Hampton Sides - Tales from a Most Excellent Adventure

Hampton Sides is a historian and New York Times bestselling author who is best known for his engaging works of narrative nonfiction, including the books “Blood and Thunder,” “Ghost Soldiers,” “On Desperate Ground,” and more. His latest project is an ebook and audiobook titled “THE EXOTIC: Intrigue and Cultural Ruin in the Age of Imperialism,” which details the life and unbelievable adventures of a man named Mai, who was the first Polynesian to set foot on British soil. “The Exotic” is much shorter than Hampton’s previous books but much longer than a magazine article, giving the reader a chance to enjoy Hampton’s one-of-a-kind historical storytelling in only a few hours of reading.


Longtime listeners of Mountain & Prairie will remember Hampton’s two previous appearances on the podcast. The first was an in-depth discussion of his book “Blood and Thunder” and the history of the American West, which was recorded live and on stage at the Aspen Institute. In his second appearance, we focused on his writing and research process, and his career progression from journalist at Outside Magazine to becoming a best-selling historian. Today’s conversation takes us far beyond the American West, everywhere from remote islands in the South Pacific to King George’s court in England. So if you’re a fan of adventure, history, and profiles of Indigenous people who have often been overlooked by mainstream history, you’ll love this book.


Hampton and I connected virtually and had a fun conversation about the book and his process for writing it. We talked a lot about Mai’s unbelievable journey from Polynesia to England and back again, as well as the opportunities and challenges of exploring history from an Indigenous perspective. We talked about Hampton’s process for researching the book and how COVID has forced him to adjust his usual approach. Hampton was actually in the South Pacific researching the book in March 2020 when the pandemic hit, which, as you’ll hear, added an extra layer of adventure to an already adventurous trip. And as usual, Hampton offers up some great book recommendations that I think you’ll enjoy.


“The Exotic” is available exclusively on Scribd, which is an online service that gives you instant access to ebooks, audiobooks, articles, podcasts, and more. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Scribd over the past few weeks, and I’d encourage you to give it a shot. You can access it for free for 30 days by following the link in the episode notes or on this episode’s webpage. And I’m not being paid for this endorsement-- I’m just a fan of what Scribd is doing and the unique forms of writing that they are bringing to the world.


I hope you enjoy this episode, and I hope you’ll invest a few hours reading “The Exotic.”  And if you haven’t already, go back and listen to my past episodes with Hampton-- they are fun and educational conversations.  Thanks so much.




  • 4:00 – How Mai got Hampton’s attention
  • 11:45 – Hampton discusses who Mai was
  • 22:00 – Hampton walks us through what Mai did while he was in England
  • 31:30 – Hampton explains what happens when Mai returns home
  • 36:30 – Hampton describes doing his research while COVID-19 took off and discusses how the pandemic affected his writing
  • 43:30 – Hampton talks about Captain Cook
  • 51:15 – Hampton’s book recommendations



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