The Royal Society of Tasmania presents A/Prof Penelope Edmonds

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 multireform 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.
Historian Penelope Edmonds is using her knowledge of history and heritage studies to relate the past to our present. She is uncovering previously unknown history that could change the way Australia sees its role in empire, colonialism and early histories of human rights. Penny Edmonds is Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow and Associate Professor, School of Humanities, University of Tasmania.
Free event, all welcome.
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