The London Missionary Society in Polynesia and Australia, 1800–50
This chapter examines the missions of the London Missionary Society (LMS) in Polynesia and Australia in order to explore the ways in which frontiers and boundaries between British and antipodean cultures were negotiated in colonial textuality. This chapter analyses the ways in which the boundaries between different orders of colonial thought about 'savage races', different kinds of colonial projects and political states, and different traditions of textual representation. The chapter focuses on both colonial intervention and missionary involvement. British missionaries were, however, extremely interested in representing encounters with both Polynesians and Aborigines. In Polynesia, missionary narratives of the frontier fed upon earlier visions of the Pacific region. The prominent LMS missionary William Ellis had visited Australia on his travels and written up his experiences there in his Polynesian Researches.
This chapter draws upon the burgeoning genre of nineteenth-century travel writing to map a transcolonial and mobile consciousness through which New Zealand and Australian settler colonial identities were forged. Travel writing created a direct link between Europe and the colonies, and this was made explicit through its mobile narrators, knowledge, and ideologies. Recent modes of conceptualising empire - from Ballantyne’s ‘webs of empire’ to Alan Lester’s ‘imperial networks’ to Peter Hulme’s ‘traffic’ to James Clifford’s ‘routes’ - are important to new understandings of past and present empires, and particularly of the production and circulation of colonial knowledge. Travel texts remind us that ‘national’ cultures emerged in a dialectical relationship with other colonial cultures as much as with Britain, and that crucial ideas about race, place, and identity were developed across the Tasman.