L3 James Cook: Exam feedback
If you did not get the marks you needed you will get a « second chance »
in January, when there will be an exam.
If you do not know enough about Cook’s expeditions, you can search on this
blog. You will also find quite a lot of half-hour videos about Cook on my
YouTube channel « The History Fellow ».
Here are a few notable mistakes people made on their text commentary on
The transit of Venus happens twice a century and so will not help you if
you are lost at sea.
Cook was NOT able to determine that scurvy was a problem caused by a lack of
vitamin C. Vitamins were discovered centuries later. In Cook’s time, there were
many proposed solutions to scurvy – some of them worked, many of them did not.
The Royal Society did not write these « additional instructions ».
In fact the Royal Society was not involved in these instructions in any way.
Military authorities are not in the habit of asking other people’s opinions
before writing their commands to their subordinates. The Royal Society in fact
sent another, different document to Cook, including hints about what they thought he should do on
There is some contrast between the Royal Society’s hints and the
admiralty’s official instructions. In particular the Royal Society document
seems to be more worried about the possibility that first nations will be badly
You must not use contractions in written university work. Do not, not don’t,
could not have not couldn’t’ve etc. Contractions are almost always necessary in
speech and almost always inappropriate in writing.
One sentence is not enough to make a paragraph in University work. Journalists
sometimes use just one sentence for a paragraph : you should not.
There are quite a lot more capital letters in English than there are in French :
Capital letters for Royal Navy and Royal Society and so on.
*as it is shown in the document,...
* as I have
mentioned it earlier
This is French.
In English we write « as is shown in the document » and « as I
mentioned earlier ». This is
similar to « Je le crois » - « I think so », and so on
Be careful not to write excessively naive statements like « James Cook
was not alone on the ship ».
You must structure around the document. You should question what the intentions
of the writers were. Many students took at face value everything in the
document. This is unreasonable -the military authorities who ordered Cook to
take possession of lands « with the consent of the natives » must
have known, from the experience in North America and in India, that no
real consent was possible or necessary.
It is better to use line numbers to refer to the document rather than long
quotes. It is not necessary to copy out many sentences from the document. Those
students who did this were often in danger of paraphrase.
Very Frequently the question which was omitted was « why ? »
Why collect seeds? Why make maps? And so on. This is what you should be writing
For some people, the key question was « did Cook follow these
instructions or not ? » However, it would be much better to interrogate the intentions of the authors.
Must we absolutely believe that they only wanted to Cook to take possession with
the consent of the natives? What signs are there in the instructions of the
colonial intentions of the authors? Are there any signs that the authors saw
local peoples as inferior?
It may be that when looking at a historical document one needs to analyze
closely the language in order to reveal something unexpected. However you must
not waste time closely analyzing the language in order to reveal things which
Cook is a military man. This document is entitled “instructions”. Therefore
it is a mistake to point out that there are a number of imperative forms in the
* the imperative form “you are to” is used nine times.
Because the context makes absolutely clear that Cook is a military
inferior, this analysis is a mistake.
When should you quote from the document ?
It is an unnecessary waste of time to quote “individual words, unless the
words are particularly surprising or controversial. Quoting words like « navigation »
« observing » « arrive », which are words which inevitably
occur in naval instructions, is not interesting and uses up a lot of time.
* the document contains the words latitude and longitude seven times
But it is correct to quote and explain « additional instructions ».
These words occur in the title and so absolutely must be *explained*.
If you quote words which may be difficult, you must then show that you
Some people quoted “genius temper disposition and number”. These are
words which did not have the same meaning in the 18th century, or which are not
completely easy to understand. But students did not show that they knew the
meaning, which you must do. Genius means specific character. Temper means
character in the sense of whether people are warlike. Disposition means what
attitude they show to people outside. If in fact you do not understand the
words, you certainly should not quote them.
Concerning the language, it is essential to find time to reread slowly your
answer at the end. At least 10 students including mistakes which they
definitely knew about. Mistakes like it cook did went etc
must not be too informal
Here comes the second part of my commentary
Banks was a filthy rich botanist
First things first
James Cook was not clueless either
Notice the important difference in meaning between the word « historic »
and the word « historical ».
It is generally much better to say « well-known »
rather than « famous ». Ed Sheeran is famous. Isaac newton is well
Propriety and property are two completely different words in English: check
You must write a Hawaiian tribe not an Hawaiian tribe.
difference between A and An depends on the sound of the beginning of a word,
not on the way it is written.
This is why the
following are correct :