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Pursuing Respect in the Cannibal IslesAmericans in Nineteenth-Century Fiji$
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Nancy Shoemaker

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501740343

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501740343.001.0001

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Why Go a Fiji Voyage?

Why Go a Fiji Voyage?

(p.1) Introduction Why Go a Fiji Voyage?
Pursuing Respect in the Cannibal Isles

Nancy Shoemaker

Cornell University Press

This introductory chapter discusses why, despite the negative assumptions regarding the islands of Fiji during the nineteenth century, Americans still went there. Indeed, several thousand of them voyaged to Fiji on merchant, whaling, and naval vessels in the decades before British colonization of the islands in 1874. And more than a hundred Americans lived and died there. From a macro perspective, explaining the American presence in Fiji seems simple. Their rationale was economic: Americans went to Fiji to extract resources to sell in China. Fiji became one leg in the U.S.–China trade and a source of great wealth for the American merchants who gambled their fortunes on it. However, a closer inspection reveals that the foot soldiers of early U.S. global expansion, the individual Americans who ventured overseas, did so for more complicated reasons. An assortment of personal ambitions impelled Americans to travel to distant locales. Their motivations, albeit multiple and divergent, often derived from a desire to be respected by others and thereby attain a sense of self-worth. Their strivings to rise in others' estimation influenced the course of Fiji's history and, albeit more subtly, the history of the United States.

Keywords:   Fiji, Americans, British colonization, U.S.–China trade, American merchants, U.S. global expansion, respect, self-worth

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