"Captain James Cook" by William Hodges, painted around the time of Cook's second voyage to the Pacific, ca. 1775. For more information see the National Museum of Australia.

"Captain James Cook" by William Hodges, painted around the time of Cook's second voyage to the Pacific, ca. 1775. For more information see the National Museum of Australia.

While Westerners see Cook as an Enlightenment hero, Hawaiians and other Polynesians are not crazy about the man, whom they view as a usurper and the leading edge of a wave of cataclysmic change.

There have been some interesting squabbles about Cook, especially about whether it is fair to say that the Hawaiians—who first feted and then killed him—viewed him as an incarnation of their god Lono. This debate played out in an entertaining and very public spat in a pair of books: The Apotheosis of Captain Cook by Gananath Obeysekere (1992), and a rebuttal by Marshall Sahlins, How Natives Think (1995).

A less contentious and beautifully written account of the debates surrounding Cook's death can be found in Glyn Williams’s The Death of Captain Cook (2008).