade of the 1990s, thereby completing the history to the new I.C.Campbell, brings together the complex and changing story of the Pacific Islands into a very readable book.

How good is your knowledge of this region so close to New Zealand? Ian Campbell's previous book, History of the Pacific Islands, outlined the region’s history, but after a tumultuous decade Did you know, for instance, the answers to the following questions?

Can Maori and Hawaiians understand each other speaking their own languages? (yes, up to a point) How different are Melanesians from Polynesians? (Not very) What is the most widely spoken language in the Pacific? (English, followed by French) How was Captain Cook able to find so many new islands? (He knew where to look) Did missionaries bring about imperial annexation? (No) Who was Arthur Gordon? (first governor of Fiji) Who unified Tonga? (Taufa’ahau) Why was World War 1 important in the Pacific (changed colonial powers for several territories) Did World War 2 make a difference? (not as much as people think) Where has there been a civil war costing perhaps 20,000 lives? (Bougainville) What international agreement allows Pacific nations to get involved in each others’ internal affairs? (The Biketawa declaration) Who coined the phrase ‘The Pacific Way’ (Ratu Mara of Fiji) What does ‘The Pacific Way’ mean? (Read the book and find out!)

Dr Campbell is Associate Professor at the University of Canterbury, and will shortly assume appointment as Professor of History and Politics at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji. He has spent half a lifetime researching, travelling to and teaching about the Pacific Islands. His intention, however, was not to create an academic work. Instead, noting a lack of general literature on the background to many island events covered by news media, he has styled this work for non-academic historians, students, travellers and business people or anyone who wishes to have a sound knowledge of the the Pacific, it has been completely revised, largely rewritten and expanded to bring the story of the Pacific Islands up to the present.

The Pacific Islands are high profile for New Zealand these days, and a 'big news item' says Ian Campbell. "The Pacific Island region is frequently in the news. There is the turmoil in Solomon Islands and Bougainville, the issue of the restriction on press freedom in Tonga, Fiji is always bubbling away, and most recently a cyclone devastated Niue and damaged Samoa. Every time something happens hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid are sent, and refugees arrive to stay with their New Zealand family. Why does New Zealand have this sense of obligation to the Pacific Island region? Despite our proximity, New Zealanders don’t have much opportunity to find out the background to these issues. This book is written for those who want that background information and a feel for the region," he explains.

For the last two to three hundred years the history of the Pacific Islands has been shaped by the activities of a succession of foreigners: scientifically minded explorers, missionaries, traders and patrolling naval officers. They were followed by settlers, plantation developers and colonial officers culminating with independence and the developments since then. Ian Campbell examines in a straight forward readable style what has happened in the Pacific and how the events over time has shaped the region.
His initial interest in the Pacific stemmed from the amazing seamanship and navigational feats of the Pacific explorers at sea.. "They were amazing navigators who make the Vikings look like they were playing on a pond," Campbell adds.

"I also had to wonder about the early culture contact. What really goes on when two different cultures meet they having never even heard of each other before? how do they get on and what do they do?."

Campbell's book is for those people who want to know more about the Pacific Islands. It gives the inside story to what has happened in the region. Ideal for students, as well as, the business person, tourist or non-academic historian.

Ian Campbell is Associate Professor at the University of Canterbury, and will shortly assume appointment as Professor of History and Politics at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji.. Of Australian origin he has taught at several universities in the Pacific and has spent a half a lifetime researching, travelling and teaching about the Pacific Islands.

Worlds Apart: A history of the Pacific Islands, by I.C.Campbell, Canterbury University Press; limpbound, 230 x 155 mm, 360 pp; 0-908812-99-X, Published published December 2003, RRP $39.95 .

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