Savage: The Life and Times of Jemmy Button

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9780312252137: Savage: The Life and Times of Jemmy Button

A tale of tragedy, catastrophe, and the triumph of the human spirit.

In 1830 a Yamana Indian boy, Orundellico, was bought from his uncle in Tierra del Fuego for the price of a mother-of-pearl button. Renamed Jemmy Button, he was removed from his primitive nomadic existence, where life revolved around the hunt for food and the need for shelter, and taken halfway round the world to England, then at the height of the Industrial Revolution. He learned English and Christianity, met King William IV and Queen Adelaide, and made a strong impression on many of the major figures in Britain, eventually becoming a celebrity. Charles Darwin himself befriended the Fuegian and later wrote about their time together on The Beagle, voyaging back to the southern tip of South America. Their friendship influenced one of the most important and controversial works of the century, On the Origin of the Species.

Upon his return to Tierra del Fuego, Jemmy found that life could never be the same for him there. The Beagle's captain deposited the young man on a lonely, windswept shore and charged him with the tasks of "civilizing" his people and bringing God to his homeland. At first ostracized and attacked by other Fuegians, Jemmy later became the target of zealous and ambitious missionaries. Thirty years after his return, a missionary schooner in Tierra del Fuego was attacked, with nearly everyone on board killed, and Button himself was accused of leading the massacre.

Button's life story illustrates how the lofty ideals of imperialism often resulted in appalling consequences. Thoroughly researched and remarkably well written, this fascinating and poignant story is ultimately about survival, revenge, murder, and the destruction of a whole race of people, blurring the boundaries of civilization and savagery.

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About the Author:

Nick Hazlewood has written numerous articles for newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Sunday Telegraph, and The Daily Telegraph. He is also the author of In the Way, which was chosen by The Times (London) as their soccer book of 1996, and Coffin Nails and Tombstone Trails. Hazlewood holds a first-class honors degree in history from University College Swansea, University of Wales. He lives in London.

From Publishers Weekly:

Jemmy Button (born Orundellico), along with three other young Tierra del Fuegians, was captured and brought to England in 1829. Had they been displayed as sideshow freaks, it would have been bad enough, but the Patagonian Missionary Society had bigger plans: convert these Fuegians to Christianity and use them to reach their own countrymen, so more "miserable barbarians" could be saved. Thus, after spending a year in England, where he was "educated" and shown off to British aristocracy, and even introduced to King William IV and Queen Adelaide, Button and his fellow Fuegians were brought home on the return trip of the HMS Beagle. (Ironically, given the church's later opposition to his work, Charles Darwin made his first major scientific expedition on the same trip.) The missionaries established a compound in the Falklands where Fuegians were brought in to be civilized that is, until they mounted a bloody uprising in 1859 and slaughtered every white man in sight. (Button himself was accused of leading this massacre.) Still, the colonizers had the last word, wiping out most of the indigenous tribes in the end. Hazlewood, a British journalist, chronicles this sad history with dense, well-chosen detail, drawn mostly from ship captains' and missionary societies' accounts or British public records (regrettably not footnoted). Although his research is as meticulous as a ship's log, the book has the drama and passion of Mutiny on the Bounty. 23 b&w illus., not seen by PW. (June)Forecast: Students of naval history and colonialism will find this a must read; academic advertising will help to reach them, but the book deserves wider exposure.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Nick Hazlewood
Editorial: Thomas Dunne Books (2001)
ISBN 10: 0312252137 ISBN 13: 9780312252137
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