Wednesday, December 14, 2022

L3 James Cook exam, and second chance


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 Cook.


Errors of fact

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 his expedition.


 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 treated.




 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 about.

 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 everybody knew.

 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 document. 

* 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 understand them.

  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

 Thelanguage 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 known.


Propriety and property are two completely different words in English: check your dictionary.


You must write a Hawaiian tribe not an Hawaiian tribe.


The 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 :


A university

An umbrella

 A European

An HSE regulation

An SOS message.



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