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Pitcairn, a tiny Pacific island that was refuge to the mutineers of HMAV Bounty and home to their descendants, later became the stage on which one imposter played out his influential vision for British control over the nineteenth-century Pacific Ocean. Joshua W. Hill arrived on Pitcairn in 1832 and began his fraudulent half-decade rule that has, until now, been swept aside as an idiosyncratic moment in the larger saga of Fletcher Christian's mutiny against Captain Bligh, and the mutineers' unlikely settlement of Pitcairn. Here, Hill is shown instead as someone alert to the full scope and power of the British Empire, to the geopolitics of international imperial competition, to the ins and outs of naval command, the vicissitudes of court politics, and, as such, to Pitcairn's symbolic power for the British Empire more broadly.
Tillman W. Nechtman is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Skidmore College, New York. He writes extensively on the British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and his previous works include Nabobs: Identity and Empire in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge, 2010).