Age of Exploration and Its Effects in Polynesia

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Did you know that Polynesians controlled 25,000 islands. This happened before the Europeans invaded them. But bad things only happened to the to certain groups. This all started when the Europeans started going on long voyages to Asia to get spices which were very valuable at the time. They kept on moving further and further out until they found Polynesia. They used stars to navigate and also compasses.

In Polynesia they were living well, trading with south america by sea. They were using special rafts called the waka and a double hulled voyaging canoe. They gained sweet potatoes by trading their chickens. They would also eat crocodiles. After a successful hunt they would dance, it was part of their culture. Dances were also used to teach history. The Polynesians had spears as a main. They built their roofs out of thatches to prevent rain from seeping through. On the islands farming was becoming less and less common as the water was lowering. But they still kept their fish and other marine animals. The farming was only for the high islands because they have good soil for farming. On certain island in New Zealand, New Guinea and Fiji, there were rivers that brought fertile soil and freshwater. Some people lived in caves and others built stone houses. For priests or highly ranked men they would have canoe shaped stone houses. Floors were usually made of dirt or sand.

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Between the 17th - 19th Britain explored the Polynesians. There was an englishman called James Cook and he made three successful voyages to the pacific islands and each time he brought back pacific things. He also learned about their culture. While James Cook was traveling the seas he also proved that most of the southern hemisphere was open ocean. To gather as much information as possible on every voyages James Cook brought scientists who gathered samples of plants and animals. During the voyage there was a horrible disease that had already killed two million sailors at the time. It was called the scurvy and was only curable with fresh fruit which was lacking in the diets diets of the sailors. Scurvy would slowly destroys the body's connecting tissues, causing lethargy, blotchy skin, rotting gums and teeth, and reopening of old wounds or healed fractured bones. If the disease was not treated as it should of been then the sailor would die.

The europeans treated the inhabitants of the islands poorly. Such as enslaving them and killing them, the enslaved ones sometimes died to the europeans diseases, and since the europeans had guns they took control easier even if there was a lot more of the pacific islanders than europeans. That was because of how to europeans traveled, which was by sea. It wasn’t a very friendly meet up because a lot of people died, even Captain Cook he got killed by the Polynesians. These islands greatly helped the europeans as it opened up for new trade and new thing. The tahiti people liked the europeans at first because they too were explorers. As they had similarities in what they did they got along well. The Polynesians were looking for metals like iron and knew knowledge. The friendship with the europeans made the Polynesians realise that they could gain access to the weapons and gunpowder that they brought over. The peace didn’t last long because all the europeans that were coming over brought over diseases that slowly lowered the population of the tahti people.

In conclusion the Polynesians were fine before the the europeans came. Also because of their traveling Cook discovered most of the southern hemisphere. But when they met in certain parts it was good but in other parts it wasn't. For example the tahiti was good as they were both explorers. After everything that the europeans did on the final voyage back Captain Cook reflected and thought to himself that it would of been better if they had never visited the tahiti. In the end the europeans treated the different areas of Polynesia in different ways, sometimes good sometimes bad. 

Works cited

  1. Beaglehole, J. C. (1967). The Life of Captain James Cook. Stanford University Press.
  2. Best, S. (1996). Tūhoe: Portrait of a Nation. Penguin Books.
  3. Bligh, W., & Martin, W. (1999). The Bounty Mutiny. Oxford University Press.
  4. Diamond, J. M. (2005). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Penguin Books.
  5. Dening, G. (1980). Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land: Marquesas, 1774-1880. University of Hawaii Press.
  6. Dening, G. (1992). Mr. Bligh's Bad Language: Passion, Power, and Theater on the Bounty. Cambridge University Press.
  7. Kirch, P. V. (1984). The Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdoms. Cambridge University Press.
  8. Oliver, D. L. (2002). The Pacific Islands. University of Hawaii Press.
  9. Sahlins, M. D. (1985). Islands of History. University of Chicago Press.
  10. Thomas, N. (1997). Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook. Walker & Company.

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