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Friday, August 19, 2011

Scholarly comment on Tupaia

From Cambridge

Scholarly comment on the contribution of Tupaia to the broad topic of Civilizations in Contact.

 I know that Alan Moorhead touched on these topics years ago in his "Fatal Impact" but the fantastic detail in your "Tupaia" does so bring home the awful wall of incomprehension that must have baffled both cultures at that period.

What a wonderful and intelligent man Tupaia must have been, and it was really very sad-making to read your final chapters of his illness and death. Such an unnecessary death in modern terms.

It has become a bit fashionable, perhaps, in the past few decades to attack the people who for a long time have been heroes of the British Empire: Scott, T.E. Lawrence, Kitchener etc. I am sure that you did not intend "Tupaia" to be iconoclastic, even though James Cook worshippers might be affronted at suggestions that he was a bit devious. But isn't it so typical of the heroes of that time, especially the men of action in the Royal Navy, to have an absolute almost fanatical faith in their own rightness, and superiority of knowledge and intelligence over the natives of foreign places. One thinks of Franklin, who might have survived if he had been more aware of the ways in which the Inuit survive in those barren regions of northern Canada.

I have really enjoyed reading "Tupaia" and it has made me think very differently about many things. Why is it, for example, that some British people are so alienated from the standards that we and our friends accept as normal, that they should think it their right to go out to loot and burn?

With thanks to Dr Martin Evans

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