In 1783, the East India Company packet, the Antelope was wrecked in the Pelew Islands (now Pelau or Belau in the western Carolines, in Micronesia). Captain Henry Wilson and his crew developed unusually amicable relations with the Palauan inhabitants and participated in expeditions against their enemies. They were able to recover a great deal from the wreck and to build a new vessel, with which they sailed to Macau after a stay of just over three months. They took with them Lee Boo, who became a figure of fashionable interest in London. Using extensive interviews with Captain Wilson and other participants, including Lee Boo, George Keate wrote "An Account of the Pelew Islands". The text is reprinted here in a critical edition. It represents a genre of literary interest in non-European cultures that was sentimentally rather than scientifically framed. It is distictive in its account of the encounter between two cultures, for its anthropologically-minded account of Palauan culture and society, and as one of the fullest 18th-century accounts of a Pacific society.
Karen L. Nero is Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Nicholas Thomas is Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmith's College, University of London.
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