Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Contentious Waters: The Creation of Pacific Geographic Knowledge in Britain, 1669-1768

Parker, Katherine (2016) Contentious Waters: The Creation of Pacific Geographic Knowledge in Britain, 1669-1768. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (3MB)


This dissertation examines how the Pacific—covering one third of the world yet relatively new to Europeans—was portrayed prior to the famous voyages of Captain Cook. Although Pacific exploration has been extensively studied from the late eighteenth century onward, the period prior to 1770 has been largely ignored. Furthermore, exploration is usually investigated within national perspectives. This project offers a corrective to these trends; it adopts a transnational focus to investigate how societies integrated new spaces into existing geographic imaginaries. In the century prior to the Cook expeditions, the British were the main conduit of Pacific geographic knowledge to the rest of Europe. This was not because they mounted the most expeditions but because of their prolific publishing market and their particular geographic knowledge community. The Admiralty, Royal Society, and private mapmaking industry forged informal, interdependent ties to provide each other with the information necessary to make useful maps—that is, maps that could be used by navigators in foreign seas and could circulate widely. From their first commissioned expedition to the South Seas in 1669 to the first Cook expedition in 1768, the Admiralty increasingly involved themselves in the publication of voyage accounts and charts. They did so to manage their public image, but also to authenticate imperial claims. By the 1770s, exploration had become dependent on publication for its legitimation in the eyes of international diplomacy and the intellectual community. However, precisely how to create the optimum voyage account for diverse audiences was still a matter of considerable debate. Despite efforts to the contrary, the Admiralty could not monopolize Pacific geographic knowledge entirely. The resulting print wars between sailor-authors, savants, geographers, and publishers combined with geopolitical events marked the Pacific as a daunting, watery desert to be endured by Europeans. It was a place filled with giants and wandering islands and a far cry from the exotic paradise it would later become. The assimilation of geographic knowledge was just as, if not more, contentious in 1768 as it was a century earlier.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Parker, Katherinekap125@pitt.eduKAP125
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairDrescher,
Committee CoChairHoock,
Committee MemberRediker,
Committee MemberPutnam,
Committee MemberBrylowe,
Date: 8 June 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 April 2016
Approval Date: 8 June 2016
Submission Date: 15 April 2016
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 388
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Oceania, British, eighteenth century, books, cartography, discovery and exploration
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2016 15:25
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2021 05:15


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item