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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Historical Dictionary of Polynesia, 2nd edition by Robert D. Craig (Asian/Oceanian Historical Dictionaries, 39: Scarecrow Press) deals not with one country but over a dozen, as well as related countries and assorted islands. What links them together, aside from location, are cultural and historical ties which form a similar, if infinitely varied background. This book can, therefore, explore numerous common themes and variations on those themes. It can examine how each state or island has evolved and developed up to the present. It can also consider how they fit in with one another and the rest of the word, For Polynesia, an essential part of this rest consists of two similar groupings in the Pacific Ocean‑Micronesia (on which there is already a volume) and Melanesia (being written).

If it is useful for parts of Polynesia to know more about one another, it is even more helpful for outsiders to know more about them. Polynesia was once remote both geographically and practically. That, is no longer true. It is increasingly easy to visit, to invest and trade, to get to know people and places. But many of us have not realized this and, when we do want to learn more, we may not know where to lock. Well, this historical dictionary is certainly an excellent starting point.. As noted, it tells us much about the region, both past and present, It sheds light on political, economic, social, and cultural aspects. It highlights noteworthy leaders and institutions. No less important, it provides a detailed bibliography that covers the region as a whole and etch component part.

It takes an exceptional knowledge of Polynesia to draw the many strands together. No one could have done it better than Robert D. Craig. He is personally familiar with the region, having traveled widely and frequently over many years. He has also taught others about Polynesia as founder and editor of the journal Pacific Studies, publications editor of the Institute for Polynesian Studies, professor of Pacific history at the University of Guam , and until recently director of the Pacific Rim Studies Center at Alaska Pacific University ( Anchorage ).

Finally Dr. Craig has written extensively, including a Historical Dictionary of Oceania, a Historical Dictionary of Honolulu and Hawaii , and this second edition of the Historical Dictionary of Polynesia, which substantially expands on the already extremely useful first edition.

Writing a second edition to any publication gives the author the opportunity to update and polish previous material, to add new information since the last edition, and to make corrections that bypassed the author, several readers, and the editors in the earlier work. Hopefully, this has all been accomplished.

In this edition, every entry dealing with contemporary events was updated where necessary, a few entries were discarded, and many new ones were added. This substantially increased the size of the new volume. The total number of pages would have been much longer, but by using a different font size, we were able to keep the book within the size limits set by the publisher.

Many of the concerns and problems discussed in the first edition still remain. To cover as broad a geographical area in the Pacific Ocean as Polynesia with its many islands and independent states poses a challenge to any researcher. The simple matter of how much space to allot to each island group was difficult. Other questions needed to be asked. For example, is the history of Hawai'i more important than the Cook Islands or Tuvalu ? Or, should New Zealand and Hawai'i be given greater treatment than let's say Tokelau or Easter Island simply because their historical data are more readily available? How do you provide enough detailed information in the main entries for each of the 14 island states' so that the entries are more than just chronological listings of names, dates, and places? All these endless decisions had to be made at every turn.

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