Dr Daniel Simpson: ‘Cannibals’, ‘Savages’ and pronouns: The strange world of British naval encounter in Australia and the Torres Strait, 1842-1850

Lucy Dale's picture
May 22, 2018
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Australian and New Zealand History / Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Maritime History / Studies, Race Studies

FREE talk in central London

17:15-18:30, 22 May 2018

Wolfson Room I

Institute of Historical Research

Senate House

London, WC1 7HU


Between 1842 and 1850, British expeditions to the Torres Strait and northern Australian regions strayed into strange and dangerous waters.  An earlier discovery, at Aureed Island in 1836, of a mask decorated with the skulls of shipwrecked Europeans set the tone for two decades of paranoid and often hysterical investigations into the nature and character of local indigenous peoples.


Dr Daniel Simpson will explore the efforts made by sailors from HMS Fly (1842-1846) and HMS Rattlesnake (1846-1850) to understand Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These ranged from an emerging ‘ethnological’ specialism, grounded in the study of indigenous pronouns, to peculiarly British attempts to bribe supposedly cannibalistic peoples with tea and biscuits.


Dr Simpson’s research shines a light on the social, political and practical considerations which underpinned imperial intrusion into a chaotic and since-neglected region.


For a full list of seminars in this series:



Contact Info: 

Lucy Dale (Royal Museums Greenwich)

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