2020 - Winner
The Warrior, the Voyager, and the Artist is a master work of accessible erudition. Voyaging across the intersecting worlds of the eighteenth century, Kate Fullagar achieves a triple balancing act. Her text invites us into the minds, rituals, societies and geographies of three figures united by art and empire. Through Fullagar’s fine prose, Cherokee diplomat Ostenaco, Ra’iatean exile Mai and British artist Joshua Reynolds develop both as individuals and as representatives of their rapidly transforming cultures.
Reading both widely and deeply, Fullagar skilfully depicts the fuzzy complexities of three distinct nations. In presenting a trio of overlapping biographies, she also explores the intricacies of selfhood shaped by cultures and eras remote from our own. Framed by Reynolds’ portraits of Mai and Ostenaco, her analysis moves beyond binaries of power and resistance, and of centre and periphery. Rather, each actor is fully formed — and flawed — on their own terms.
Every sentence of this book has been crafted with care. Its scholarship is worn lightly, and Fullagar’s insights are both enticing and exciting. To evoke one complex culture from the past so convincingly is a challenge; to bring three worlds alive with such flair is outstanding. The Warrior, the Voyager, and the Artist offers a model and an aspiration for the writers who will follow in her stead. As such, this global history deserves global recognition.