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Business, Management and Economics » "Globalization - Approaches to Diversity", book edited by Hector Cuadra-Montiel, ISBN 978-953-51-0709-5, Published: August 22, 2012 under CC BY 3.0 license. © The Author(s).

Chapter 2

Captain Cook's Voyage Around the World - The First Steps of Globalization and the First Problems

By Metin Toprak and Berna Köseoğlu
DOI: 10.5772/45836

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Captain Cook’s Voyage Around the World – The First Steps of Globalization and the First Problems

Metin Toprak1 and Berna Köseoğlu1

1. Introduction

Captain James Cook (1728-1779), between 1768-1779, took three voyages around the world.[1] - Considering his reflections about the different cultures he observed and the impression he gained through his interactions, it is recognized that the aim of Cook was not only to carry out a geographical discovery, but also to spread the British culture to other nations, to impose the social, political, economic and cultural power of the British over these communities. In other words, it can be asserted that the first steps of colonialism were put into practice through the voyages of Captain Cook, who was appointed to this position by the British Admiralty. Analyzing the Secret Instructions of the Admiralty, it is clearly seen that the ultimate goal of the British was to attain the valuable mines, grains, and the seeds of fruits in these lands and to cultivate these products in Britain so as to achieve commercial and economic superiority. Moreover, another reason of these voyages was to observe the distinctive characteristics of the natives in order to take advantage of these aspects in accordance with the self-interest of the British. It is obvious that Captain Cook, compares and contrasts the life style, beliefs, traditions, educational background, and the conventional manners of the natives with those of the British, with the intention of emphasizing the power, prestige and superiority of British nation, thus he portrays the natives as uncivilized, violent, uneducated beings, whereas his own society is depicted as the source of progress and education. Therefore, Cook stresses that the natives, because of their brutal and barbarous traditions, kill both their enemies and one another, oppress women due to the norms of male-domination, corrupt the marriage institution by carrying out polygamy, force women to be submissive, as a consequence the inferiority of the natives is strengthened through such striking depictions. Cook indicates that the natives commit crimes, employ immoral actions and lead their lives in an isolated and restricted manner. His attempts to change these conventions prove that he is the representative of the colonizer, so one can observe the prejudice of the British against the natives and recognize the perspective based on the western understanding.

In this sense, the second voyage of Cook plays a very important role, since one of the fundamental reasons of this voyage was to discover the continent titled Terra Australis, which has been considered to exist in the Southern Sea since the ancient times, furthermore it has been proved that there was not such a continent and this can be regarded as one of the most significant outcomes of this voyage. Thus, as a result of this discovery, there appeared an outline of the world as a whole, therefore one of the most distinctive works, effectively reflecting this perception of the world in terms cultural dimension, belongs to Georg Forster. He was an 18 year old young man in 1722 when the voyage was initiated. Due to the efforts of his father Johann Reinhold Forster, a naturalist, Georg Forster was allowed to take the voyage with the purpose of assisting his father and making drafts. He brought approximately 600 drafts of animals and plants which have not been discovered before, but the first and the foremost, his collection, which was produced with the support of his father, including his own notes about the voyage, should be highlighted. In fact, his father was officially appointed to write the collection, but the outline of his writings was not appreciated and it was censored, as a consequence of which it could not be published, therefore Georg Forster, on behalf of his father, wrote the work titled A Voyage round the World and had the work published in 1777. This work, attracting the attention of public to a great extent, enables Forster not only to become a leading figure in his own period, but also to be a Professor in Kassel. What makes this work unique is that unlike Cook’s composition, it is written without any prejudice against the natives in a philosophical and critical manner, so that both the traditions of natives and the social notions of the British culture are reflected in an objective style.

The work contains so many observations about various aspects of culture together with botany, biology, and geography. In this perspective, Forster states that the development of culture is based on conditions of nature, climate and geographical position and also he concludes that these environmental circumstances undeniably influence people and their culture both in a positive and negative way, so he tries to prove his thesis by giving significant examples about the cultural norms of the natives. Moreover, he regards individual as the product of his environment both in the physical and cultural sense, therefore culture is depicted as the habits acquired by these conditions. In this respect, a society’s disregarding, rejecting, and judging the culture of another is associated with the inconsistency between the cultural features of that community and those of the other one. However, Forster, despite all these discrepancies, underlines that there are striking similarities all over the world within different social structures and in the relationship of people with one another. The emphasis on this issue can enable nations to overwhelm the problems about injustice, the wide gap between the wealthy and the poor, the social position of women, colonialism, discrimination, all of which have also been recently discussed within the criticism of globalization. Considering the impact of colonialism upon Cook’s voyage and regarding this voyage as the first step within the understanding of global world, one can define Forster’s work as a philosophical, sociological and anthropological study including the first problems emerged as a result of globalization and also demonstrating the solutions offered to overcome these problems.

2. James Cook

2.1. The real aim of Cook’s voyages

Analyzing the observations of James Cook about the different cultures he had interaction with and taking his approach to the inhabitants into consideration, it is obvious that Cook not only aimed at achieving a geographical discovery, but he also wanted to broaden the minds of natives about British culture by replacing the social and cultural norms[2] - of these people with the ones belonging to the British culture. Thus, it can be affirmed that the voyages of Captain Cook play a very important role in initiating the first steps of colonialism. Captain Cook, appointed to his position by the British Admiralty, was asked to explore the undiscovered parts of the world and to reach the mines, seeds and the grains that would contribute to British trade and economics. Furthermore, another aim of Cook’s voyages was to recognize the common aspects of the natives so as to make use of these inhabitants and to prove the colonial power of the British (Rose, 1929, 105). Therefore, it is apparent that Captain Cook, in a critical and evaluative manner, analyzes the living conditions, belief systems, cultural habits, and the distinctive attitudes of the natives, as a consequence of which he asserts the superiority of the British. In other words, while he depicts the inhabitants as ignorant, barbarous and wild beings, his own community is reflected as the centre of enlightenment and development, so Cook underlines that the natives, due to their barbarity and ignorance, kill human beings, impose their dominance over women as a result of male hegemony, prevent women from participating in social life and proving their capabilities, degenerate the marriage institution by employing polygamy, hence these examples strengthen the negative image of the natives. Moreover, with the intention of indicating the corruption in these communities, J. Cook highlights that the natives do not hesitate to commit crimes and to spread immorality over their societies. Considering Cook’s attempts to alter the actions and understandings of these people in accordance with the British notions, it is obvious that as a representative of the British colonizer, Cook was charged for the voyages, so within the narration of Cook, the biased views of the British about the natives can be observed.

2.2. Cook’s relationship with native people

Considering Captain Cook’s observations about the native people he met during his second voyage, one can clearly see that he regards the native people as uncivilized, uneducated, and violent, therefore he emphasizes that they should be educated in accordance with the manners of European civilization, which is seen as the source of enlightenment. This proves that he affirms the superiority of the western culture, the British civilization, by considering the natives to be brutal due to lack of education, as recognized in the text:

“The sight of the head, and the relation of the above circumstances, struck me with horror and filled my mind with indignation against these cannibals. Curiosity, however, got the better of my indignation, especially when I considered that it would avail but little, and being desirous of becoming an eye-witness of a fact which many doubted, I ordered a piece of the flesh to be broiled, and brought to the quarter-deck, where one of the cannibals ate it with surprising avidity.” (Cook, 1821, 436)

It is obvious that the native people are defined as cannibals, barbarous and brutal beings, as a consequence of which Cook stresses his superiority by focusing on the inferiority of the natives. Because of their isolation from the civilized life and their alienation to the opportunities of the world, they are not accustomed to the European people’s way of life, so even eating a broiled piece of flesh is an extraordinary situation for the natives. It justifies that Cook describes them as the other since they do not have the civilized manners of the western public. Thus, it is apparent that Cook cannot get rid of his imperialist view. Owing to this voyage, the British, as an imperial country, came to the fore and achieved gaining colonial power in New Zealand, Australia, California, and British Colombia in the nineteenth century (Waters, 1968,162). As a British, he feels himself as the colonizer while he regards the others as the colonized. He is the one who brings light and the source of civilization to the individuals who have a restricted life, however in Cook’s perspective even if the colonizer makes attempt to reform the attitudes, to broaden the mind of the colonized, it is hardly possible for these natives to change their outlook as observed in the quotation:

“Next morning, I made the natives another visit, accompanied by Mr Forster and Mr Hodges, carrying with me various articles which I presented them with, and which they received with a great deal of indifference, except hatcheta and spike-nails; these they most esteemed. […] we saw the whole family. It consisted of the man, his two wives (as we supposed) […].”(1821, 371)

The approach of the inhabitants to the objects brought by Captain Cook should be taken into consideration, because C. Cook criticizes the indifference of the people to these materials as he thinks that due to their lack of education, they are unaware of the importance and benefits of these products. The items attracted their attention are hatchet and spike-nails,[3] - since they know that they can make use of them while dealing with their tasks. Although it is normal for them not to be interested in the other articles, C. Cook finds it unusual. He asserts that the goods that can be used in modern life are more important and beneficial than the primitive ones such as hatchet and spike nails. Therefore, he represents the imperial British view and behaves as a colonizer, who aims at altering the perspective of the colonized to life. Furthermore, another criticism about these people is related to the dominance of patriarchy and their freedom in terms of sexuality, so Cook says that as far as Mr Forster, Mr Hodges, the other participants of the voyage, and he himself suggest, after observing the relationship of the native man with the other two women, they have supposed that he has two wives. It reflects the male-domination in society and the vulnerability of women because of the superior position attributed to the males. Nevertheless, Cook, rather than considering the influence of the environmental conditions upon the behaviours of these people, merely focuses on the inequality between man and woman in order to judge their primitive manners. As Beaglehole also suggests, he sheds light on the life of natives in a sceptical manner, in other words he does not take anything for granted due to his mistrust in inhabitants (1956, 424). He criticizes the inferior position attributed to females by the patriarchs in society by giving examples about the corruption in terms of marriage, sexuality, and the concept of morality in these words:

“That there are prostitutes here, as well as in other countries, is very true, perhaps more in proportion […].But the truth is, the woman who becomes a prostitute does not seem, in their opinion, to have committed a crime of so deep a dye as to exclude her from the esteem and society of the community in general.” (1821, 415)

What should be emphasized about the quotation is that the transmission of prostitution is not seen as a crime but as a way of life according to the male dominated society, because they themselves have sexual affairs with these women and to satisfy themselves sexually they do not condemn this profession and disrespect the prostitutes. Cook highlights that the corruption among the natives becomes an ordinary custom, which demonstrates the spread of degeneration in society. In this sense, Cook dwells on the gender problem and attacks the prejudice against the females by stressing that, “[g]reat injustice has been done to the women of Otaheite, and the Society isles [...]” (414). However, while illustrating the problems, he cannot take the situation into account in an objective way without any biased view, because as a Western man he thinks that the values, life styles, ideologies, cultural habits and beliefs of the British are superior to the others’ notions, so he unconsciously humiliates the primitive traditions of the ‘other’ who are defined as uncivilized. Analyzing Cook’s portrayal, in most of the parts of his work, it is clear that he does not consider the impact of environmental factors and restricted atmosphere upon the habits of dwellers, as a consequence he finds out the practices, which are inconsistent with those carried out in Britain, and regards them as brutal and abnormal. Since he cannot forget his origin and background within his depictions, his comments on the different practices employed by the residents of the islands show his prejudice against the ‘other.’ For example, Cook explains the dominance of male population in public as seen in the excerpt:

“The inhabitants of the island do not seem to exceed six or seven hundred souls; and above two-thirds of those we saw were males. They either have but few females among them, or else many were restrained from making their appearance during our stay; for though we saw nothing to induce us to believe the men were of a jealous disposition, or the women afraid to appear in public, something of this kind was probably the case.” (1821, 453)

As the two-thirds population of the island consists of males, Cook claims that it is due to the narrow-mindedness and jealousy of men or women’s fear to be seen by the others in public. He states that though they have not noticed anything related to jealousy of males or females’ worries about appearing in public, he stresses that either of them must be the case. It justifies the prejudice of the British against the inhabitants of the island. Both of the claims despise the natives in terms of their perspective to situations and their approach to one another; in this respect as a western man, Cook defines the society of those people as underdeveloped and socially corrupted, so the imperialists argue that it is the European people who have brought the light of education and progress to the uncilized, however the people on the island also consider the western to be a threat and the cause of a disease for which they could not find a cure as it is emphasized:

“The Otaheiteans complained of a disease communicated to them by the people in this [Spaniard ship] ship, which they said affected the head, throat, and stomach, and at length killed them[…]. I should have concluded that, long before these islanders were visited by Europeans, this, or some disease which is near akin to it, had existed amongst them. […]. These people are, and were before the Europeans visited them, very subject to scrofulous diseases; so that a seaman might easily mistake one disorder for another.” (1821, 412)

In this respect, as a western man, Cook represents the other Europeans by putting the blame on the inhabitants of Otaheite. The spread of disease among the natives is said to have been dominant before the arrival of the Europeans, in other words western people cannot cause such a serious disease, since they see themselves as saviours who have the mission to educate, civilize and to reform the ‘savage’ man. So, according to Cook, only natives, due to their isolation from the modern life and its opportunities, and because of their restricted knowledge of science and medicine, could not heal that malady. Ironically enough, despite his complaints about the actions of those people, he continues to discover the unexplored parts of the world, because one of the reasons of this voyage was to find out the profitable lands that could be cultivated for the benefit of British commerce (Gough, 1989,217), as a result while Cook criticizes the public for their violence and barbarity, he does not give up exploring the land of those people. In the light of the issues discussed, it can explicitly be affirmed that in spite of the advantages the British tries to benefit from, they do not hesitate to indicate the brutality and savagery of the inhabitants, thus negative aspects of life are attributed to the primitive people as it can be deduced in the quotation below:

“[…]I went to the place myself, when I learnt that one of the inhabitants had been very troublesome and insolent. This man, being pointed out to me, completely equipped in the war habit with a club in each hand, as he seemed bent on mischief, I took these from him, broke them before his eyes, and, with some difficulty forced him to retire from the place.” (1821, 405)

One of the inhabitants’ attempting to attack Captain Cook, the representative of the European man, is described by Cook himself. His depicting the native man through the adjectives “troublesome” and “insolent” shows that he aims at proving that the attacker is a ‘savage,’ whose violent and brutal manners should be reformed, therefore Cook’s taking the sticks from him and breaking them before his eyes portray that he feels it necessary to educate that man. His achieving to calm down the ‘brutal’ man and to prevent him from employing his violence is reflected in the following excerpt:

“After the first transports of his grief were over, he began to expostulate with his people, telling them, (as far as we could understand) how well I had treated them, both in this and my former voyage, and how base it was in them to commit such actions.” (1821, 406)

Thus, Cook states that the intention of European people is not to give harm but to improve the condition of the ‘ignorant’ and to rehabilitate them by changing their wrongdoings into good behaviour. Furthermore, although the western men do not know the language of the natives, they claim that the inhabitants see the western people as civilized beings who have good intentions and they can conclude that such an attempt to attack the European is debasing. So according to his own perspective, Cook interprets the situations and dialogues, as a consequence he justifies the actions of himself and the people accompanying him whereas he portrays the ‘other’ as ferocious, impolite, ill-mannered beings; thus “the tragic clash of cultures”[4] - (Stoddart, 1997, 537) plays a very important role in the progress of Cook’s diary, in this sense, while dwelling on these cultural contradictions, he behaves as a colonizer who tries to change the self-identity of the colonized so that one can conclude that the first steps of colonialism could be recognized in Cook’s demonstration of natives’ life.

2.3. Cook's reflections

As western people regard themselves as more learned, refined and enlightened, Cook, as a European man, thinks that the inhabitants practise wrong applications not only in terms of social and cultural manners, but also in terms of religion. Human sacrifice for the sake of gods is questioned and criticized by Cook, since according to Christianity, there is no human sacrifice for god and there is no polytheism, therefore the natives are condemned as they kill innocent people for the sake of their religious understanding, as a result of which they are depicted as barbarous and cruel individuals who could not broaden their minds and visions to life. The dialogue below between Cook and the inhabitants proves the differences between these two cultures in terms of religion:

“As I had some reason to believe, that amongst their religious customs, human sacrifices were sometimes considered as necessary [...].I then asked, If they sacrificed men to the Eatua? He answered Taata eno; that is, bad men they did, first Tipperahy, or beating them till they were dead. I then asked him, If good men were put to death in this manner? His answer was No, only Taata eno. I asked him if any Earees were? He said, they had hogs to give to the Eatua, and again repeated Taatu eno. I next asked, If Towtows, that is, servants or slaves, who had no hogs, dogs, or fowls, but yet were good men, if they were sacrificed to the Eatua? His answer was No, only bad men. I asked him several more questions, and all his answers seemed to tend to this one point, that men for certain crimes were condemned to be sacrificed to the gods[...].” (1821, 413)

The dwellers’ sacrificing the ‘bad’ men by beating them until they die is analyzed by Cook. First of all, the concept of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is said to be determined by those people according to their unquestioned traditions, which makes Cook irritated. Secondly, in order not to be sacrificed, they can give their animals to be sacrificed, which is another practice of religion problematized by Cook, and finally what is under analysis is criminals’ being murdered for the sake of their gods. All of these habits show that isolation from the outside world, the constrained life people have been leading with their own values, doctrines, and regulations make them determine their own laws. Cook, rather than focusing on the reasons that lead these persons to these practices, denounces their wild and primitive manners, so he cannot leave his British origin behind and cannot deal with the attitudes of the ‘other’ objectively, so while shedding light on their different traditions, he attacks their brutality. In this outlook, their barbarity is strengthened with several examples, which portray these individuals as violent creatures. For instance, their murdering a man against whom a priest has an antipathy (1821, 414) is expressed so as to indicate their ignorance and their blindly committing crimes without any hesitation. In addition to killing people for the sake of religion, they are also said to be accustomed to stealing, which is another crime that must be punished according to Cook:

“The night before, one of the natives attempting to steal a water-cask from the watering place, he was caught in the act […]. I expostulated with Otoo on the conduct of this man, and of his people in general; telling him, that neither I, nor any of my people, took anything from them, without fist paying for it. […]. I, moreover, told him, that the punishing this man would be the means of saving the lives of others of his people, by deterring them from committing crimes in this nature […].” (1821, 467)

One of the natives’ being caught while stealing a water-cask is described by Cook, who tries to teach the man not to steal by saying that European people do not take something without paying for it. Although his intention seems to be good, his attempts to convince the others to punish him justify that he regards himself as the decision-maker and law-giver. He thinks that if this ‘immoral’ man was not condemned to punishment, the other natives would go on stealing, so as a warning to the others, he must be punished. It would be worth discussing the manner of Cook in this situation, because even if he makes a criticism about their putting their own rules into practice, he himself also tries to interfere with their regulations and change them in accordance with his own western understanding. Even though he does not belong to that community, he makes an effort to rule and dominate them culturally, socially and politically, consequently he represents the western philosophy, which affirms the superiority of the European and underlines the necessity to educate and civilize the ‘brutal.’

3. Georg Forster

3.1. Philosophical description of the journey

The second voyage of Captain Cook comes to the fore as more significant than the other two voyages in terms of its aim and results. What makes this voyage very significant is that the naturalist, Johann Reinhold Forster was appointed to reflect his observations about the voyage in an objective way by making a scientific research. But, as it will be highlighted in the paper, it was Georg Forster, the son of J.R. Forster, who wrote his reflections about the voyage. When J.R. Forster was selected by the British Admiralty in 1772 to take part in the second voyage of Captain Cook, his son Georg was 18 years old. [5] - The goal of the voyage was to go to the South Sea, which was explored by Cook between 1768-1771, to reach New Zealand from Cape of Good Hope, and to discover Easter Island from Polynesia and Melanesia, and finally to arrive in Cape of Good Hope again from Tierra del Fuego with the intention of returning to England in the end. J.R. Forster, who was asked to prepare a scientific report about the voyage after his return, only demanded to bring his son to the voyage as a draft maker.

During this voyage, the South Sea would deeply be explored, moreover it would be discovered whether the continent supposed to have existed in this region really existed or not. It was claimed that Terra Australis, the continent that could be seen in the maps that belonged to the Ancient period and Medieval Times, was thought to extend from India to the South Pole (Küchler-Williams, 2004, 17). By the end of this voyage, it would be proved that such a continent which was regarded as establishing the balance of the world, did not exist (Forster, 1877, 133). Another important result of this voyage was the emergence of a very significant study that could be considered to be a turning point in the field of travel literature and also to be one of the most significant compositions belonging to the Age of Enlightenment (Neumann, 2005, 75.). When the work that would be written by J.R. Forster was subjected to some obstacles, it was composed in 1777 by his son George Forster, who entitled the work as A Voyage Round the World.

“He was told that if he meant to preserve his claim to half the profit arising from the plates which the Board of Admiralty provided, he must conform to the letter of the agreement; and though he had always considered himself as sent out chiefly with a view to write the history of the voyage, he acquiesced for the benefit of his family, and strictly confined himself to the publication of his unconnected philosophical observations made in the course of the voyage.” (Forster, 1877, 7)

The manuscripts J.R. Forster sent to the Admiralty for revision were not rejected in the beginning, but it was suggested that it should be analyzed by an English in terms of language and style. This suggestion was regarded as a censure by J.R. Forster, so since Georg Forster was disillusioned by the frustration of his father, he decided to compose the work on behalf of his father so as to motivate him. In order to achieve his goal, he made use of the diaries of his father and his own drafts, approximately 600 drawings.[6] - Forster, who had the chance to observe Captain Cook’s journals, stressed that he did not prefer to make use of Cook’s work, since Cook subjectively focused on the details about the natives, which could not be correlated with the philosophical perspective of Forster. For example, the following excerpt by Forster shows that he deals with his task in an analytical, systematic and objective manner:

“The seaman views many objects on shore with retrospect to maritime affairs, whilst the other attends to their economical uses. In short, the different branches of science which we have studied, our turns of mind, our heads and hearts have made a difference in our sensations, reflections, and expressions.” (Forster, 1877, 8)

Therefore, it is clear that the aim of Forster is to discuss the outcomes of the voyage in a philosophical manner, because he thinks that due to the rise of enlightenment in his society, a romantic disposition within narration cannot appeal to the readers of his period. Moreover, the most important target of Forster is to express his opinions and observations without any prejudice, so he underlines that the praise and attacks in his reflections do not contain any biased view in terms of nationality, therefore he emphasizes that he treats everyone as an equal in an objective manner (Forster, 1877, 10). Forster highlights that he collected the data about his experiences related to his voyage and effectively combined them with one another so that his work would be a turning point for the other travel books, because he believes that all of the prejudices and subjective viewpoints should be eliminated within narrations, since he aims at replacing the biased views of the authors with a scientific and an objective outlook that can broaden the minds of people and enlarge their vision to life.[7] - However he was aware of the fact that it would be hard to carry out these principles throughout the process of his writing:

“I have sometimes obeyed the powerful dictates of my heart, and given voice to my feelings; for, as I do not pretend to be free from the weaknesses common to my fellow creatures, it was necessary for every reader to know the colour of the glass through which I looked. Of this at least I am certain, that a gloomy livid tinge hath never clouded my sight.” (Forster, 1877, 9)

It proves that Forster is not indifferent to his weaknesses, some of which can also be recognized in his work. Moreover, these flaws justifying the impossibility to depict facts in a totally objective way and not to be under the impact of cultural values (Hall, 2008, 109). This situation is based on a perspective which affirms that varieties in terms of scientific methods, the minds and the emotions of people, lead to the differences about their feelings, observations and their statements. It can be stated that Forster supports a progressive, humanist, global, totally eurocentric perspective by paying attention to morality and religion under the influence of his father.

3.2. The reasons of cultural differences

Forster’s work, which discusses philosophically Cook’s second voyage around the world, also includes many botanical, biological, and especially geographical depictions. But, what is foregrounded in his work is the portrayal of people, their living conditions, their relationship with their environment, and particularly their cultural notions. Some depictions and observations contain a literary quality[8] - , however the author asserts that he does not prefer to add extra fictional details to his work, since there is no need to elevate such a culturally colourful voyage of discovery with fiction, as a consequence Forster’s work acquires both scientific validity and literary subtlety (Martin, 2004, 1637). In that period, travel literature became one of the most basic genres of literature and this aspect enabled this genre to emerge as the most important means of communication among cultures. Therefore, works like A Voyage Round the World can be regarded as documents that portray, in global terms, the interaction between different cultures and that demonstrate the transfer of cultural values (Frank, 2006, 9). The most significant point that distinguishes Forster’s work from the other works of travel literature is that it consists of the first positive and negative reflections of a global world perception and it affirms that there has been nearly no place in the world that has not been discovered. Thus, in the work, together with the environmental aspects of the geographies discovered, the cultural notions of the inhabitants have been compared and contrasted with the western culture, and the philosophical content of this work made people read it not only in the era it was written but also in the following centuries. Forster’s observations about individuals and their culture, his perception of those cultures and the way how he depicts them, as well as his knowledge related to nature, have established the background and the basis of many critical writings about the discussions of globalism carried out in contemporary world. The author deals with such concepts as culture and civilization with a new approach with his criticism about the eurocentric viewpoint. The work can be read as a product of humanist philosophy, which does not regard a culture as superior to the other, from the most developed to the least primitive.

In the light of the issues discussed, Forster’s study, about the people on the islands of the South Sea, whose culture has been portrayed as idealized since the middle of the 18th century, plays a very important part in terms of cultural analysis. Since the publication of the travel book (1771) of Louis-Antoine de Bougainvilles, the first French who travelled around the world (1766-69), especially the South Sea of Tahiti was regarded as a heaven and the inhabitants were considered to be ‘noble savages,’ who were in the beginning of the civilizing process (Hall, 2008, 43). This region, so far away from Europe, made Forster critically compare and contrast the cultural habits he recognized there with those belonging to Europe. These comparisons and contrasts were based on the social structure, power relations, religion, traditions, language and cultural aspects. In accordance with his reflections, Forster concludes that the nations of the world do not differ from one another in terms of structure, but the difference from one individual to the other is associated with the capability of people to survive in any environment in any condition, even “in the burning sands of Africa, and in the frozen extremities of the globe” (Forster, 1877, 623). In all of these communities, some significant characteristics such as inequality, greed, the desire to dominate, and to impose pressure can be observed in some respects. Forster explains this fact by indicating that human beings establish similar life styles everywhere, but the cultural values that come into view as a result of social structures vary. As can be seen in the quotation below, the cultural differences are based on different factors. For instance, Forster, realizing the skills of the Tahitian people in a different kind of music, which does not consist of any melodies, expresses his feeling in this manner:

“The effect of these notes, without variety or order, was only a kind of drowsy hum, which could not indeed hurt the ear by its discordant sounds, but made no pleasing impression on our minds. It is surprising that the taste for music should be so general all over the world, when the ideas of harmony among different nations are so distinct! Charmed with the picture of real happiness, which was thus exhibited before us”. (Forster, 1877, 623)

Although he utters these expressions, he does not regard his own culture as superior in terms of the progress people have experienced. He claims that every culture is equal to the other, since culture is a product of habits which come to the fore as a consequence of education and particularly many environmental factors. In another work he produced in the following years, (Über lokale und allgemeine Bildung, 1791), owing to the knowledge and experiences he gained through this voyage, he effectively defines the characteristics of individuals and the culture they have established. He thinks that the status of human beings in the universe totally depends on the local factors in their environments. Climate, the geographical position of the region, the height of the mountains, the way the rivers float, the features of the soil, the species and variety of plants and animals, somehow restrict people or make them free in terms of some aspects, so all of these elements have a considerable impact upon individuals from the shape of their bodies to their moral values (Forster, 1963, 45). Thus, culture, which has become a habit in time, is a process of education directly related to regional circumstances. In his work, Forster exemplifies the effect of the aspects, restricted to a specific region, on the physical state and moral notions of people. For instance, he emphasizes that on Madeira Island, common people’s having big feet is due to “the efforts they are obliged to make in climbing the craggy paths of this mountainous country”(Forster, 1877, 25). Moreover, Forster highlights another similar situation about the impact of local conditions upon people; for example the violent warriors in New Zealand, and peaceful and mild public of Tahiti have different attitudes and behaviours in spite of the same origin they come from. The provincial characteristics have made individuals in New Zealand cannibals, whereas Tahiti, Forster’s second home, in his own words, is the country of inhabitants who do not make so much effort to survive, since nature offers them everything they need, so they hardly have such emotions as domination, fierce, greed, and jealousy. Similarly, while the foreigners coming to Tahiti are warmly and friendly greeted, citizens from Europe are faced with timidity and envy on the islands of New Zealand with so many rocks even if these surroundings are not so far away from Tahiti, and according to Forster, this discrepancy is:

“Owing to the difficulty of preserving their existence from the scanty provisions on their narrow circle, and which may be heightened by the consciousness that their small numbers render them liable to oppression.” (Forster, 1877, 141)

Forster asserts that the fertile lands in Tahiti and its warm climate enable the growth of nutritious products so that Tahitian people are healthy, happy and harmoniously living together without any worry about the future.

“This climate, and its salubrious productions, contribute to the strength and the elegance of their form. They are all well-proportioned, and some would have been selected by Phidias or Praxiteles, as models of masculine beauty. Their features are sweet, and unruffled by violent passions. Their large eyes, their arched eyebrows, and high forehead, give a noble air to their heads, which are adorned by strong beards, and a comely growth of hair. These, as well as their beautiful teeth, are the proofs of vigour, and of a sound habit of body.” (Forster, 1877, 380)

In this angle, Forster assumes that considering the New Zealanders who have many enemies and who do not have productive lands, it can be asserted that due to the insufficiencies in the environment inhabitants have an inclination to cannibalism, since as a consequence of starvation and poverty, human beings may adopt different actions and approaches. In New Zealand, since life is based on killing the enemy and eating the flesh of the dead person because of rage, the natives have realized that they can be healthy if they taste the flesh of the corpses, thus Forster asserts that those killing their enemies have begun to eat the dead bodies, so it has turned out to be a habit. Accordingly, civilized people’s disgust of human beings’ flesh is related to their education.

3.3. Social criticism

Analyzing the importance of education in one’s perception of life, it can be asserted that the education the European people have received is such a kind of ironical educational process that Forster expresses his perspective about the western culture by making self-criticism: “Though we are too much polished to be cannibals, we do not find it unnaturally and savagely cruel to take the field, and to cut one another’s throats by thousands, without a single motive” (Forster, 1877, 380). In this sense, Forster’s criticism against his own nation is also associated with the sailors. He states that due to the way how they were brought up, the seamen who cannot even imagine the idea of eating the flesh of an individual, can employ so much barbarity, which can be regarded as worse than cannibalism. Although Forster does not criticize the practices of colonialism inflicted by people from Holland in Africa, dwelling on his discourse, he can even be seen as among the anti-colonialists of his period. His tendency to learn the language of native people he has come across in his voyages, to compare and contrast their language with the other ones, to employ the original names of these places instead of the phrases used by the European sailors, and to support the inhabitants who are peacefully leading their lives despite their isolation from the outside world, all of these, prove that he is an anti-colonialist. Forster, going one step further, affirms that the relationship between the European with the natives on the islands of the South Sea should be hindered:

“It were indeed sincerely to be wished, that the intercourse which has lately subsisted between Europeans and the natives of the South Sea islands may be broken off in time, before the corruption of manners which unhappily characterises civilized regions, may reach that innocent race of men, who live here fortunate in their ignorance and simplicity.” (Forster, 1877, 168)

Forster also begins to question that how the Europeans cannot achieve eliminating their inclination to destruction, violence, and cruelty in spite of their knowledge and their ability to analyze and evaluate, in other words, he employs a social criticism. Furthermore, Forster observing the foreign cultures, recognizes the irrational situations belonging to his own culture. In this sense, he emphasizes different nations’ different manners of eating. He centres on people’s consumption of pork in Europe although the taste of dog meat is similar to lamb, which has also been consumed by many people, and in spite of the fast fertilization of dogs, they do not want to consume the dog meat. While the meat of the dirtiest animal, according to many cultures, is without any hesitation eaten, people disgust dog meat, and Forster explains this situation by referring to the impact of education upon the acquisition of habits. Forster states that the same tendency can be recognized within the consumption habits of animals and indicates that the dogs in New Zealand consume their own species as the inhabitants have the same custom. In other words, not only the people but also the animals are cannibals there. Similarly, Forster also declares that the dogs on the islands of the South Sea are regarded as the silliest animal, whereas in Europe they are considered to be animals with special capabilities, and he explains this contradiction in this way: “But it is owing to the time we spend on the education of dogs, that they acquire those eminent qualities which attach them so much to us” (Forster, 1877, 134).

Forster thinks that European individuals’ rejecting to eat dogs should be questioned as it is an irrational attitude, however he himself, under the influence of his father’s Protestant moral values (Nuemann, 2005, 78), inevitably represents his father’s strict religious principles, which may be defined as irrational by another culture. For example, he finds it difficult to accept the nakedness of Tahitian women and their freedom in terms of their sexual understanding. The Tahitian females belonging to all social classes, in exchange for some bed covers or clothes, do not resist fulfilling the sexual desires of sailors. In New Zealand the situation is worse, since women, with the confirmation of their fathers or brothers, cannot say no to the seaman’s immoral proposals for only some nails or for a shirt. When the inhabitants have realized that by this way they can attain the useful tools and materials of the Europeans, they begin to sell their wives and daughters to the sailors for sexual slavery when they want to get rid of them. It is a usual tradition, because a single girl before marriage can have more than one boyfriend. Thus those who are not subjected to this corrupted system are merely the married women who are expected to be loyal to their husbands. According to Forster, the degenerated way of life, in other words, the spread of prostitution is the negative outcome of the interaction between the two cultures, so he questions whether it is the natives or the Europeans who cause the problem. Even though he cannot reach an absolute conclusion, he implies that both sides are responsible for this system, since he believes that on the one side “the members of a civilized society, who could act such a brutal part”, on the other side “the barbarians who could force their own women to submit to such indignity” can be seen (Forster, 1877, 121). In this respect, Forster gives more striking examples so as to prove that he lost his belief about the possibility to see people having created a heaven-like environment. The scene in which a fat man and his two servants prepare the table for Forster causes him to lose his hopes about a society equality and justice have been somehow established:

“We had flattered ourselves with the pleasing fancy of having found at least one little spot of the world, where a whole nation, without being lawless barbarians, aimed at a certain frugal equality in their way of living, and whose hours of enjoyment were justly proportioned to those of labour and rest (Forster, 1877, 41). Our disappointment was therefore very great, when we saw a luxurious individual spending his life in the most sluggish inactivity, and without one benefit to society, like the privileged parasites of more civilized climates, fatteningon the superfluous produce of the soil, of which he robbed the labouring multitude.” (Forster, 1877, 165)

Towards the end of the voyage, after seeing Tierra del Fuego, on the south of the Strait of Magellan, where people who are not civilized and developed enough to protect themselves from cold and to provide themselves with sufficient food, Forster totally changes his mind related to the state of happiness and concludes that the European citizens are more pleased with their life than these people who constituted their own primitive way of life (Forster, 1877, 632). Forster, in the last chapter of his work, defines these inhabitants as human beings “who follow the impulse of their senses, without knowing the nature or name of virtue” (684). But, this remark is valid not only for these natives but also for Tahitian people who have polytheistic belief system despite their heaven-like life with their highly developed living style and traditions. According to Forster, the noticeable shortcoming of these human beings is that they do not adopt a religious belief system based on only one exalted God, in other words they do not have monotheistic religion. The basic principle and the source of morality in the west, which is one’s devoting himself/herself to merely one God, cannot be observed among the inhabitants of the islands, since they are so preoccupied with providing their basic needs that they have no time for dwelling on the fundamental principles of religion. In spite of their limited capabilities about evaluative thinking, they tried to improve themselves in the field of religion, nevertheless they could just achieve establishing “a system of polytheism as ever was invented” (Forster, 1877, 398). All of these observations made Forster regard religion as the primary notion of morality, as a consequence of which the relationship of individual with religion is defined by Forster as essential to attain moral values. However, towards the end of the 18th century, people’s relationship with reason and knowledge, instead of with religion, was the ultimate criteria (Küchker-Williams, 2004, 31). One can recognize that Forster also puts the 18th century philosophy into practice in his reflections, but his statements that disillusioned people are associated with his devotion to his own faith. Therefore, it can be claimed that Forster supports both knowledge and religion for the progress, prosperity and the future of a society, however he could not see the combination of these notions on the islands he visited. Particularly, his emphasis on the importance of knowledge can be recognized throughout his work. He thinks that the focus on knowledge makes it easier to learn about nature and to adapt to the conditions in nature, so the tools in the hands of the European, which are depicted as a part of civilization, knowledge and development by Forster, and the reaction of the people on these islands to these materials, according to Forster, play a very important role in portraying the culture of these people. For example, Forster claims that a man from New Zealand, who realizes the importance of shovels and big nails, learns to use them, so he is an intelligent person, whereas people leading their lives in a dehumanized way, lack intelligence:

“They seemed totally insensible of the superiority of our situation, and did not once, with a single gesture, express their admiration of the ship, and its many great and remarkable objects.” (Forster, 1877, 630)

Furthermore, Forster, so as to broaden the minds of these people, believes that they must have interaction with the English culture, so he demonstrates his views about the transportation of a native, in Tahiti, named O-Mai, to England. O-Mai, who was brought back to Tahiti during the third voyage, was introduced to the English upper class during his stay in England “and presented at court amidst a brilliant circle of the first nobility” (Forster, 1877, 10), but he could not focus on the habits of English, which could be useful for his own nation. Forster thinks that his lack of concentration is related to his child-like evaluation capability. Like a child, he only dwelt on satisfying his instincts, however despite this weakness, Forster emphasizes the necessity to make an effort to educate this native man, so he tries to say that we should do our best “to improve his moral character, to teach him our exalted ideas of virtue, and the sublime principles of revealed religion” (Forster, 1877, 11).

Forster, emphasizes these eurocentric opinions which seem irrational, also in his essay Über lokale und allgemeine Bildung, which he produced in the following years, and also states that the knowledge belonging to Europe is in fact not original, since it is a treasure collected from the whole world. In European culture, the distinctive features of the natives may not be so apparent, but all of the traditions and the principles of Europe have not been established by the Europeans themselves, so it cannot be denied that its culture is the combination of other cultures (Forster, 1963, 48). Forster indicates that the knowledge that came to the fore as a consequence of the Enlightenment of Europe has been gathered from different parts of the world, so the progress experienced by Europe as a result of their focus on knowledge should be shared with the natives, who need to acquire a new perspective to life through knowledge. So the voyage of Forster enables him to realize that there are so many people who require knowledge to survive, consequently one must help these people so as to fulfil the necessities of humanism. For this reason, Forster’s attending this voyage of discovery has been considered to be a very beneficial and progressive step for humanity (Forster, 1877, 12). However, Forster stresses that those who would support these people must not impose the understanding of colonialism on these inhabitants, so the aid that would be brought to the natives should be based on just helping individuals gain the positive outcomes of leading a civilized and a moral life and contributing to the establishment of a more prosperous and peaceful living condition. Forster, at the end of the voyage, realized that a civilized, developed and educated society is better than a community destined to a primitive life: “The superiority of a state of civilization over that of barbarism could not be more clearly stated, than by the alterations and improvements we had made in this place” (Forster, 1877, 105).

4. Conclusion

Considering these voyages of discovery to be the first steps of globalization, one can point out that the problems about this process were scientifically analyzed by Forster. The most serious of these problems was the wide gap among different citizens of the world in terms of their economic condition, which has not been solved yet in our contemporary age. The solution Forster offered to this problem can be summarized in this manner: Those who were responsible for creating and broadening this wide gap due to their superiority in terms of knowledge and skills, as a result of the necessities of humanism and civilization, should support the ones who needed urgent help, but Forster was not sure whether or not such a support was essential for the public on the islands of the South Sea, who were leading a peaceful life, because he thought that such extensive knowledge and capability of thinking have not led European people to positive results. He was highly influenced during the voyage by the immoral and ego-centric manners of the European sailors, and it was not the ideal Europe Forster imagined, therefore he suggested that the inhabitants and the European on the islands should not have a relationship with one another (Forster, 2000, 200), because the life of the natives did not consist of past or future but just present with limited concepts and objects. As such an isolated life would be unpleasant, boring and unbearable for European people, who have been familiar with so many materials and notions, would destroy that peaceful environment due to their progress in terms of education and social structure.

Finally, comparing and contrasting the narration of Cook about the second voyage with the reflections of Forster related to the same voyage, it is clearly seen that while Cook cannot leave his British background behind, Forster achieves a more objective and philosophical portrayal of cultural multiplicity. Cook, commenting on the social life and cultural norms of the natives with prejudice, comes to the fore as a representative of British colonizer, whose ultimate goal is to dominate the language, religion, ideology, and the traditions of the colonized. However, Forster, in most of his observations, accomplishes to portray a more realistic panorama of different cultures, as a result of which his work can be regarded as a collection focusing on the distinctive features of different communities and dealing with the different way of life belonging to these groups of people. In this sense, Forster sheds light on the unexplored parts of the world by dwelling on the inhabitants’ living manners, whereas Cook emphasizes the necessity to alter these people’s habits and practices, which are considered to be wrong and immoral according to the western understanding. In this respect, similar problems can also be recognized in contemporary societies, as a consequence of the attempts to establish the structure of a global world, in which different cultures have close interaction with one another, therefore Captain Cook’s voyage can be regarded not only as a voyage of discovery, but also the first steps of globalization and its problems, which have not solved even in contemporary world. Thus, it is clear that through time not Forster’s, but Cook’s understanding has been put into practice, therefore one can conclude that in contemporary age different cultures have been experiencing a difficulty to accept and respect the cultural values, ideologies and social manners of each other, so the perspective of modern people to different cultures is similar to the viewpoint of Cook. Although there are some institutions and people supporting the ideology of Forster, their notions have not been appreciated by a wide range of groups. In this sense, it can be asserted that Cook’s understanding, from the very beginning, has been respected and put into effect. The outlook, which rejects the values of different cultures, disrespects their way of life, comes to the fore as a result of the feeling of superiority, thus those regarding themselves superior attempt to change and civilize all the principles that do not coincide with their own morals, therefore this ego-centric aspect of many western societies can also be observed in economics; consequently, within the globalization process, the insufficiencies and the problems which emerged from the beginning of this process, have influenced the approach of individuals in contemporary communities to different values belonging to different cultures, thus the conflicts and struggles among these groups have not resolved yet due to lack of communication, cooperation, respect, solidarity and empathy among these individuals.


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[1] - Captain James Cook, between 1768-1779, took three voyages around the world. In his first voyage (1768-1771), Cook, with Charles Green, the astronomer and the assistant at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, Dr Solander and Mr Banks, travelled from England to Cape Horn, the islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, Tahiti across Pacific, exploring New Zealand, and Australian Continent. In his second voyage (1772-1775), with John Reinhold Forster and his son Georg Forster, German naturalists, William Hodges, an artist, together with Tobias Furneaux, the second lieutenant of Captain Wallis, Mr Wales and Mr Bayley, the astronomers, Forster discovered the unexplored islands and Antarctica, re-explored Tahiti. Moreover, since he found out that the hypothetical Terra Australis did not really exist, this voyage comes to the fore as the most significant one. Finally, in his third voyage (1776-1779), with Sir Hugh Palliser, Philip Stephens, John Montagu, the members of Royal Navy, Cook travelled around Hawaiian Islands, Sandwich Islands, North America, Alaska, and South Pacific, and was killed in Hawaii by the natives (Kodicek&Young, 1969, 51-52).

[2] - The natives’ manners of speaking, eating, praying, together with their traditions such as polygamy and polytheism, were criticized by Cook, who attempted to eliminate the regional habits of inhabitants and to teach them the British norms of marriage, religion, and the civilized public manners, so the personal identity, in other words, individuality of these dwellers was ignored for the sake of colonial understanding.

[3] - Hatchet and spike nails attracted the attention of the inhabitants, since they could benefit from these materials while building their houses, constructing their boats, repairing their wooden objects, protecting themselves in nature. It proves that the wild life and isolation from the opportunities of modern world forced them to become accustomed to a primitive way of life. However, Cook, rather than explaining this fact as an outcome of their living conditions, criticized their interest in traditional materials.

[4] - The clash between the cultures is defined as tragic as a result of the conflicts, problems, lack of communication that came into view within the process of interaction. Throughout the voyage, the inability of the British to empathize with the native people, to accept their individuality, to respect their culture, causes serious contradictions between the British and the natives. Thus, rather than establishing peace, order and enlightenment, Cook and his companions, try to change the personal identity of the inhabitants, which makes their encounter a tragic one.

[5] - Georg Forster, when he was eleven, with his father, went to Russia in 1765. The mission was initiated by Katherina II, and the purpose was to analyze the condition of the German colonies. During this period, which lasted more than a year, Forster not only supported his father, but also received education in St. Petersburg in the field of maths, history and geography and also learnt Latin, French, and Russian. The father, Forster, before their return to Germany, went to England and started to work in the Warrington Academy, where his son, in the following years, would take courses about drawing, and a year later the other members of the family came to England (Uhlig, 2004, 25). Johann Reinhold Forster, owing to his good relationships with people and due to his studies in the field of naturalism, was chosen, instead of Joseph Banks, to participate in Captain Cook’s second voyage (Forster, 1877, 694).

[6] - These drawings were sold by Forster in order to provide the cost of the work’s publication and only several years ago they were found in the Natural History Museum, and then published in Germany (Georg Forster Reise um die Welt Illustriert von eigener Hand; Mit einem biographischen Essay von Klaus Harpprecht und einem Nachwort von Frank Vorpahl. Frankfurt am Main: Eichborn-Verlag, 2007).

[7] - It should be taken into consideration that when Forster produced such a scientific, objective and comprehensive work in the light of his own observations, he was a very young man at the age of twenty without any university degree, and was brought up by his father, who worked as a priest, naturalist and as a teacher.

[8] - The following examples prove the literary aspect of Forster’s work. The first quotation reflects the first impressions and feelings of Forster when he first saw the Island of Tahiti: “In the evening, about sun-set, we plainly saw the mountains of that desirable island, lying before us, half emerging from the gilded clouds on the horizon.” (Forster, 2000, 141-142). When they returned to the island after eight months, that glamorous island was more exotic: “Early in the morning I awoke, and was as much surprised at the beauty of the prospect, as if I had never beheld it before. It was indeed infinitely more beautiful at present, than it had been eight months ago, owing to the difference of the season. The forests on the mountains were all clad in fresh foliage, and gloried in many variegated hues; and even the lower hills were not entirely destitute of pleasing spots, and covered with herbage” (Forster, 2000, 348).