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The Pretender of Pitcairn Island
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Book description

Pitcairn, a tiny Pacific island that was refuge to the mutineers of HMAV Bounty and home to their descendants, later became the stage on which one imposter played out his influential vision for British control over the nineteenth-century Pacific Ocean. Joshua W. Hill arrived on Pitcairn in 1832 and began his fraudulent half-decade rule that has, until now, been swept aside as an idiosyncratic moment in the larger saga of Fletcher Christian's mutiny against Captain Bligh, and the mutineers' unlikely settlement of Pitcairn. Here, Hill is shown instead as someone alert to the full scope and power of the British Empire, to the geopolitics of international imperial competition, to the ins and outs of naval command, the vicissitudes of court politics, and, as such, to Pitcairn's symbolic power for the British Empire more broadly.


‘Nechtman's The Pretender of Pitcairn Island intrigues, instructs, and entertains. It is at once an energetic dialogue with many generations of Pacific scholars, a detailed meditation on British colonialism and Oceanian histories, and a feat of literary storytelling with ‘Man Who Would Be King' resonances, populated by colorful, tragic, and terrifying characters.'

Matt Matsuda - Rutgers University, New Jersey, and author of Pacific Worlds: A History of Seas, Peoples, and Cultures

'This is an absorbing account of a missing chapter in the notorious story of the mutiny of the Bounty and its long aftermath. But it is also an engagingly written, wider reflection upon maritime history and myth-making that everyone interested in Oceania's pasts ought to read.'

Nicholas Thomas - University of Cambridge and author of Islanders: Experiences of Empire in the Pacific

'From the sea came this 'pavonine tin god' named Joshua W. Hill. He came with authority, he said, to reform the descendants of mutineers of HMAV Bounty on Pitcairn's Island. But he had no authority, and instead of reform he left the island in a shambles, under arrest on a British warship.'

Herbert Ford - Pitcairn Islands Study Center

‘Through impressive investigation, [Nechtman] shows us that Hill’s CV was not as wholly fictitious as previous authors, myself included, have always assumed. Nechtman has found Hill’s textual footprints not just on Pitcairn, but across the 19th-century world, from London to Tahiti.’

Adrian Young Source: The Journal of Pacific History

‘Nechtman’s book will be of great interest to historians of Pitcairn Island and the Pacific region at large.’

Richard Lansdown Source: Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies

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