Author(s): Kate Fullagar
A portrait of empire through the biographies of a Native American, a Pacific Islander, and the British artist who painted them both
Three interconnected eighteenth-century lives offer a fresh account of the British Empire and its intrusion into Indigenous societies. This engaging history brings together the stories of Joshua Reynolds and two Indigenous men, the Cherokee Ostenaco and the Raiatean Mai. Fullagar uncovers the life of Ostenaco, tracing his emergence as a warrior, his engagement with colonists through war and peace, and his eventual rejection of imperial politics during the American Revolution. She delves into the story of Mai, his confrontation with conquest and displacement, his voyage to London on Cook's imperial expedition, and his return home with a burning ambition to right past wrongs. Woven throughout is a new history of Reynolds, growing up in Devon near a key port in England, becoming a portraitist of empire, rising to the top of Britain's art world and yet remaining ambivalent about his nation's expansionist trajectory.