Islands are contradictory places: they can be remote, mysterious spots, or lively centres of holiday revelry. They are associated alternately with escape, imprisonment, holiday and exile, and their alluring natural beauty and remoteness has inspired artists and writers across the centuries. Islands have been places of immense scientific, political and creative importance, from Darwin's enlightening voyage to the Galapagos Islands, which resulted in his groundbreaking theory of evolution, to the moated prisons that have incarcerated dangerous convicts and freedom fighters alike.In this cultural and scientific history of these alluring, often isolated, territories, Stephen A. Royle describes the great variety of islands scattered around the world, their economies, and the animals, plants and people living on them. He shows that despite the view of some islands as earthly paradises, they are often beset by severe limitations in both resources and opportunities. Many islands have faced population loss in recent decades, and some islanders have developed their homelands into tourist destinations in order to combat economic instability. Islands often conjure up exotic, otherworldly beauty and have provided both refuge and inspiration for artists and writers, such as Paul Gauguin in Tahiti and George Orwell on the Scottish island of Jura. Filled with intriguing illustrations, Islands is a compelling and comprehensive survey of the geographical and cultural aspects of island life.