Pacific Worlds

A History of Seas, Peoples, and Cultures

Pacific Worlds

Asia, the Pacific Islands and the coasts of the Americas have long been studied separately. This essential single-volume history of the Pacific traces the global interactions and remarkable peoples that have connected these regions with each other and with Europe and the Indian Ocean, for millennia. From ancient canoe navigators, monumental civilisations, pirates and seaborne empires, to the rise of nuclear testing and global warming, Matt Matsuda ranges across the frontiers of colonial history, anthropology and Pacific Rim economics and politics, piecing together a history of the region. The book identifies and draws together the defining threads and extraordinary personal narratives which have contributed to this history, showing how localised contacts and contests have often blossomed into global struggles over colonialism, tourism and the rise of Asian economies. Drawing on Asian, Oceanian, European, American, ancient and modern narratives, the author assembles a fascinating Pacific region from a truly global perspective.


"Finally – a coherent portrayal of the immense Pacific. Matsuda narrates brilliantly the communities that traded and warred among islands, mainland, and currents; he illustrates beautifully the cultural exchanges and social struggles of this vast region. This book will ensure that the Pacific becomes central to discussion of global historical patterns." -Patrick Manning, University of Pittsburgh

“This is a daring and thought-provoking read, as the author weaves together individual life experiences to demonstrate the complex interplay between transcultural connectedness and power contestations. Reminiscent of Sugata Bose’s A Hundred Horizons, which focused on the Indian Ocean, Matsuda’s book has managed to transcend local, regional and world history in literary-quality tales of “overlapping transits” that challenge our conventional categories and highlight larger historical issues.” -David Chappell, University of Hawai`i

“The range of Matt Matsuda's Pacific Worlds is extraordinary. This book breaks down longstanding distinctions between the histories of the Pacific Islands and those of east and southeast Asia and America's Pacific coast. Broad-brush in the best sense, it offers a superb distillation of changing economies, societies, and imaginations. Taking the reader from ancient migrations to current political conflicts, it's a fine introduction to the human history of the world's largest ocean.” -Nicholas Thomas, University of Cambridge

''The book interweaves a fascinating network of tales and episodes that illuminate the diversity of Pacific localities and lives through history. Matsuda's narrative, revealing a remarkable breadth and depth of research and understanding, is both forcefully polemical and eloquently - even entertainingly - readable.” -Harriet Guest, University of York

"Matsuda's style of writing is extraordinarily detailed, but he never loses track of the main line of argument. His selection of narratives to weave different strands of historical development together is superb." -Toon van Meijl, International Journal of Maritime History

“Many in the huge surrounding landmasses of South-East Asia, East Asia, the Americas and Australia see “the Pacific” as being the countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. Matt Matsuda’s splendid history shatters the basin and, with it, the rim… For those most interested in the Pacific Islands, this book addresses and contextualizes the substantial contacts of south Asia and China with the western Pacific, especially northern Australia and New Guinea, a prolonged relationship that some notable Pacific historians have largely ignored to privilege later English and French interactions on Tahiti in the late eighteenth century.” - Judith A. Bennet, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, Pacific Affairs

as he has done throughout this book, Matt Matsuda makes us think right to the last page. Not a bad result for any historian." -Judith A. Bennett, Pacific Affairs


2012 Choice Outstanding Academic Title