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Contact with the Pacific provided Europeans with a distant laboratory in which to test some of their assumptions about the nature of humanity and, in particular, the forms of religion with which they were familiar. In the era before Cook, the scantily explored Pacific provided a colourful backdrop for those contrasting a universal simple religion with European clericalism. Elements of such an approach continued to colour Hawkesworth's edition of Cook's first voyage. The tendency to idealize Pacific societies and their religious practices diminished, however, in the late eighteenth century with a growing emphasis on the superiority of Christianity and the need for missionary action.