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Joel Samuel Polack

(1807—1882) trader and author


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(1807–82), was an entertaining if rather conventional early-Victorian travel writer. Probably born in London, he arrived as an early Jewish settler at Hokianga in 1831, where he traded for a year before going into business at Kororareka in flax, timber and brewing. He made journeys along the coastal areas of Northland, Bay of Plenty and East Coast. He also wrote, drew, and fought two duels. Returning to Britain in 1837 he advocated British intervention and colonisation for New Zealand. In 1842 he auctioned some of his New Zealand land and migrated again. His Bay of Islands business suffered with the transfer of the capital to Auckland and from the Northern Wars, when his property and records were burnt. He spent the years 1845–50 running a business in Auckland before permanently departing for California. New Zealand: Being a Narrative of Travels and Adventures … between … 1831 and 1837 (1838) includes observations of Māori people but says little about his business activities. Manners and Customs of the New Zealanders … and Remarks to Intending Immigrants … (1840) enlarges on what he wrote about the Māori in the earlier book. Polack's narratives are readable and his ethnological observations have value, though limited in perception. Each book is illustrated from his drawings.

From The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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