Cook 250 years on: Paul Daley and others mark a necessarily low key anniversary

Update 4 May 2020: Henry Reynolds in Pearls and Irritations on Dutch voyages prior to Cook.

Update 3 May 2020: Lynette Russell of Monash University on pre-Cook contacts.

Update 1 May 2020: Nicholas Thomas in Inside Story.

Update 30 April 2020: Jonny Crane reads from Cook’s journal, 29 April 2020.

Today, 29 April 2020, is 250 years since Lieutenant James Cook landed at Botany Bay and shot an Indigenous man. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that the celebration of this anniversary has been pared right back. The proposed (and anachronistic) circumnavigation of Australia is certainly not happening.

Guardian Australia‘s Paul Daley has marked the day with a trenchant piece.

Official commemoration will laud Cook today [writes Daley]. But it will do so in isolation from his many complexities and flaws – and from the terrible experiences of generations of Indigenous people in the clash of continental civilisations for which Cook arguably paved the way.

Over at The Conversation, a series of articles on Cook and his significance commences with an interactive on his voyage and its impacts. Then there is Maria Nugent on Cook’s first contact with Australian Indigenous people, Peter N. Meihana on Cook in Aotearoa New Zealand, John Gascoigne on the choice of Botany Bay, Alison Page on the relevance of Cook’s voyage for Indigenous-settler relations today, Louise Zarmati on Cook in schoolbooks, and many other articles accessible from here.

Among the pieces in The Conversation, Kate Darian-Smith and Katrina Schlunke examine the many Cook re-enactments that have taken place over the decades.

As this historical overview of over a century of re-enactments of Cook’s landing has shown, these events have served to reinforce Australia’s imperial and British connections. They ignore the violence of Cook’s encounters with Aboriginal people and Indigenous resistance, and perpetuate the myth of Cook’s discovery of Australia.

Then, in Inside Story, Maria Nugent tells us about an exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, forced by coronavirus to go online. Inside Story also has Hamish McDonald, former foreign correspondent, on how the Kurnell area remembers and deals with the Cook arrival.

“I can’t see any of my Koorie friends being upset that the Cook celebrations are called off,” adds [whitefella Grant] Hyde, who also writes historical novels set in the Pacific. “When La Perouse play against other teams in the Koorie Rugby League Knockout, the other teams cry out, ‘Give it to this mob, they’re the ones that let Cook in.’”

29 April 2020

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One comment on “Cook 250 years on: Paul Daley and others mark a necessarily low key anniversary
  1. Leighton View says:

    “Tis an ill wind …” etc.

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