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The majesty of colour : a life of Sir John Bates Thurston

CollectionsANU Press (1965- Present)
Title: The majesty of colour : a life of Sir John Bates Thurston
Author(s): Scarr, Deryck
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : Australian National University Press
John Bates Thurston began life, he said, aboard a barque bound for India - as a 13-year-old apprentice in love with the sea. Some years later, marooned in the South Seas after a shipwreck, he elected to stay on in Fiji. From being Acting British Consul and cotton planter he rose to be Governor of Fiji and High Commissioner of the Western Pacific, the office he held up to his death in 1897. Dr Scarr has delved into diaries, private letters, official correspondence and newspapers to reconstruct the colourful life story of Thurston, one of the most personally compelling and historically significant figures in modern Pacific history. He succeeds in presenting him as utterly honest and forthright, touchy and arrogant, a man often between anger and laughter - above all, completely devoted to his adopted country and its people. At the same time he conveys something of the spell that Fiji cast over Thurston when he first went to the Pacific and which remained with him always. In this book, the first part of a 2-volume work, Thurston is at odds with his own emigrant society and its racist views. But as intimate and supporter of the chiefs he is, to the Fijian elite, Na Kena Vai - the Very Bayonet, or, by free translation, the Pilot Fish. The second volume of the biography, Viceroy of the Pacific, will be concerned with Thurston as architect of policy after the Cession of Fiji to Britain in 1874, and with his role as Governor and High Commissioner. I, the Very Bayonet will not only be valued highly by historians but also read with pleasure and probe by all lovers of the Pacific and of good biography.


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