Critical Perspectives on Empire: Intimate Strangers: Friendship, Exchange and Pacific Encounters

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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.