Tuesday August 2, 8 pm Royal Society Lecture featuring A/Prof Penelope Edmonds in Royal Society Room, TMAG
An Antislavery Moment in the Antipodes: Cross-cultural Quaker Witnessing and Botanical Collecting in the Bass Strait Islands, 1832
In 1832, British Quakers James Backhouse and George Washington Walker, pursued the face of supposed antipodean ‘slavery’ in the Bass Strait, as part of their nine-year multi-reform journey sponsored by the Religious Society of Friends. The travelling pair sought to gather evidence of ‘slavery’ to ‘emancipate’ Aboriginal women from sealers and remove them to the Aboriginal Establishment on Flinders Island for their moral protection, crucially, in the midst of the ‘Black War’ in Van Diemen’s Land.
In the service of both abolition and botany, the Quaker pair collected the women’s ‘testimony’ and local plant specimens on Flinders Island. This Bass Strait visit reveals a little-known colonial encounter and also a remarkable cross-cultural moment, in which the women collectors for Backhouse shared their botanical knowledge with the Quakers and, importantly, asserted their agency in a charged and violent period of settler – Aboriginal contact.
In this lecture Penny Edmonds considers this curious moment in the context of the networked humanitarian and scientific circuits of empire, and the entanglements of settler invasion and abolition.