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New Medieval Books: The Cambridge History of the Pacific Ocean

New Medieval Books: The Cambridge History of the Pacific Ocean – Volume 1: The Pacific Ocean to 1800

Edited by Ryan Tucker Jones and Matt K. Matsuda

Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 978-1-108-42393-9

The first part of a two-volume set, this book covers the medieval history of the Pacific Ocean. It includes 31 essays that deal with the natural history of the region, voyaging between the islands, the communities that emerged, and trade in the Pacific, particularly from China.


Most Pacific Island history has focused on intercultural relations between Pacific Islanders and Europeans over the last two and a half centuries. Pacific historians have largely focused on the impact of Western products, peoples, and ideas on Pacific islanders, with increasing emphasis placed on presenting Pacific Islanders as rational, active agents in this process. The majority of Pacific Islanders’ millennia of history was recorded and conveyed orally, which has meant that much Pacific history has become multidisciplinary to incorporate non-literate sources such as oral tradition, linguistic patterns, and material remains. For this reason, Pacific history cannot be viewed in isolation, but must be seen as part of a larger body of work produced by their Pacific-focused colleagues in anthropology, archeology, linguistics, and geography. This has enhanced rather than diluted the nature of Pacific history. The coastal peoples of the Pacific Rim were also oriented towards the sea, and shared many of the experiences Pacific Islanders encountered as well as made distinct by local context.


Who is this book for?

Medievalists have increasingly been looking into the Pacific region and its history. With over 800 pages of articles, this volume will be the comprehensive book on that topic for the next generation. Historians of medieval China will also want to read a few chapters here that explain the trade and sea links between China and the Pacific. Others might be interested in the research presented on the connection between the Pacific islands and pre-Columbian South America, and European exploration of the region.

Those interested in the topic might want to pair this book with James Flexner’s Oceania, 800-1800CE: A Millennium of Interactions in a Sea of Islands.


The editors

Ryan Tucker Jones is a Professor at the University of Oregon. Matt K. Matsuda is a Professor of History at Rutgers.

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