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John: Hi, I'm John Green. This is Crash Course World History. Today we're going to talk about the life and astonishing death of Captain James Hook whose death via crocodile, what? James Cook? There's no crocodiles? Stupid history always disappointing me. Well, Captain Cook is pretty interesting too, and his death is a nice entree into one of the great historian feuds of recent times. God, I love historian feuds. (lively music) John: Captain Cook was born in 1728. He was a sailor and eventually a British Naval Officer who saw action in The Seven Years War which you will not doubt remember from last week. But he's best known for his three voyages of exploration and scientific dicovery that took place in the Pacific Ocean. The first was between 1768 and 1771. The second between 1772 and 1775, and the third between 1776 and 1780; although, on the last one Cook's journey ended in 1779 because he died. As you can see from the map, Cook pretty much owned the Pacific. He mapped the coast of Australia paving the way for British colonization, and also paving the way for the near destruction of Aboriginal peoples and their culture. As with the Columbian Exchange, Cook's voyages to Australia remade the biological landscape. He introduced sheep which paved the way for Australia's huge wool industry. Right. There was a penal colony established in Australia, but the real story of Australia is its success as a colony. Within 80 years, Australia went from 1,000 Anglo-Australians to 1.2 million. Equally important, Cook explored and mapped out New Zealand again paving the way for colonization and paving the way for Crash Course World History to make an announcement. We did it. We finally talked about Australia and New Zealand. We're a real world history class. Hazah! (horn blowing) John: Now all you Australians have to shut up about how we've never mentioned you. Right. So in his voyages Cook also determined that there was no such thing as the mythical continent of Terra Australis said to exist here, and he helped to dispell the idea of a Northwest passage which Europeans had been obsessed with for centuries. He was the first European to describe Hawaii, and also the first to keep his ship's crews free of scurvy. Cook and his successors were part of the middle wave of European colonization, the one that took place after Europeans settled in the Americas, but before they set their sites on Africa. One more thing to mention about the context of these voyages, or rather their impact. Besides huge territorial gains and increased wealth, exploration of the Pacific contributed to Europe's romantic fascination with science. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Europeans became obsessed with mapping and charting and classifying the world which maybe isn't like candlelight dinner romantic, but if you think about visiting never before seen lands, and bringing back odd life forms, think about how we feel about space. Then, of course, as they colonized people, Europeans portrayed themselves as a civilizing force bringing both science and religion. Oh, it's time for the open letter? (harp music) John: An open letter to the white man's burden, but first let's see what's in the secret compartment today. Oh, it's a mustache so I can look like Kipling. Dear White Man's Burden, I'm going to go ahead and take this off, Stan. I think Tumblr has had enough to get their gifs. So white man's burden, you're a poem, and more than a century after Kipling wrote you, scholars still disagree over whether he was kidding. This speaks to how weird and insane imperialism really was. Europeans seemed to genuinely believe that it was their unfortunate duty to extract massive wealth from the rest of the world. Seriously, were you kidding when you called natives half devil and half child because in retrospect that seems to describe you? Best wishes, John Green. Right. So now having discussed the life of Captain Cook, we shall turn to the most controversial thing he ever did; die. Let's go to the thought bubble. Cook landed in Hawaii at Kealakekua Bay in early 1779 and explored the islands. While he was ashore, he was greeted by an important person either a chief or a god. Then in early February he left, but the ship had trouble and was forced to return to the bay for repairs. During this second visit, he had difficulty with the Hawaiians who'd previously been pretty hospitable. There was a fracas in which Captain Cook was killed by at least one Hawaiian. We know this from journals kept by various crewmen, but the historical controversy arises from the details and interpretation of his death. Why, in short, was Cook killed? The traditional view is that Cook was killed for some religious reason, although, what isn't always clear. One of the most fleshed out versions of this story comes from the anthropologist, Marshall Sahlins, in his book, Islands of History. In the Hawaiian religious system, Ku, the god of war and human sacrifice rules for eight or nine months out of the year. The other months are reserved for the fertility god, Lono. The season-long festival for Lono is called Makahiki. During this the Hawaiian king who is associated with Ku is ritually defeated. During the Makahiki, an image of Lono tours the island, gets worshiped, and collects taxes. At the end of the Makahiki period, Lono is ritually defeated and returned to his native Tahiti. The thinking goes that because Cook arrived in the middle of the Makahiki, the Hawaiians perceived him as Lono so Cook took part in the rituals and sacrifices that were made as part of the Makahiki, and in Sahlins' view, Cook was killed as a ritual murder to mark the end of Makahiki. For coup to return, the festival to end, and the normal political order to be restored, Lono had to be defeated and presumably killed. For Sahlins, Cook's death fits perfectly with the ritual structure of Hawaiian culture. Thanks, Thought Bubble. The big problem with this interpretation which admittedly sounds pretty cool is that we don't have much evidence that Hawaiians would have actually seen Cook this way. We find a really interesting opposing view from Gananath Obeyesekere, and I will remind you that mispronunciation is my thing. Sorry, Gananath. Anyway, he criticized Sahlins' interpretation of Cook's death for looking a lot more like European myth than like a Hawaiian ritual. First off, Obeyesekere argues that Cook himself would not easily be confused with Lono. In fact, if you were taken for a god, it would probably be Ku, the war god, what with all the cannons and muskets. Also, there's the fact that the name, Cook, sounds more like Ku than Lono. Also arguing that native Hawaiians would see a European and think him a god has all kinds of troubling implications one of them being that native Hawaiians aren't terribly smart. When, in fact, we know that they are very smart because unlike the rest of us, they live in Hawaii. Last, but definitely not least, Lono is associated with fertility, and the Hawaiians would have associated the Europeans with the exact opposite of fertility because they introduced gonorrhea to Hawaii. There's a further problem with the Cook equals Lono equation which is that nothing in Hawaiian religion has any of their gods being ritually killed. Part of their mythology can be seen as sanctioning a ritual killing of the king, but not of a god. Also, it's a long way from ritual killing to actual killing. The truth is probably a lot less spectacular which is that Cook was probably killed during a melee in which a bunch of Hawaiians were also killed. Before his death, Cook had attempted to take a Hawaiian king hostage in response to Hawaiians taking a bunch of stuff from Cook's boats. This was common practice for Cook. He had done the same thing in Tahiti and other Polynesian islands after islanders had taken European goods which, by the way, happened everywhere Cook went in the Pacific so maybe he should have figured out that it was like a thing that you were allowed to take stuff off boats in exchange for the right to hang out there. Great sailor, terrible anthropolgist. Although, to be fair, anthropology hadn't been invented. Additionally, right before Cook was killed there were rising tensions between the Hawaiians and the Europeans even though at first their relationship had been quite cordial as evidenced by all that gonorrhea. So why the tension? Probably because the Europeans dismantled a Hawaiian ritual space, some sources call it a temple, and used it for firewood. Cook attempted to pay for it, but his lowball offer of two hatchets, I'm not making that up, was refused. I'm sorry we destroyed your temple, but I'll give you two hatchets, one for each hand. I mean what would you even do with a third hatchet? Unfortunately, the earliest Hawaiian account offering this explanation for why Cook was killed comes well after the accounts, but at least it's a Hawaiian explanation. Of course, it's also possible that the Hawaiians were just upset that Cook had attempted to kidnap their king. Most accounts from the time portray a chaotic scene in which Cook, himself, fired at least two shots probably killing at least one islander. One thing that seems pretty clear even as described by European chroniclers is that Cooks' death does not look premeditated and it sure doesn't look like a ritual. Even so, the idea that the Hawaiians saw Cook as a god has ended up in a good many accounts of his demise. Why? One explanation is that it fits in with other stories of explorers. You've all probably heard that the Tainos thought that Columbus was a god, and that the Aztecs supposedly thought Cortez was a god. This just makes Captain Cook one in a long line of Europeans who were thought to be gods by people who Europeans felt were savages. Making Cook a god also sets up a stark contrast between the enlightened West and primitive Polynesia because Captain Cook often appears in history books as a model man of The Enlightenment. Sure he never had much formal schooling, but his voyages were all about increasing knowledge and scientific exploration, and having him die at the hands of a people who were so obviously mistaken in thinking him a god, makes an argument for the superiority over the intellectualism of The Enlightenment versus the so-called primitive religion of the colonies. Whenever a story seems to fit really well into such a framework, we need to ask ourselves, "Who's telling that story?" One of the reasons we know so much about Captain Cook and the reason he shows up in so many history textbooks, is because we have tons of records about him, but they're almost all European records. Even the Hawaiian records we have about Cook have been heavily influenced by later contact with Europeans. If we cast Cook's death as part of a native ritual, we're implying that Hawaiians were just performing a ritual script which takes away all their agency as human beings. Are we making them recognizable having them respond as we think Europeans would by flying off the handle? I don't have an answer, but the debate between these two historical anthropologists brings up something that we need to keep in mind. Very often in history we make statements about people who haven't written their own story whether it's Hawaiians, or Native Americans, or working class people, and we try to imagine that we're seeing the world as they have seen it, but the best we can really do is offer an approximation. Is it really possible to present a Hawaiian version of Captain Cook's death? Or is the exercise inherently condescending and paternalistic? Most importantly, is our inability to escape our biases a good excuse for not even trying? As usual, those aren't rhetorical questions. Thanks for watching. I'll see you next week.