Author(s): Steven Roger Fischer
Famed for its extreme isolation and breathtaking monumental sculpture, Easter Island was a verdant South-Sea idyll when the first Polynesian settlers landed there around AD 700. Around 1500, when voyaging in the South Pacific became far less widespread, Easter Islanders became stranded on their now desert-like isle, and were forced to adapt to survive. The first European visitors, in 1722, encountered a people thriving in total isolation, surrounded by huge architectural platforms of fitted stones topped by hundreds of monolithic busts. Subsequent intruders brought trade, disease and violence, and the Easter Islanders responded through cultural reinvention: new leaders, new rituals, new gods. Island at the End of the World, now available in paperback, is a comprehensive history of Easter Island told by a writer who is intimately familiar with the island, its people and their extraordinary story. Steven Roger Fischer relates the compelling story of this unique region: how wars, smallpox and the 'Great Death' decimated the island; how Catholic missionaries arrived in 1866 to relieve the suffering of the dying people; and how a despotic Frenchman claimed the island for himself, only to be killed by the remaining islanders - a population then of just 111. He describes the modern history of the island, its colonization and annexation by Chile, and its peaceful but insistent civil rights movement in 1964-65. Today, the population has increased, as has tourism of the island - from 2,000 visitors in 1991 to 20,000 in 2001, and continues to be managed by the indigenous Rapanui people. Foreign interest in Easter Island has never been so keen, and this book is a much-needed history of this little-known but remarkable island.