Risky Shores
Savagery and Colonialism in the Western Pacific
George Behlmer



The Protean Savage

On 2 April 1782, the Northumberland, a British ship engaged in the East India trade, left Sumatra bound for the Spice Islands and beyond. What cut short its voyage was a catastrophic encounter between the crew and “savadges” (as the only surviving eyewitness called them) living along the western shore of New Guinea. That eyewitness, an unnamed carpenter’s mate, would later present his journal to a gentleman in Calcutta. Although modern readers should not discount the possibility that the journal’s narrative was largely an exercise in fantasy, its tale added to the gradually emerging portrait of the western Pacific islands as citadels of barbarism.1

Several months into its voyage, the Northumberland had become a death trap. Seven or eight sailors were perishing daily from “want of greens . . . to Nourish them, for they were very bad with scurvy.” In addition to fetching wood and water, therefore, the ship’s supply boat was ordered to find vegetables, and quickly. When the boat’s crew rowed within a quarter mile of the beach, the first mate could distinguish people carrying bamboo containers toward an apparent fresh water source; presumably the Northumberland’s empty casks could be replenished there as well. “But we were very much mistaken,” explained the carpenter’s mate. Four low-ranking members of the resupply party—three “Lascars” and a “Portugue”—struggled ashore with the casks. Dark bodies rushed them from the jungle, hauling away these unfortunates to a nearby village. Simultaneously, arrows arced toward the waiting boat. The resupply party carried a few muskets with which they now returned fire. They did not possess sufficient weaponry to support a direct attack on the “savadges,” however, so a tense standoff followed. Taking a calculated risk, the first mate finally led fourteen men onto the beach. Mayhem ensued: “They came down upon us like unto a half moon, men, women and children, such as could take a bow and arrow into there hand.” Once every occupant of the boat had been dragged ashore, the Islanders sliced open the stomach of a twelve-year-old midshipman and “throwed his bowels into the air out of braverdo.” The remains of Mr. Sayce, the first mate, were “broil[ed]” and, inexplicably, offered to the author. As if to crown their victory, the local people “came around me . . . hollowing and hooting.” Some unspecified time later, the traumatized carpenter’s mate made his escape during a battle between these Islanders and a trading ship belonging to the sultan of Ceram.2

Whether an accurate rendering of events or a flight of fancy, this author’s text was rich in the signs of savagery. The New Guineans depicted here were treacherous because they refused to fight in a civilized manner—that is, using weapons and tactics familiar to Europeans. These Islanders were also impulsive, creatures of sudden passion. Savages were, moreover, capricious. (Why did these people spare one life and not another?) Most seemed cruel. From a European perspective at least, offering the carpenter’s mate broiled bits of his superior constituted malicious self-gratification: cruelty. Connecting these characteristics and imposing a degree of coherence on an otherwise unwieldy set of images was the notion that savage acts derive from “unnatural” feelings. Such acts involved a short-circuiting of instinct, a displacement of the normal by the grotesque. Thus, only an unnatural mother could kill her own infant. Similarly, the wish of a wife to be burned on her husband’s pyre, or to be strangled before he went into the ground, struck Europeans as examples of perverted fidelity. And unless imminent starvation served to justify the unthinkable, South Seas cannibalism mocked the supposed dignity of man.

This book charts the twisting course of an idea that has long sustained inequality among human groups. The defamatory idea examined here is “savagery,” together with its agent, “the savage.” Risky Shores will argue that Britain’s early visitors to the Pacific—mainly cartographers and missionaries—manipulated the notion of savagery to justify their own interests. But savage talk did more than merely denigrate. It would serve as well to emphasize the fragility of indigenous cultures. The so-called “doomed native” thesis gained plausibility through its focus on the Pacific’s least known Islanders. Indeed, as this book will show, the reputed strongholds of Oceanic savagery were also believed to harbor the most endangered tribes on earth.

Precisely what marks a savage has always been difficult to say. Toward the end of his meditation on the destruction of indigenous culture in the Marquesas Islands, Greg Dening admits, “What made Enata (the Marquesans) savage was a mystery.” They were no more violent than so-called civilized people. Enata had their moral failings to be sure, but so did Aoe (outsiders). That the Islanders possessed “primitive” technologies did not alone render them objects of pity, or of disgust, in white eyes. Dening speculates that perhaps the root defect of Enata, according to Aoe, was their emotional superficiality, their carelessness: “Their carelessness showed in their indolence and their indolence showed their satisfaction with the present and their unconcern for the future.” “They were savage,” then, “because of their sense of time.”3 Stepping back from individual cases, we will find that the persistence of the “savage” trope derives from its imprecision; until quite recently, one could invoke it to insult, to objectify, to marginalize, even to romanticize without fear of serious contradiction. “Savage,” Andrew Sinclair has observed, is “a hydra of a word.”4 It is both a noun that gestures toward early anthropology, where it signified a preliterate culture, and a condemnatory adjective meaning bestial. As Bernard Smith first noted a generation ago, pictorial treatments of the Pacific savage during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries varied enormously depending upon the aims of European intruders.5

Risky Shores takes as its geographic focus the islands of the western Pacific. Its temporal frame is the period between Captain James Cook’s death on a Hawai‘ian beach in 1779 and the end of World War II in 1945. If the savage is by definition a creature often imagined out of time and space, why choose these boundaries? The answer is that the western Pacific offers opportunities to study savagery in its most exotic form. Although the ethnographic prejudices of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) may not have been universally shared during a brilliant career, his views were widely echoed. In the wakes of Captains Cook, Bougainville, and d’Entrecasteaux arrived news of odd people inhabiting islands bathed in warmth and lush with tropical verdure. Humboldt, after Napoleon “the most famous man in Europe,”6 had spent several years exploring both North and South America. Curiously, he had never seen any part of the South Pacific when he declared around 1810 that “The savages of America, who have been the objects of so many systematic reveries . . . inspire less interest since celebrated navigators have made known to us the inhabitants of South Sea islands, in whose character we find a striking mixture of perversity and meekness. The state of half-civilization existing among those islanders gives a peculiar charm to the description of their manners.”7

Map I.1   The Southwest Pacific and Queensland.
SOURCE: Cartography by Manoa Mapworks, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Hawai’i Press, from Violence and Colonial Dialogue by T. Banivanua-Mar (2007).

Tahitians and Tongans (and the paradisiacal settings in which they lived) had surpassed North America’s Iroquois in exotic allure. New Zealand was not tropical,8 but its people, the elaborately tattooed Maori, possessed a “charm” all their own. The Tahitians, Tongans, and Maori appeared to share enough cultural characteristics to warrant inclusion in the same racial family. By the 1840s, European philologists had categorized them as “Polynesians.” When Humboldt wrote about Pacific Islanders in the early years of the nineteenth century, he either did not know, or perhaps did not care, about another South Seas “race.” The typically darker peoples who dominated such western Pacific island groups as Fiji, the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), the Solomons, New Caledonia, and New Guinea would soon acquire their own racial classification: “Melanesian.” (See Map I.1.) A contested designation today, Melanesia subsumed most of the Islanders examined in this book.

The etymology of the word “savage” provides some sense of its unstable usage. From the early fourteenth century if not before, “savage” tended to be associated with rugged or uncultivated landscapes. The root word here is silva, Latin for forest or wood. Over time the notion of forest acquired the additional sense of boundary or frontier—a demarcation between civilization and its opposite, for example. One of the most controversial arguments in American historiography, the so-called “frontier thesis” of Frederick Jackson Turner, understood the westward-moving boundary of the United States as the “hither edge of free land.” Beyond this edge, Turner reckoned, American settlement gave way to “savagery.”9 Because frontiers connote difference beyond, we should not be surprised that that difference has been imagined since late medieval times as wild or fierce. These distinctly unflattering connotations gained reinforcement from the early French sauvage, a word that added to its Latin root the qualities of “gloomy” and “horrible.” The first reference in English to a savage person as one given to cruelty or brutality dates from 1522. “Savagery” and “savagism” entered English usage in the seventeenth century.10

Among the many satellite meanings of “savagery,” three merit closer attention. First and most straightforward in the Pacific context, the alleged ferocity of certain island peoples struck both European voyagers and their reading publics as a defining essence. New Zealand’s Maori appeared to prove the point. No less proud than any white aristocrat, their pride allegedly compelled the Maori to avenge all insults with fearsome single-mindedness.11 Similarly, Solomon Island headhunters knew no pity when collecting their trophies. The New Hebridean bent on battle reportedly viewed women and children as legitimate targets. And Fijian chiefs would stop at nothing to obtain slaves. For without slaves to bury alive beside the foundation posts of a new temple, the local community faced an uncertain future. Sir John Lubbock, Victorian Britain’s influential popularizer of archaeology, condensed a widely shared view that savages “unite the character of childhood with the passions and strengths of men.”12 When “childish” Melanesian preoccupations were set in motion, great damage could result.

Perhaps less obvious was the important association of savagery with frontiers. Sometimes, of course, a frontier needs no imagining: physical barriers could temporarily separate the savage and the civilized. As H.M. Stanley made clear to his late Victorian readers, equatorial Africa’s immensity hid all manner of savage folk.13 Island frontiers, too, could wall off the “primitive” from the modern. New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, guarded its own impenetrable forests with vast mud banks. Surveying its southern coast during the 1840s, HMS Fly pierced this alluvial bulwark just far enough to heighten curiosity:

New Guinea! the very mention of . . . the interior of New Guinea sounds like being allowed to visit some of the enchanted regions of the “Arabian Nights,” so dim an atmosphere of obscurity rests at present on the wonders it probably conceals.14

If mud banks and jungle did not discourage exploration of the western Pacific, other hazards might. In an age of sail, contrary trade winds and rogue currents narrowed opportunities for visiting “new” islands. More terrifying still was the threat of hull-shredding reefs in poorly charted seas. Prior to the 1830s, for instance, the Torres Strait, which separates New Guinea from Australia, served as a nautical graveyard. Finally, rumors of indigenous hostility could persuade cautious Europeans to steer clear of certain islands—as was the case with Captain Cook and the Fijian archipelago.15

The notion of “savages” as those who dwelt beyond a frontier would have made sense to British society in the nineteenth century. Domestic frontiers, after all, preoccupied moral reformers at home. Indeed “home,” often hailed as the locus of family privacy, could serve to mask misery as well as provide a haven in a heartless world.16 The 1841 Stockport poisoning case confirmed this disturbing fact. At the Chester Assizes that summer, evidence emerged that an impoverished Irish couple, cellar-dwellers and doormat-makers, had used arsenic to kill their two young daughters, each of whom carried funeral insurance policies worth over £3. Although white, Mr. and Mrs. Sandys qualified as “brutal savages.”17 A generation later, the perils of privacy returned as a more lasting public concern. In 1886, Cardinal Manning, leader of Britain’s Catholic community, joined forces with Benjamin Waugh, a Congregational minister, to publish “The Child of the English Savage.” They were blunt. The abusive parent too often escaped punishment because his most “fiendish” deeds occurred inside the brute’s own “castle.”18 Thus, tales of diabolical cruelty in the South Seas reached a British public already grappling with home-grown monsters. The behavioral kinship of British and Pacific savages received explicit comment in a Times report of 1872. A succession of vicious street assaults tried at the Northern Assizes had “presented a picture of drunken brutality such as might be more fitly expected in some savage island in the far Pacifics.”19

Among anthropologists and historians, it is obligatory to note that early European accounts of Pacific Islanders often maligned them. While unarguably true, this observation would profit from a closer reading of context. As the preceding discussion of domestic frontiers should suggest, Pacific savagery emerged from a broader calumny against the poor, the ethnically different, and the assertively female. It would be reductionist to treat anti-Irish and anti-Fijian rhetorics as equivalent distortions. Yet if we entertained such comparisons more often, the framing of new, cross-cultural questions would likely result. By keeping both Pacific island and home island experiences in focus, then, this book will broaden the field within which misrepresentations of the Pacific Other were produced.

The third affiliated meaning of “savage” in its Oceanic setting emphasized wildness. Most of the British explorers, traders, and missionaries from whose writings a composite “South Seas savage” took shape wasted little effort on categorical precision. We can do better. The Melanesian Islander certainly qualified as “wild,” but not as “natural”—Homo sapiens ferus. The celebrated case of “Wild Peter” had early on undermined belief in a “state of nature.” Captured amid thick forest near Hamelen, Germany, during the summer of 1724, age judged to be between eleven and fifteen, Peter had apparently subsisted on berries, acorns, and tree bark. He could not speak at first, and seemed to possess very limited intelligence. Fifteen months after his capture, this living specimen was shipped to London, where the Hanoverian king, George I, saw to it that Peter’s innate ideas—if any he had—would be scientifically probed. He lived into his seventies, eventually managed to pronounce his own name, and learned to like beer but not women (a disappointment for those who hoped to find in Peter evidence of “wild” virility).20 The savages of Melanesia struck Western visitors as occupying a higher plane of consciousness. They were “ignorant” to be sure, but hardly slow-witted. More than anything else, their customs defined them as Other. The armchair explorer James Greenwood assured his Victorian readership that the prototypical savage—“forest-haunting, clothes-eschewing, arrow-poisoning, [and] man-devouring”—remained “vigorous.”21

Although wild in the sense of untamed, western Pacific peoples did not make ideal primitives. Charles Darwin met what he took to be the quintessential primitive when the Beagle visited Tierra del Fuego in 1833 and 1834. The Fuegians repulsed Darwin:

These were the most abject and miserable creatures I any where beheld. . . . These poor wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous faces bedaubed with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their hair tangled, their voices discordant, their gestures violent and without dignity. Viewing such men, one can hardly make oneself believe they are fellow-creatures, and inhabitants of the same world.22

Save perhaps for the denizens of Malekula in the northern New Hebrides, or some of the Aboriginal bands of eastern Australia, the Fuegians would continue to impress Europeans as the most aesthetically “low” people on earth. Employed differently as a designation for technological backwardness, “primitive” Islanders occupied both temperate Tasmania and the tropical Andaman archipelago. The Andamanese were reputedly treacherous, the Tasmanians rather shy. But these island cultures appeared to share a preference for “Stone-Age” ways. As Satadru Sen has explained, Western fascination with the idea of “the primitive” involved “an affected rejection of modernity.” That is, the attraction of the nonmodern was itself quite modern; and the denigration of Western civilization was initially a prerogative of whiteness.23 The material creations of Melanesian peoples, however, often mocked the “primitive” label. Hence the brilliantly designed tomako (war canoe) of the Solomon Islanders challenged imputations of crude craftsmanship, as did the handsome hardwood clubs and fine tapa cloth mats of the Fijians.

Further complicating their location within ethnological hierarchies, the people of the western Pacific often figured as “monstrous” in the behavioral sense but not in the meaning of abnormal physiology. As early as 1710, well before Cook’s oceanic exploits captivated British readers, the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury blamed “a new race of authors” for perverting public tastes: “monstrous accounts of monstrous men and manners” were crowding out the uplifting literature on Christian miracles.24 A generation later, the eminent surgeon John Hunter began building his collection of anatomical curiosities. Although the word “teratology”—meaning the study of “monstrosities” in animals and humans—did not enter British medical literature until the 1830s, the investigation and display of anomalous bodies had a longer history. So did the commercialized exhibition of human oddities, later to be known as “freaks.”25 The South Sea “savages” who paraded around Europe and North America in the nineteenth century were often prized specimens in ethnographic zoos. But except for their understandable aversion to cold, these people were neither freaks nor anatomical monsters.

Ultimately, it may be impossible to unpack a portmanteau word like “savage.” British writers obviously did not have Melanesia in mind whenever they deployed it. By 1890, when The Picture of Dorian Gray appeared, Wilde could unself-consciously use “savage” to convey three distinct conditions: uncultured, self-denying, and animalistic.26 From the late eighteenth century well into the twentieth, the presumed essence of the “savage state” varied widely among European commentators. One held that ignorance about private property was the root problem, while another blamed the savage’s want of self-reflection. A satisfaction with the “mere necessaries of life” rendered industry meaningless, declared a political economist, whereas the absence of altruism struck an anthropologist as a grave defect in savage psychology.27 Victorian ethnologists, obsessed with moral evolution, hoped to establish the “original condition” of savage tribes. Were they the residue of “degradation” from a “higher level,” or had they been simply left behind by the progress of more adaptable peoples?28 Uncertainty prevailed.

Yet an underlying coherence can be identified within the explanatory tangle of savage talk. Consider the “romance” of empire. During the middle third of the nineteenth century, the critics of British imperial expansion wielded considerable power both within and without Parliament. But among less ideologically committed citizens, what seemed remarkable about the nation’s territorial landmass abroad was its capaciousness. The variety of peoples living in British colonies (or in areas likely soon to become colonies) impressed even many critics of formal colonization. In the words of one paean to empire published in 1909, Britain’s guidance of “quaint” and “curious” people around the globe should bring a “glow of satisfaction”:

It need not be the satisfaction which comes from acquisition and conquest . . . but the knowledge that whatever mistakes have been made, however many blots there may be on the page of our national history, the extension of the Empire really counts for good in the story of the world.29

J.F. Fraser’s Quaint Subjects of the King sought to familiarize its readers with the “strange and little-known races” who inhabited “out-of-the-way corners” of the Edwardian empire.30

Actually, dozens of such triumphalist accounts had earlier appeared during Victoria’s reign (1837–1901). Nineteenth-century museums also helped to reify the racially peculiar. Although never built, a proposed “Aboriginal Museum and Library” in central London had aimed to blend “public amusement” with “public instruction”: rich and poor alike needed to appreciate how difficult it was to pacify “barbarians and savages” without destroying them.31 Ethnological display, Patrick Wolfe has observed, necessarily involved a racial ranking. The same can be said about the music hall songs, broadside ballads, novels, and maps that embroidered exotic lives.32 The Queen herself never set foot on a Pacific island, much less remonstrated with man-eaters. But at least notionally, her subject population contained the fierce as well as the meek. We might term Victoria’s connection to Melanesian savages “ornamental possession”; she was the apex of an empire whose heterogeneity distinguished it from all others. Readers will find that cannibal designations simultaneously referenced a specific form of savagery and a more diffuse sense of wildness. It was quite common in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century travel literature for the “cannibal” name to be uncoupled from the act.

More must be said about the affiliations of exoticism, primitivism, conceptions of savagery, and the writing of Pacific history. Some specialists in the Oceanic past, for example, have expressed puzzlement over the way that Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) acquired an almost fetishistic status among scholars of the postcolonial condition. For Orientalism was by no means the first work to focus attention on representations of “otherness” and their uses in the project of imperial domination. Both Philip Curtin’s The Image of Africa (1964) and Bernard Smith’s European Vision and the South Pacific (1960) grappled with precisely these concerns—and, some would say, in a more nuanced fashion.33 Smith in particular broke new ground by leavening his accounts of scientific practice with an art historian’s attention to pictorial technique. The resulting cross-fertilization produced a less abstract Other than would appear in Orientalism.34

Yet even Bernard Smith found the meanings of Pacific savagery so fractured that he, like many more commentators before and after him, took refuge in broad categorical distinctions. Some eager categorizers insisted on distinguishing between “savagery” and “barbarism.” (In a “savage state,” humans subsisted on what they could forage, neither tilling the soil nor domesticating animals. Humans entered a “barbaric state” when they became agriculturalists.)35 But far more often invoked has been the binary opposition between “noble” and “ignoble” savages. There persists today a mistaken belief that the noble savage concept was an outgrowth of eighteenth-century sentimentalism. Rousseau’s essays are often identified as the source of this now iconic phrase. Ter Ellingson has shown that in fact Rousseau never mentioned a “noble savage.”36 Rousseau did suggest that uncivilized humans were “rather wild than wicked.” And Émile certainly attacked the corrupting influence of traditional (civilized) education.37 But the idealizing of savage life, a process applied to the North American Indian well before the South Sea Islander, was less coherent than we have been led to believe. A curious mixture of admiration and condemnation more often characterized British reports of Pacific peoples. Thus, J.R. Forster, the naturalist on Cook’s second voyage, found the Maori an impressive race except for one “odious and cruel” custom—eating their slain enemies.38 Even sophisticated analysts such as Bernard Smith have tried to explain changeover-time as a representational shift from noble to ignoble Islanders. More recently, another otherwise careful analyst of Western image-creation, Patrick Brantlinger, has emphasized a new addition to the old binary: the “self-exterminating” savage.39

Coexisting with the notion of savage nobility was a parallel discourse that traduced Pacific peoples. John Hawkesworth’s 1773 Account of the Voyages Undertaken . . . for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, a compilation of captains’ journals, sold well and shocked many. For Hawkesworth’s portrait of unbridled sexuality, especially among the Tahitians, impressed evangelical readers as proof of the need for Christian intervention in the South Seas.40 Missionaries representing several Protestant denominations would answer this call. But “saving” the Islanders, it turned out, often involved more than coaxing the heathen to pray and cover up. There was also the work of rescuing infants and widows from strangulation; the elderly from live burial; and slaves from becoming meals. Nor need one have been a churchgoer to find the Pacific Islander unsympathetic. Dickens’s infamous rant against savages everywhere (1853) was thoroughly secular:

I beg to say that I have not the least belief in the Noble Savage. I consider him a prodigious nuisance, and an enormous superstition. . . . I call a savage a something highly desirable to be civilized off the face of the earth. I think a mere gent (which I take to be the lowest form of civilization) better than a howling, whistling, clucking, stomping, jumping, tearing savage. It is all one to me whether he sticks a fish-bone through his visage, or bits of trees through the lobes of his ears or birds’ feathers in his head. . . . Yielding to whichsoever of these agreeable eccentricities, he is a savage—cruel, false, thievish, murderous; addicted more or less to grease, entrails, and beastly customs; a wild animal with the questionable gift of boasting; a conceited, tiresome, bloodthirsty, monotonous humbug.41

Treating such an odious creature as a “pet,” much “whimper[ed] over” by humanitarians, struck self-styled realists as utter stupidity.42

Pushing beyond the noble/ignoble binary in constructions of Pacific peoples, more recent scholarship has emphasized Islander agency. Dramatic tales of the ruin of Pacific island societies not surprisingly emphasized cursed imports; epidemic disease, alcohol, firearms, and convicts topped this list. Alan Moorehead’s The Fatal Impact: An Account of the Invasion of the South Pacific, 1767–1840 (1966) was probably the most compelling of these laments. Yet because the ravages of Western civilization commanded center stage in such historical work, the Islanders themselves generally figured as victims: passive, helpless, invisible except as casualties.43 Ultimately, Eurocentrism produced its own antidote. Inspired in large part by J.W. Davidson, founder of the Department of Pacific History at the Australian National University in Canberra, a younger generation of scholars sought to create an interdisciplinary, island-oriented history of the Pacific.44 Plainly, an insular perspective required active, sentient Islanders.

Finding an Islander voice demands caution as well as imagination, however. The search for indigenous agency must avoid replacing one monolithic category (“British interests,” for example) with another (“the Islanders’ side of the story”).45 Given widespread illiteracy among Pacific island populations before the mid-nineteenth century, written evidence of “native” intentions is often scarce. Oral traditions can be vital supplements to a patchy written record. But because oral traditions, unlike physical documents, are not fixed at a point in time, the vagaries of group memory may obscure more than they explain.46

Agency can also be inferred through the location and distribution of material objects. As Nicholas Thomas has observed, Oceanic items housed in museums today can sometimes reveal differences in Islanders’ reception of European strangers. It is noteworthy, for instance, that ethnographic collections of eastern Pacific artifacts tend to contain a wide range of both everyday and sacred objects—suggesting that early European visitors were accorded “degrees of inclusion appropriate to guests.” Artifacts from the western Pacific, by contrast, are more often limited to weapons. Although we know that a tradition of large-scale sculpture flourished in the pre-contact New Hebrides archipelago, Cook’s crew on his second voyage obtained mostly clubs, spears, and arrows. It would appear that the men of Tanna, Erromango, and Malekula wished Cook and crew to see only these Islanders’ martial side.47 Similarly, Bronwen Douglas reminds us that certain European texts and illustrations are imbued with the “countersigns” and “oblique stamps” of Islander agency. Through a theatrical display of cannibalism, for example, the Kanaks of New Caledonia sought to intimidate the first French visitors. If so, the Kanaks prevailed.48

Where the evidence—written, spoken, or inferred—permits, this book will probe Islander logics. Thus, the ferocity of “highlanders” on Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island, aimed to intimidate white planters. Or examine the recruitment of indentured labor from New Hebridean isles. Those who agreed to cut sugarcane in Queensland had often made a complex cost/benefit calculation about working for Europeans abroad. But because a main aim of this study is to assess British “pacification” efforts in Melanesia, its principal emphasis will be the wide variety of British perceptions. Manichean distinctions between white oppressors and hapless Pacific Islanders easily slide into caricature.

The British, it will be shown, worried nearly as much about white savagery as about the menace of dark tribes. The alleged depredations of European “beachcombers,” according to British evangelists, caused “incalculable mischief.”49 Beachcombers included three overlapping groups of men: escaped convicts; deserters from visiting whaling and trading vessels; and castaways, the human flotsam of shipwrecks. Missionaries often collapsed these groups into undifferentiated “gangs” bent on fomenting disorder among Islanders and corrupting converts.50 H.E. Maude has offered a less alarmist profile. What distinguished beachcombers from other outsiders, Maude contends, was their integration into, and reliance for their survival upon, indigenous island communities. Where he flaunted local customs, however, the beachcomber risked severe punishment.51 By the 1830s, these storied wanderers between civilization and savagery could be found in most Pacific island groups. That they appeared less commonly in Melanesia, whose islands lay closest to Australia, impressed contemporaries as further proof of the western Pacific’s unwelcoming people.

Although escaped convicts formed part of the minute beachcomber population of the South Seas, the prospect of a mass convict “invasion” of Australia or the New Hebrides long concerned European residents Down Under. Two penal settlements, one British the other French, shared island space with aboriginal populations during the latter half of the nineteenth century. The Andaman archipelago, located 800 miles off the eastern coast of India, eventually absorbed over 10,000 convicts, convict-settlers, and administrators. The clearing of jungle for this penal experiment virtually guaranteed a hostile response from the Andamanese—“oceanic negroes” whose reputation for mutilating runaways served to discourage escape attempts.52 But even if the Andamanese had been sweet-tempered, there were relatively few commercial ships on which convicts might have tried to hide.

The French penal settlement on New Caledonia, however, posed a direct threat to the nearby Australian colonies, or so some colonists claimed. New Caledonia’s convicts appeared ideologically suspect, especially after about 4,500 “Communards” began arriving in 1872. To French (and British) conservatives, the ten-week Commune of Paris in 1871 had shown that its supporters, godless “destroyers of all civilization,” must either be exterminated or re-civilized.53 The Communard déportés to New Caledonia had been judged worthy of regeneration. A few of them nevertheless decided to forgo that honor. In 1874, six déportés managed to escape from the Ducos peninsula, make contact with a sympathetic ship’s captain, and eventually reach Sydney.54 The European Left applauded them. The propertied classes of Australia and New Zealand did not. Improbable scenarios involving escaped French “communists” joined Australians’ lengthy list of complaints about British imperial docility. Since “scores” of these “highly dangerous men” had supposedly sneaked ashore, the nucleus of a “fair military force” already existed. Once armed, they would “kill, plunder, ravish, [and] destroy.” The social debris of France, opined Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, was already busy building a “dung-heap” in eastern Australia.55 Nor was this alarmism confined to newspapers and pamphlets. The early 1880s saw agents for Queensland, New South Wales, and New Zealand beg Britain’s Colonial Office to halt the flow of hardened criminals from New Caledonia to the New Hebrides—then an archipelago without colonial governance. What has been called Australian “sub-imperialism”56 grew strident where territorial ambitions met caution at the imperial core.

Still, in both British and British colonial imaginations, color irrevocably split the savage ranks. An individual white predator might perish through accident or avarice, but his racial identity did not consign him to a doomed group. The “dusky savages” of the western Pacific, on the other hand, gradually emerged as targets of a “dying races” rhetoric. Nearly a generation before The Origin of Species appeared, one of Darwin’s mentors, Charles Lyell, referred to the “extirpation of savage tribes” whose domains had the misfortune to attract colonial interest.57 Sometimes depicted as essential for social progress, sometimes dressed in the language of regret, the “vanishing native” trope remained a key ethnographic theme well into the 1940s. Risky Shores will explore this idea in a western Pacific context. Public concern over endangered human groups was itself part of a broader British preoccupation with decay brought on by carelessness and greed. The “noble” animals of Britain’s East African territories, for instance, stood on the brink of extinction thanks to reckless big-game hunting. A “grand national possession,” these creatures, like the wild Islanders of Melanesia, cried out for the protection that only “reserves” promised to provide.58 Yet Britain’s leading anthropologist of the early twentieth century, W.H.R. Rivers, found that a Melanesian Islander’s will to live might hinge on the savage customs for which he had been reviled. Suppress headhunting and demoralize the headhunter; move him to a reserve and watch him die.59 How civilized people might act to preserve the “zest” of the savage would vex the Islander’s allies.

We should also understand that “dying races” was more than a literary contrivance. Although they still numbered slightly over 2,000 individuals at the close of the nineteenth century, the Andamanese seemed bound for oblivion.60 The Tasmanians had by then actually vanished from the earth—if one refuses to count the “halfcast” progeny of aboriginal and non-aboriginal unions. “Truganini,” thought to be the last full-blooded Tasmanian woman, concluded a racial autopsy. These people, unlike some other Pacific Islanders, had rarely practiced infanticide. They did not eat one another. Unprovoked attacks by white “bushrangers” had taken their toll, as had cheap gin. One peculiar theory held that Tasmanian women turned sterile following intercourse with white men. Far simpler was one indigenous woman’s explanation for her childlessness: “What good hab him piccaninny?”61 This ethnographic profile could be taken to exemplify the “fatal impact” thesis. Rich in pathological particulars although vague about weighting them, it effectively blamed the Tasmanians for failing to embrace modernity. But we should not discount the obverse. Perhaps the Tasmanian woman’s reluctance to bear children constituted a radical expression of Islander agency?

The prospect of Islander extinctions heightened popular interest in their material cultures. Always of interest to metropolitan audiences, the strange weaponry of these people gained greater notoriety as island populations shrank and fierce tribes grudgingly came to terms with British colonial violence. The instigators of this violence often justified it by reference to the supposed fanaticism of “wild” warriors. At the 1899 armaments limitation talks held in The Hague, only the representatives of Britain and the United States objected to banning the use of expanding bullets, colloquially known as “dumdum” rounds. Major General Sir John Ardagh, Britain’s chief military delegate, sought to save the dumdum by vilifying the savage. “The civilized soldier when shot recognizes that he is wounded,” Ardagh reasoned. “He lies down on his stretcher and is taken off the field to his ambulance, where he is dressed or bandaged.” The savage behaved differently: “Your fanatical barbarian, similarly wounded, continues to rush on, spear or sword in hand; and before you have had time to represent to him that his conduct is [irrational] . . . he may have cut off your head.”62 Variously located among the “fanatical” and the “cowardly,” western Pacific warriors wielded weapons that could do great damage in close quarters. Fiji’s hardwood clubs crushed skulls. Lighter axes, originally fashioned from stone but later incorporating steel blades brought by European traders, served the Islanders well. Equally adept at husking coconuts and slicing body parts, these axes continued to be identified in British travel literature as “tomahawks.” An Amerindian word perhaps derived from the Algonquian verb tomahuk (to knock down), “tomahawk” rhetorically conflated savagery in northeastern America and the southwestern Pacific.63

Melanesia stood alone, however, as the imagined epicenter of deadly “poison” arrows. Cane shafts tipped with slivers of human bone and smeared with unknown matter acquired a mythic status in tales of Islander perfidy. As early as 1792, one of the sailors aboard d’Entrecasteaux’s ship received a small scratch from such an arrow near Santa Cruz island. The wound healed nicely. But seventeen days after being nicked, the sailor died—a death that “left no doubt” in the minds of shipboard doctors “as to the arrow being poisoned.”64 Upon his arrival in Fiji around 1879, A.B. Brewster was relieved to find that the Fijians at least did not “steep” their arrows in “putrid corpses.”65 Deemed to be a weapon of the weak, these “treacherous” missiles earned unusually wide notice when the senior naval officer in Australia, Commodore J.G. Goodenough (1830–1875), succumbed to arrow wounds received on the already infamous island of Santa Cruz. Goodenough’s matter-of-fact response to these wounds underscored their danger. Five days after the attack at Carlisle Bay, he wrote to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty reminding them that if the arrows had been poisoned, his case could “terminate fatally.” Three days later, it did.66

By the time of Commodore Goodenough’s death in 1875, most British contributors to the debate over Islander arrows recognized that the immediate cause of death was usually tetanus. The rapid course of the disease, its fearsome mortality, and the hideous convulsions (“tonic spasms”) that wracked sufferers during their last days made diagnosis straightforward. But mystery remained. Did the Melanesians possess a poison that induced tetanic symptoms? Could the “pernicious dread” of lockjaw somehow lower one’s resistance to it? How should this disease be treated?67 British physicians offered a confusing array of palliatives: absolute quiet and bed rest; opium smoking; amputation of a limb above its wound site. But it was an Australian who probably spoke for most of his professional colleagues when he averred, “I can confidently say that I . . . never saw a case benefitted by treatment.”68 Victorian medicine’s uncertainty over the nature of tetanus created an explanatory void within which it was possible to continue blaming the Islanders. Robert Codrington, an Anglican missionary and pioneering ethnographer of the western Pacific, put the issue succinctly: “The belief in the deadly virulence of the poison used . . . is too firmly fixed to readily give way.”69 Much the same thing could be said about British representations of the Melanesian in general.

There are of course analytical risks attached to concentrating on one part of a vast and borderless ocean. Treating the “western Pacific” as a bounded expanse of land and sea may seem arbitrary, perhaps even perverse.70 It is also true, from a Eurocentric perspective, that New Guinea, the Solomons, Fiji, and the New Hebrides were understood as geographically and culturally remote from the centers of imperial power: London, to be sure, but also Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, and Wellington. Risky Shores will show how this very remoteness beckoned white outsiders; the obscurity of these island groups constituted their appeal, as Victorian and Edwardian writers often noted. Some postcolonial theorists may insist that however attentive to Islander thought this book may be, it remains an artifact of European dominance and metropolitan hubris.71 It is worth remembering, however, that the noun “dominance” and the adjective “metropolitan” themselves distort lived experience by homogenizing the powerful and the urban.

What ought a study of British encounters with western Pacific peoples call the place where these encounters occurred? Place names often encode cultural assumptions and thus invite controversy. It was a French navigator, Jules-Sébastien Dumont d’Urville, who in 1832 published an essay and an accompanying map that divided the Pacific into three regions: Polynésie (“many islands”); Micronésie (“tiny islands”); and Mélanésie (“black islands”). The so-called Polynesian “triangle” covered Hawai’i, New Zealand, and much of the central Pacific. Micronesia subsumed Kiribati (then known as the Gilbert Islands), the Marshalls, the Marianas, and smaller groups westward toward, but not including, the Philippines. Melanesia, as we have seen, encompassed New Guinea, the Solomons, Vanuatu (then the New Hebrides), New Caledonia, and Fiji. Today, Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders are sometimes also regarded as Melanesian.72 Tellingly, “Melanesian” is the only one of these three ethnic classifications that specifies a racial characteristic. Some scholars have proposed that the Pacific’s “black islands” be renamed on this account.73

Then too, revisionists within academic anthropology today reject the ascription of different leadership styles to different parts of the Pacific. In 1963, Marshall Sahlins published a widely influential paper, “Poor Man, Rich Man, Big-Man, Chief,” that sought to distinguish Polynesia’s “elaborate forms of rank and chieftanship” from Melanesia’s more “rudimentary” and egalitarian political structures. These distinctions, Nicholas Thomas and others have since argued, rest on a “discredited evolutionism,” a typology that distorts rather than clarifies.74 Why, then, should we not dispense altogether with the flawed geocultural construct “Melanesian”?

The answer is practicality. No reasonable alternative exists. Collapsing “Melanesia” into an undifferentiated “Oceania” would merely trade one imprecise label for another. What has been termed an “Oceanic approach to Pacific history,” wherein “cross-talk” among many constituencies is encouraged,75 can coexist with older designations. Besides, Clive Moore reminds us, as Melanesian territories evolved from colonies into independent states, their people consciously identified themselves as Melanesians, thereby “indigenizing the concept and divorcing it from any element of inferiority.”76 Largely as a matter of convenience, therefore, “Melanesia” and “Melanesians” will be retained in this book.

Other terminologies bear mention. If the word “native” meant simply “belonging to a place by birth,” it would raise few eyebrows. But because it can also imply archaic or uncouth, “native” will appear here only to indicate a direct quotation or the clear sense of a text. The less loaded noun “Islander” will be preferred in the pages to follow. In some circles, for example among historians of Africa, the words “tribe” and “tribal” are notable for their absence. Insofar as they tend to promote a myth of primitive African timelessness, obscuring the forces of change, these words are justifiably suspect.77 Since similar objections have not clouded these words in the Pacific cultural sphere, however, they will appear occasionally. For all its flaws, William Rivers’s 1924 definition of “tribe” remains useful: “a social group of a simple kind, the members of which speak a common dialect, have a single government, and act together for such common purposes as warfare.”78 Finally, the phenomenon we call “colonialism” requires brief consideration. Brian Stanley has captured the essence of this often-undefined term. Colonialism, Stanley suggests, is “that form of imperialism in which the imperial power imposes governmental control on a territory without resort to large-scale human settlement.”79 So long as we recognize that “governmental control” nearly always involved racial exclusions, Stanley’s definition will suffice. The imposition of such control often owed as much to the early interventions of traders, missionaries, and explorers as to subsequent “state” actions.80 Put another way, British colonial hegemony in the western Pacific was never hegemonic.

Melanesia did not matter to the British Empire on the basis of population. As of 1914, the entire British Pacific, Australia and New Zealand included, accounted for a minuscule 1.5 percent of the entire imperial population.81 Rather, the Pacific mattered to Britons because, along with Africa, it sustained the romance of space. This romance expressed itself on the material level with visions of escape from the crowded home islands. On the psychic level, the romance to which Captain Cook gave shape regarded the South Seas as a realm within which the ego could assert itself undiminished by humble birth or scant learning. The Victorian years above all found Britons’ collective identity—as a humane yet enterprising race—tested on Pacific islands.82 These tests would prove especially stiff in Melanesia.

The savage practices so closely connected in British minds with the western Pacific will be examined over the course of five chapters. In the first of these, cannibalism functions as the unifying trope for a highly diverse set of “barbaric” customs. Whether eaten or merely murdered, the three missionaries discussed in Chapter 2 made more urgent the task of pacifying Melanesia. Complicating these pacification efforts, Chapter 3 explains, were the white savages whose recruitment of plantation labor struck humanitarians as slavery by another name. Largely because their strongholds were so remote, some Solomon Islanders and coastal Papuans continued headhunting after the arrival of British administrators. As Chapter 4 reveals, the eventual suppression of this custom had unintended consequences. The prospect of savage extinctions fueled both awkward laments and a fascination with “doomed” people. Out of these mixed emotions, Chapter 5 notes, arose several attempts to locate the remnants of “Stone-Age” humanity. A brief conclusion examines the fate of savage constructions during and shortly after world war in the western Pacific. The story based upon these constructions will emphasize the stubborn endurance of stereotypes.

An early advocate of island-centered histories noted that the Pacific’s vast expanse of sea and land offered a “happy hunting ground” for social scientists, a “regional laboratory” for the study of peoples who had come late to the modern world.83 Risky Shores views the islands of Melanesia not as laboratories for the observation of sweeping social change but rather as sites for the production of mutual misunderstanding. That said, European images of the Pacific Islander involved more than a catalog of inhuman behaviors. Many British visitors to the South Seas recognized that their own humanity would be constantly questioned. In prescriptive terms, then, accounts of “treacherous” Pacific Islanders and fully “civilized” Britons are imbricated, overlapping in often surprising ways. This book seeks to enrich our sense of the colonial era by reconsidering the conduct of Islanders and the English-speaking strangers who encountered them. Among the historical forces that together created a unifying sense of Britishness during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the frequently sensationalized depictions of Melanesian “savages.” These exotic people inhabited the edges of empire. And precisely because they did, Britons who never had and never would leave the home islands could imagine, in vivid if spurious detail, their nation’s imperial reach.


1. Anon., Journal of the sufferings of the Carpenter’s Mate, Northumberland, 1782: manuscript copy, MLMSS A 1727. Sydney’s Mitchell Library has been unable to locate the original manuscript from which its copy came.

2. Ibid. For English-speaking traders, the New Guinea coast remained perilous. Nine years after the Northumberland’s encounter with hostile Islanders, an American ship, the Massachusetts, nearly lost both its supply boats under similar circumstances. That ship’s second officer minced few words: the “wooly headed” people of New Guinea’s western straits were “well known to hate white people,” a hatred “traceable to our own misconduct toward them.” Amasa Delano, A Narrative of Voyages and Travels (Boston, 1817), 78–80.

3. Greg Dening, Islands and Beaches (Honolulu: University Press of Hawai‘i, 1980), 263–64.

4. Andrew Sinclair, The Savage (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1977), 1–2.

5. Bernard Smith, European Vision and the South Pacific, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 317–32.

6. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed. (New York, 1910–11), s.v. “Humboldt, Alexander von.”

7. Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of Travels, 7 vols. (London, 1814), 1: xliv–xlv; William Mariner, Account of the Natives, 2 vols. (London, 1817), 1: title page.

8. Rod Edmond explains that the adjective “tropical” did not acquire its extra-geographic meaning of “ardent” or “luxuriant” before the nineteenth century. Edmond, “Returning Fears,” in Felix Driver and Luciana Martins, eds., Tropical Visions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 175–76.

9. Oxford English Dictionary online, 3rd ed. (2012), s.v. “savage”; F.J. Turner, “Significance of the Frontier” [1893], in Turner, Early Writings of Frederick Jackson Turner (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1938), 187–88; Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950), 251.

10. Sinclair, The Savage, 2; O.E.D. online, s.v. “savage.”

11. William Yate, Account of New Zealand [1835], facsimile ed. (Dublin: Irish University Press, 1970), 130.

12. Lorimer Fison, Tales from Old Fiji (London: Alexander Moring [1904]), xiii–xiv.

13. H.M. Stanley, Great Forest of Central Africa (London, 1890).

14. J. Beete Jukes, Narrative of the Surveying Voyage, 2 vols. (London, 1847), 1: 288–89.

15. J.C. Beaglehole, Life of Captain James Cook (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1974), 394.

16. Christopher Lasch, Haven in a Heartless World (New York: Basic Books, 1979). On the ideological interplay among “home,” “family,” and “privacy,” see George Behlmer, Friends of the Family (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), 1–28.

17. Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present [1843] (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), 9–10; The Times [London] (4–6 August 1841).

18. Cardinal Manning and Benjamin Waugh, “Child of the English Savage,” Contemporary Review, 49 (May 1886): 688–89.

19. The Times (21 December 1872), as quoted in Carolyn A. Conley, “Wars Among Savages,” Journal of British Studies, 44 (October 2005): 777.

20. Johann F. Blumenbach, Anthropological Treatises (London, 1865), 165; “Lord Monboddo’s Account,” in Selection of Curious Articles, 4 vols. (London, 1811), 4: 581–84; Julia Douthwaite, The Wild Girl (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2002), 21–25.

21. James Greenwood, Wild Man at Home (London [1879]), 1–2.

22. Charles Darwin, Journal of Researches [1839] (New York: Hafner, 1952), 235–36.

23. Satadru Sen, Savagery and Colonialism in the Indian Ocean (New York: Routledge 2010), 19–20; James Bonwick, Daily Life . . . of the Tasmanians [1870], reprint ed. (New York: Johnson Reprint, 1967), 42–43; Henrika Kuklick, Savage Within (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 250–51; Sen, “Primitivism,” in Hilary Callan, ed., International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, forthcoming.

24. Anthony Ashley Cooper [3rd Earl of Shaftesbury], “Soliloquy, or Advice to an Author,” in Cooper, Characteristics of Men [1711], ed. Lawrence Klein (Cambridge, 1999), 153–55.

25. Nadja Durbach, Spectacle of Deformity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 22–23; Carrie Yang Costello, “Teratology,” Journal of Historical Sociology, 19 (March 2006): 1–3.

26. Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray [1890] (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), 78–79, 94, 96, 192.

27. William Falconer, Remarks on the Influence of Climate (London, 1781), 258–59; Joseph-Marie Dégerando, Observation of Savage Peoples [1800] (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 86; J.R. McCulloch, Principles of Political Economy (Edinburgh, 1825), 397–98; Everard Im Thurn, “On the Thoughts of South Sea Islanders,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 51 (January–June 1921): 15–16.

28. H. Calderwood, “Moral Philosophy,” Contemporary Review, 19 (January 1872): 210–12.

29. John Foster Fraser, Quaint Subjects of the King (London: Cassell, 1909), v–vi.

30. Ibid.

31. Prospectus of a Proposed Aboriginal Museum (London [1850?]), n.p.

32. Patrick Wolfe, “History and Imperialism,” American Historical Review, 102 (April 1997): 410–11; Antoinette Burton, “Who Needs the Nation?,” in Catherine Hall, ed., Cultures of Empire (New York: Routledge, 2000), 138–39.

33. Nicholas Thomas and Diane Losche, “Introduction,” in Thomas and Losche, eds., Double Vision (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 2–3; Jeffrey Auerbach, “Art and Empire,” in R. Winks, ed., Oxford History of the British Empire, 5 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999): 578–79; C.A. Bayly, “Second British Empire,” in ibid., 70.

34. For a critique of the undifferentiated Other, see Dane Kennedy, “Imperial History,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 24 (September 1996): 354–55.

35. E.B. Tylor, Anthropology [1881] (New York, 1898), 23–25.

36. Ter Ellingson, Myth of the Noble Savage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 81–83. Ellingson asserts that the phrase became familiar only after 1859. In that year, John Crawfurd, soon to be elected President of the Ethnological Society of London, wielded the phrase only to destroy it—all part of Crawfurd’s “racist agenda.” Ellingson, 291, 295–97.

37. Jean Jacques Rousseau, Discourse upon the Origin and Foundation of . . . Inequality [1754] (London, 1761), 78; Rousseau, Émile [1762] (London: Dent, 1974).

38. John Reinold Forster, Observations Made During a Voyage (London, 1778), 325.

39. Nicholas Thomas, Colonialism’s Culture (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994), 99–100; Patrick Brantlinger, Dark Vanishings (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 3. The Victorian philologist Max Müller noted the absurdities that could result when people “imagine that the same name must always mean the same thing.” Take the three signs of the “true” savage: (1) that he murders his children; (2) that he kills and eats his companions; and (3) that he disregards certain laws of nature. Müller then dismissed this creature. The first man could not have been a savage, “for if he had murdered his children we should not be alive.” Similarly, “if he had eaten his fellow-men, supposing there were any to eat, again we should not be alive.” Müller, “The Savage,” Nineteenth Century, 17 (January 1885): 116.

40. Richard Lansdown, “Dark Parts,” Times Literary Supplement (17 August 2004), 12–13.

41. Charles Dickens, “Noble Savage,” Household Words, 7 (11 June 1853): 337–38.

42. Anon., “Pacific Islanders’ Protection Bill,” Westminster Review, n.s. 48 (July and October 1875): 81; Dickens, “Noble Savage,” 338.

43. K.R. Howe, “Fate of the ‘Savage,’New Zealand Journal of History, 11 (October 1977): 137–38, 147–48; Matt K. Matsuda, “The Pacific,” American Historical Review, 111 (June 2006): 771–72.

44. See especially J.W. Davidson, “Problems of Pacific History,” Journal of Pacific History, 1 (1966): 5–21; and H.E. Maude, “Pacific History,” Journal of Pacific History, 6 (1971): 3–24.

45. Jane Samson, Imperial Benevolence (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1998), 2.

46. James Belich, “Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 15 (January 1987): 123–24.

47. Nicholas Thomas, “Epilogue,” in Michael O’Hanlon and Robert Welsch, eds., Hunting the Gatherers (New York: Berghahn Books, 2000), 274–76.

48. Bronwen Douglas, Science, Voyages, and Encounters in Oceania (Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 24–26; Douglas, “Art as Ethno-historical Text,” in Thomas and Losche, eds., Double Vision, 79–82.

49. John Williams, Narrative of Missionary Enterprises (London, 1837), 461–62.

50. Ibid.

51. H.E. Maude, “Beachcombers and Castaways,” in Maude, Of Islands and Men (Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press, 1968), 161–62; Dening, Islands and Beaches, 247.

52. S.C. on Aborigines (British Settlements), P.P., 1836, VII (538): 682; Sen, Savagery and Colonialism, 2, 27, 42.

53. Alice Bullard, Exile to Paradise (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000), 72, 93.

54. Ibid., 133–34.

55. [Julian Thomas], Cannibals and Convicts (London, 1886), 120–21; Daily Telegraph (22 December 1883).

56. Letters 11–15, 22, and 26, Correspondence respecting New Guinea, P.P., 1883, XLVII [C. 3814]; Stuart Ward, “Security,” in D. Schreuder and S. Ward, eds., Australia’s Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 236–37; Luke Trainor, British Imperialism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 38–39.

57. Lyell, Principles of Geology, 3 vols. (London, 1830–33), 2: 255.

58. “Dying Fauna of an Empire,” Saturday Review (24 November 1906), 635; Journal of the Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire, 1 (London, 1904): 1–6.

59. W.H.R. Rivers, “Psychological Factor,” in Rivers, ed., Essays in the Depopulation of Melanesia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922), 84–113.

60. Sen, Savagery and Colonialism, 22, 128–29.

61. H. Ling Roth, Aborigines of Tasmania, facsimile of 2nd ed. [1899] (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia: Fullers Bookshop, 1968), 162–63; James Bonwick, Last of the Tasmanians [1870], facsimile ed. (Adelaide, Australia, 1969), 61–62, 386–87. Tom Lawson, a self-described “Holocaust historian,” has located the Tasmanian story in a wider discussion of genocide in the British world. Lawson, Last Man (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014).

62. Ardagh’s speech on dumdums, 14 June 1899, as quoted in Barbara Tuchman, Proud Tower (New York: Macmillan, 1966), 261–62.

63. Cadwallader Colden, History of the Five Indian Nations, 2nd ed. (London, 1750), 9–10; A.M. Hocart, “Warfare in Eddystone,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 61 (1931): 301; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed. (New York, 1910–11), s.v. “tomahawk.”

64. Peter Dillon, Narrative . . . of a Voyage, 2 vols. (London, 1829), 1: lx–lxi.

65. A.B. Brewster, Hill Tribes of Fiji [1922], reprint ed. (New York: Johnson Reprint, 1967), 259–60; John Gaggin, Among the Man-Eaters (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1900), 97–98.

66. Manual of Scientific Enquiry, 5th ed. (London, 1886), 231; Clements R. Markham, Commodore J.G. Goodenough (Portsmouth, UK, 1876), 33–35; The Times (24 August 1875); Goodenough to the Admiralty, letter dictated 13 August 1875, TNA, CO 83/7/f. 427.

67. W.R. Gowers, Manual of Diseases, 2 vols. (London, 1886–1888), 2: 623–24, 631–32, 641–46; “Health of the Navy,” Edinburgh Medical Journal, 23 (May 1878): 1023. In twenty-first-century terms, tetanus is an acute poisoning from a neurotoxin produced by Clostridium tetani.

68. F. Milford, “On Tetanus,” New South Wales Medical Gazette, 2 (April 1872): 196.

69. R.H. Codrington, On Poisoned Arrows (London, 1889), 218–19; Codrington, The Melanesians (Oxford, 1891), 306–08.

70. A.G. Hopkins, “Back to the Future,” Past and Present, 164 (August 1999): 198–99.

71. Kathleen Wilson, “Introduction,” in Wilson, ed., New Imperial History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 2. Dipesh Chakrabarty, for example, doubts that “Europe” can be unseated as the “sovereign, theoretical subject of all histories.” Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 27–29.

72. Nicholas Thomas, “Force of Ethnology,” Current Anthropology, 30 (February 1989): 30.

73. Tracey Banivanua-Mar, Violence and Colonial Dialogue (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007), 3, 23–24.

74. Marshall Sahlins, “Poor Man, Rich Man,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 5 (April 1963): 286–89, 295; Thomas, “Force of Ethnology,” 27–28, 31–32.

75. Epile Hau‘ofa, “Our Sea of Islands,” Contemporary Pacific, 6 (Spring 1994): 153; Matsuda, “The Pacific,” 759, 761–62.

76. Clive Moore, New Guinea (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2003), 4–5.

77. Paul S. Landau, Popular Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 1–2; Chris Lowe et al., Talking about ‘Tribe’ (Washington, DC: African Policy Information Center, November 1997), 1–8.

78. W.H.R. Rivers, Social Organization, ed. W.J. Penny (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1924), 32.

79. Brian Stanley, Bible and the Flag (Leicester, UK: Apollos, 1990), 34.

80. Richard Price, “One Big Thing,” Journal of British Studies, 45 (July 2006): 612–13; Rod Edmond, Representing the South Pacific (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 14–15.

81. W.D. McIntyre, “Australia, New Zealand,” in Louis and Brown, eds., Oxford History of the British Empire, 4: 667.

82. Robert A. Stafford, “Scientific Exploration,” in Porter, ed., Oxford History of the British Empire, 3: 314–15; Richard D. Fulton and Peter H. Hoffenberg, eds., Oceania (Farnham, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2013), 1–2.

83. Maude, “Pacific History,” 4–5, 24.